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The Idea of Europe

Catriona Seth
Rotraud von Kulessa

42. Italy and the Origins of European Culture

Texte intégral

1Corinne is the heroine of the eponymous novel by Germaine de Staël (1766–1817).i She personifies female creative genius. The fictional protagonists allow their author to depict European national characters. Here, Prince Castel-Forte’s discourse evokes the Italian roots of modern civilisation. Corinne, who is being crowned at the Capitol, is shown as an almost allegorical character, an incarnation of the cradle of European culture.

2I cannot flatter myself on having faithfully represented one of whom it is impossible to form an idea till she herself is known; but her presence is left to Rome, as among the chief blessings beneath its brilliant sky. Corinne is the link that binds her friends to each other. She is the motive, the interest of our lives; we rely on her worth, pride in her genius, and say to the sons of other lands, ‘Look on the personation of our own fair Italy. She is what we might be, if freed from the ignorance, envy, discord, and sloth, to which fate has reduced us’. We love to contemplate her, as a rare production of our climate, and our fine arts; a relic of the past, a prophetess of the future; and when strangers, pitiless of the faults born of our misfortunes, insult the country whence have arisen the planets that illumed all Europe, still we but say to them, ‘Look upon Corinne’.

3Germaine de Staël, Corinne, or Italyii (1807).

Read the free English text online (1876 edition):​books?id=zhbIm7fTqWgC&dq=corinnepriestessstael&hl=fr&pg=PA28
Read the free text in the original language :​stream/​corinneoulitalie01stauoft


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