Originally a novel of the late 18th century that met with phenomenal success, the story of “Paul and Virginie” has since become a legend. Bernardin de Saint-Pierre’s masterpiece tells the story of the impossible love between two young teenagers living in Mauritius, in an idyllic and natural setting.
Everybody knows Paul and Virginie in Mauritius. So much so that some people think that these two young people really existed. However, they are only the fruit of the imagination of Bernardin de Saint-Pierre, a French writer of the Enlightenment period. Published in 1788, the novel was a huge success in France and elsewhere, consecrating the two characters as the equivalents of Romeo and Juliet in the collective imagination.
The story takes place in Isle de France (Mauritius). Paul is the son of a Breton peasant girl, Marguerite, abused by a nobleman. To avoid the affliction and shame that this pregnancy outside marriage would bring her in France, she finds refuge in this lost island in the Indian Ocean. She settled in the Pamplemousses district, then the capital of the Isle de France, and her neighbour was Madame de La Tour, a rich widow and mother of a young girl named Virginie. The two children were raised side by side in the magnificent setting of this tropical and lush island.
In adolescence, the friendship between the two young people ends up turning into an idyll. Upset that her daughter fell in love with the son of a commoner, Madame de La Tour sent Virginie to study in France. After a dramatic separation, Paul and Virginie wait only for one thing: her return. But just as they are about to reach their goal, the ship carrying her, the Saint-Géran, runs aground on the reefs off Cap-Malheureux. Virginia is swept away, and Paul soon dies of grief.
Poudre d’Or is home to the Paul and Virginie Monument which was erected on August 20, 1944 in memory of Paul and Virginie to remind us of this sad tragedy. In addition to the Poudre d’Or Monument, you will find a statue of Paul and Virginia in Curepipe, near City Hall. It is a bronze replica of the statue of Prosper d’Epinay. You will also find a bronze statue of Paul and Virginie in Pamplemousses.