Short summary - Paul and Virginia - Paul et Virginie - Jacques-Henri Bernardin de Saint-Pierre

French literature summaries - 2021

Short summary - Paul and Virginia - Paul et Virginie
Jacques-Henri Bernardin de Saint-Pierre

In the preface, the author writes that he set himself great goals in this small essay. He tried to describe in it the soil and vegetation, not similar to European ones. Writers sat their lovers for too long on the banks of streams under the shade of beeches, and he decided to give them a place on the coast of the sea, at the foot of the rocks, in the shade of coconut trees. The author wanted to combine the beauty of tropical nature with the moral beauty of a certain small society. He set himself the task of making several great truths evident, including that happiness lies in living in harmony with nature and virtue. The people about whom he writes existed in reality, and in their main events their history is true.
On the eastern slope of the mountain, which rises beyond Port Louis, on the Isle of France (now the Isle of Mauritius), the ruins of two huts are visible. Once, sitting on a hillock at their foot, the narrator met an old man who told him the story of two families who lived in these places two decades ago.
In 1726, a young man, originally from Normandy, by the name of de Latour, came to this island with his young wife to seek his fortune. His wife was of an old family, but her family opposed her marriage to a man who was not a nobleman and deprived her of her dowry. Leaving his wife at Port Louis, he sailed to Madagascar to buy some blacks there and return, but during the trip he fell ill and died. His wife was left a widow, having absolutely nothing but one black woman, and decided to cultivate a piece of land with the slave and thus earn her livelihood. A cheerful and kind woman named Margarita has lived in this area for about a year. Marguerite was born in Brittany into a simple peasant family and lived happily until she was seduced by a noble neighbor. When she carried her, he abandoned her, refusing to even provide for the child. Margarita decided to leave her native place and hide her sin away from her homeland. The old negro Domingo helped her to cultivate the land. Madame de Latour was delighted to meet Marguerite, and soon the women became friends. They divided among themselves the area of the basin, numbering about twenty dessiatines, and built two houses next to each other in order to constantly see, talk and help each other. The old man who lived behind the mountain considered himself their neighbor and was the godfather, first to the son of Marguerite, who was named Paul, and then to the daughter of Madame de Latour, who was named Virginia. Domingo married a black woman, Madame de Latour Marie, and everyone lived in peace and harmony. The ladies were spinning yarn from morning till night, and this work was enough for them to support themselves and their families. They were content with the bare essentials, rarely went to town, and donned their shoes only on Sundays, heading early in the morning to the Pumpelmuss Church.
Paul and Virginia grew up together and were inseparable. The children could neither read nor write, and their whole science consisted in mutual pleasing and helping. Madame de Latour was worried about her daughter: what would become of Virginia when she grew up, because she had no fortune. Madame de Latour wrote to a wealthy aunt in France, and at every opportunity she wrote again and again, trying to awaken her good feelings for Virginia, but after a long silence the old prude finally sent a letter saying that her niece deserved her sad fate. Not wanting to be considered too cruel, the aunt nevertheless asked the governor, Monsieur de Labourdonnay, to take her niece under her protection, but she recommended her so much that she only turned the governor against the poor woman. Marguerite consoled Madame de Latour: “Why do we need your relatives! Has the Lord left us? He is our only father. "
Virginia was as kind as an angel. Once, having fed a runaway slave, she went with her to her master and begged for her forgiveness. Returning from the Black River, where the owner of the fugitive lived, Paul and Virginia got lost and decided to spend the night in the forest. They began to read a prayer; as soon as they finished it, a dog barking was heard. It turned out that it was their dog Fidel, followed by the negro Domingo. Seeing the alarm of the two mothers, he gave Fidel a sniff of Paul and Virginia's old dress, and the faithful dog immediately rushed in the footsteps of the children.
Paul turned the hollow, where both families lived, into a blossoming garden, skillfully planting trees and flowers in it. Each corner of this garden had its own name: Cliff of Found Friendship, the lawn of Heartfelt Concord. The place near the spring, under the shade of two coconut trees, planted by happy mothers to celebrate the birth of their children, was called the Rest of Virginia. From time to time, Madame de Latour read aloud some touching story from the Old or New Testament. The members of the small society did not philosophize over the sacred books, for their whole theology, like the theology of nature, consisted in feeling, and all morality, like the morality of the Gospel, was in action. Both women avoided communication with both rich settlers and the poor, for some are looking for saints, while others are often angry and envious. In doing so, they showed so much courtesy and courtesy, especially towards the poor, that they gradually gained the respect of the rich and the trust of the poor. Each day was a holiday for two small families, but the most joyous holidays for Paul and Virginia were the names of their mothers. Virginia used to bake pies from wheat flour and treat them to the poor, and the next day she arranged a party for them. Paul and Virginia had no clocks, no calendars, no chronicles, no history or philosophy books. They determined the hours by the shadow cast by the trees, the seasons were recognized by whether the gardens were blooming or bearing fruit, and the years were counted by the harvest.
