Characters (Cyclopedia of Literary Characters, Revised Third Edition)
Louis Delacolombe (M. James Sandy Rose), a journalist. Born in France, he was brought up in the United States, returned to France, and for ten years until his sudden death was the French correspondent of the Northern Atlantic Herald. Both his original name, Delacolombe, and his later name, Rose, appear to be symbolic: Both the dove and the rose have long symbolized love.
“He,” a chestnut-haired, bearded, brilliant-eyed, gentle-faced man whom Sandy meets in the Church of Saint-Sulpice. Dressed like a French gentleman, he is a god who, when Rose refers to his mother Mary, says he has been known by many names including Apollo. He calls himself a superman and a god. Although he physically resembles the conventional conception of Jesus, he appears in his thought to be a more generalized divine inspirer of men of varied faiths in many ages. His philosophy concerning human life, with its emphasis on the virtue of being happy and the importance of living each moment as if it were eternal, is Epicurean. His favorite mortal philosophers, as he tells Rose, were Epicurus, who found happiness in pleasure, and Spinoza, who found it in asceticism.
Elise, a beautiful young goddess who allows Rose to possess her during a brief interval in the long conversation with “He.” Later, after she has accompanied Rose to his room and they have again experienced the joys of love, she reminds him of Giorgione’s Venus. She and her two friends also resemble the three Graces of Greek mythology.
The narrator, a friend of Rose who finds him dead sitting at his desk in his room. As legatee and in accordance with Rose’s will, he publishes Rose’s manuscript and furnishes a brief explanatory preface and a final note for it.