Alexandre Dumas, fils
The Lady of the Camellias (La Dame aux Camélias)
Translated by Edmund Gosse.
Based loosely on the life of Marie Duplessis, a friend of the author, this novel tells a story that you probably already know.
The consumptive courtesan, Marguerite Gautier, falls for an innocent young man. When his father tries to separate them, she agrees to sacrifice herself, only to die in poverty of tuberculosis a short time later.
Where do the camellias come in? They are Marguerite’s favourite flower:
“For twenty-five days of the month the camellias were white, and for five they were red; no one ever knew the reason of this change of colour.”
The novel has been dramatised for the stage, there are several films (where the heroine is oddly renamed ‘Camille’ – a man’s name in France); also a ballet and Verdi’s opera ‘La Traviata’ (where she is renamed ‘Violetta’).
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