Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Delphine d’Albemar

Delphine d’Albemar (dehl-FEEN dahl-beh-MAHR), the tragic heroine of this sentimental epistolary novel. Intellectually and financially independent upon her widowhood at twenty, she gives away part of her fortune to enable Matilda de Vernon, the daughter of a friend, to marry an unseen Spanish nobleman. When Delphine herself falls in love with the young nobleman, she is maligned and deceived by Matilda’s mother in order that the proposed marriage may take place. Always virtuous but never an adherent to convention, Delphine constantly finds her reputation in jeopardy. Deceived into taking vows as a nun, she renounces them to marry her lover, now a widower. Yet because public opinion is against her, she refuses to marry him, not wishing to make his life miserable. Ultimately, she takes poison and dies on his execution ground. The lovers, kept apart in life, are buried side by side.

Madame de Vernon

Madame de Vernon (vehr-NOHN), her close friend, a treacherous woman. On her deathbed, she confesses that she lied about Delphine.

Matilda de Vernon

Matilda de Vernon (mah-TEEL-dah), Madame de Vernon’s daughter. Her marriage to the man who loves Delphine is doomed to unhappiness. When her death frees her husband, he and Delphine are still unable to find...

(The entire section is 453 words.)


(Great Characters in Literature)

Gutwirth, Madelyn. Madame de Staël, Novelist: The Emergence of the Artist as Woman. Champaign: University of Illinois Press, 1978. Gutwirth, one of the most respected authorities on de Staël, represents her as a woman able to redefine the relation between art and gender. De Staël was able to deploy her art in order to emerge as a strong subject. Groundbreaking work for discussing gender issues in de Staël.

Gutwirth, Madelyn, Avriel Goldberger, and Karyna Szmurlo, eds. Germaine de Staël: Crossing the Borders. New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 1991. Illuminating reading for those interested in reading Delphine as a transgressor of the social fabric as mapped out in late eighteenth century Europe.

Herold, J. Christopher. Mistress to an Age: A Life of Madame de Staël. Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1958. Available in many libraries and by far the most informative and entertaining biography of de Staël. Relates stories and facts about her liaisons, contacts, and famous meetings with legendary cultural and literary figures. Gives complexion to de Staël, and therefore to Delphine.

Hogsett, Charlotte. The Literary Existence of Germaine de Staël. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1987. Examines the complex relationships between de Staël’s life and her female characters. Includes an informative foreword by Madelyn Gutwirth.

Staël, Madame de. An Extraordinary Woman: Selected Writings of Germaine de Staël. Translated and with an introduction by Vivian Folkenflik. New York: Columbia University Press, 1987. A collection of de Staël’s most memorable statements, quips, and pieces of fiction.