Written on the eve of the French Revolution, the novel is hailed as Bernardin's finest work. It records the fate of a child of nature corrupted by the false, artificial sentimentality that prevailed at the time among the upper classes of France. The Nuttall Encyclopedia says of it, ''[it is a novel in which] there rises melodiously, as it were, the wail of a moribund world: everywhere wholesome Nature in unequal conflict with diseased, perfidious art; cannot escape from it in the lowest hut, in the remotest island of the sea''
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