Sappho Characters (Alphonse Daudet)

Alphonse Daudet

Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Fanny Legrand

Fanny Legrand (leh-GRAH[N]), an intelligent, shrewd, and completely feminine prostitute. She is fifty years old and has been mistress to many men of various occupations and professions. She ends her days with one of her first lovers and their child.

Jean Gaussin

Jean Gaussin (zhah[n] goh-SA[N]), a student from the south of France who has come to Paris to prepare himself for a diplomatic career. He meets the experienced courtesan Fanny Legrand and, attracted by her sophistication, falls in love with her despite the great difference in their ages. After they have lived together for a time, Fanny’s hold on Jean is so strong that his naïve fiancée has little attraction for him. When he is awarded a post in South America, he breaks his engagement and begs Fanny to go with him. Unwilling to leave Paris, she declines his offer.


Déchelette (daysh-LEHT), a wealthy engineer who spends most of his time on construction projects far from France. For two months of the year, however, he lives in Paris, where he hosts lavish parties and enjoys the society of his native city. Fanny has been his mistress, and he has shared his wealth with her.


Flamant (flah-MAH[N]), an engraver who goes to prison for counterfeiting...

(The entire section is 476 words.)


(Great Characters in Literature)

Dobie, G. V. Alphonse Daudet. New York: Thomas Nelson, 1949. Biographical study with critical commentary interspersed in the story of Daudet’s career. Discusses the novelist’s attempt to create a believable story of an ordinary man in love with a Parisian courtesan. Claims Sappho is Daudet’s greatest contribution to the naturalist movement.

Gosse, Edmund. French Profiles. Freeport, N.Y.: Books for Libraries Press, 1970. Overview of Daudet’s career. Remarks on the particular strengths of Sappho, the novelist’s contribution to a French tradition that highlights the “obsession of the feminine.”

Matthews, Brander. The Historical Novel, and Other Essays. New York: Charles Scribner’s, 1901. Sensitive commentary on the novel’s theme, and a useful discussion of its place in Daudet’s canon. Emphasizes the moral qualities of the work.

Roche, Alphonse. Alphonse Daudet. Boston: Twayne, 1976. Intended for general readers, offers an introduction to the writer’s major works. Discusses Daudet’s handling of the relationship between his principal characters in Sappho; comments on the publication history of the novel; remarks on the stir created by its appearance in nineteenth century France.

Sachs, Murray. The Career of Alphonse Daudet. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1965. Discusses Daudet’s place as a major figure in French literature. Analyzes the novelist’s handling of the love relationship in Sappho, calling it exceptionally well done and psychologically realistic.