chapter
8 Pages

Introduction

ByMalcolm Cook

Bernardin de Saint-Pierre's first major novel, Paul et Virginie, published in 1788, was an outstanding literary success. While there have been many studies of this novel, comparatively little attention has been paid to its author, a major figure who lived a fascinating life. This chapter assesses the status of Bernardin as an intellectual and to trace his journey through life. What emerges is a fascinating picture of a busy writer whose success in the eighteenth century was astonishing - Paul et Virginie has apparently been through more editions than any other French novel. He considered himself to be a major scientist, he had an impressive knowledge of mathematics, and he sought to find evidence for his theories by resorting to the kind of experiments that were at the very heart of the French Enlightenment, such as asking sailors to throw bottles into the oceans when he was attempting to prove his theories on tidal movement.