But for some time now Virginia began to suffer from an unknown ailment. Either causeless gaiety, now unreasonable sadness took possession of her. In the presence of Paul, she felt embarrassed, blushed and did not dare to look up at him. Marguerite increasingly spoke to Madame de Latour about marrying Paul and Virginia, but Madame de Latour believed that the children were too young and too poor. After consulting with the Old Man, the ladies decided to send Paul to India. They wanted him to sell there what was in abundance in the area: unrefined cotton, ebony, gum - and bought several slaves, and upon his return he married Virginia, but Paul refused to leave his family and friends for the sake of enrichment. Meanwhile, a ship arriving from France brought Madame de Latour a letter from her aunt. She finally relented and called her niece to France, and if her health did not allow her to make such a long journey, she punished her to send Virginia to her, promising to give the girl a good upbringing. Madame de Latour could not and did not want to embark on the journey. The governor began to persuade her to let Virginia go. Virginia did not want to go, but her mother, and after her the confessor began to convince her that this was the will of God, and the girl reluctantly agreed. Paul watched with chagrin as Virginia prepared to leave. Margarita, seeing the sadness of her son, told him that he was only the son of a poor peasant woman and, in addition, illegitimate, therefore, he was not a couple of Virginia, who on the mother's side belongs to a rich and noble family. Paul decided that Virginia had recently shunned him out of contempt. But when he spoke to Virginia about the difference in their origins, the girl swore that she was not going of her own free will and would never love or call another young man a brother. Paul wanted to accompany Virginia on the journey, but both mothers and Virginia herself persuaded him to stay. Virginia vowed to return in order to join her fate with his fate. When Virginia left, Paul asked the Old Man to teach him to read and write so that he could correspond with Virginia. There was no news from Virginia for a long time, and Madame de Latour only learned by the side that her daughter had arrived safely in France. Finally, after a year and a half, the first letter came from Virginia. The girl wrote that she had sent several letters before, but did not receive an answer to them, and realized that they had been intercepted: now she took precautions and hopes that this letter of hers will reach its destination. A relative sent her to a boarding house at a large monastery near Paris, where she was taught various sciences, and forbade all communication with the outside world. Virginia missed her loved ones very much. France seemed to her a country of savages, and the girl felt lonely. Paul was very sad and often sat under the papaya that Virginia had once planted. He dreamed of going to France, serving the king, making a fortune and becoming a noble nobleman in order to earn the honor of becoming the husband of Virginia. But the Old Man explained to him that his plans were impracticable and his illegal origin would prevent him from accessing top positions. The old man supported Paul's faith in the virtue of Virginia and the hope for her early return. Finally, on the morning of December 24, 1744, a white flag was raised on the Mount of Discovery, indicating that a ship had appeared at sea. The pilot, who sailed from the harbor to identify the ship, returned only in the evening and said that the ship would drop anchor in Port Louis the next afternoon, if there was a fair wind. The pilot brought letters, among which was a letter from Virginia. She wrote that her grandmother first wanted to marry her off by force, then disinherited her and finally sent her home, and at such a time of the year when travel is especially dangerous. Upon learning that Virginia was on the ship, everyone hurried to the city. But the weather turned bad, a hurricane flew in, and the ship began to sink. Paul wanted to throw himself into the sea to help Virginia or die, but he was restrained by force. The sailors jumped into the water. Virginia went out on deck and stretched out her arms to her beloved. The last sailor who remained on the ship threw himself at the feet of Virginia and begged her to take off her clothes, but she turned away from him with dignity. She held her dress with one hand, pressed the other to her heart and raised her clear eyes upward. She seemed like an angel flying to heaven. The water shaft covered her. When the waves carried her body to the shore, it turned out that she was clutching a small icon in her hand - a gift from Paul, with which she promised never to part. Virginia was buried near the Pumpelmus Church. Paul could not be comforted and died two months after Virginia. A week later, Margarita followed him. The old man brought Madame de Latour to his place, but she survived Paul and Marguerite only for a month. Before her death, she forgave the heartless relative who doomed Virginia to death. The old woman suffered severe retribution. She suffered from remorse and suffered from bouts of hypochondria for several years. Before her death, she tried to disinherit the relatives whom she hated, but they threw her behind bars like a madman, and placed custody of the property. She died, preserving, to top off all the troubles, reason enough to realize that she was robbed and despised by the very people whose opinion she cherished all her life.
The cape, which the ship could not go around on the eve of the hurricane, was called the Cape of Misfortune, and the bay where Virginia's body was thrown was called the Mogila Bay. The fields were buried near Virginia at the foot of the bamboos; nearby are the graves of their tender mothers and faithful servants. The old man was left alone and became like a friend who has no more friends, a father who has lost his children, a traveler wandering the earth alone.
Having finished his story, the Old Man left, shedding tears, and his interlocutor, listening to him, shed more than one tear.