Camille (La Dame aux Camilias)

Dumas fils, Alexandre

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Annotated by:
Jones, Therese
  • Date of entry: Feb-29-2000


This is the story of the ill-fated romance of Marguerite Gautier, a beautiful and brazen young courtesan of Paris, and Armand Duval, her passionate aristocratic lover. After becoming his mistress, Marguerite grows emotionally attached, returning Armand’s love and living with him in the country in order to recover her health.

Estranged from his family and deeply in debt, Armand is confronted by his father who demands an end to the illicit relationship. When Armand defies him, Monsieur Duval convinces Marguerite to release her beloved to secure his future and protect his reputation. Marguerite dies alone and in agony from consumption.


Camille is the most celebrated and most popular expression of what Susan Sontag calls "the sentimental fantasy of tuberculosis," which captured the imagination and represented the sensibility of many 19th century writers and artists.(Illness As Metaphor, New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1977, p 5). The protagonist, Marguerite Gautier, embodies the romanticized construction of the disease, thought to affect those individuals who were emotionally sensitive, sexually passionate, physically fragile and highly creative. The visible symptoms of slenderness, languidness and fever not only enhance her attractiveness to characters within the narrative but also evoke sympathy outside it among audiences who might otherwise have been inclined towards harsher moral judgments of her.

The action of the story--the discovery, experience and loss of romantic love--also reflects this 19th century construction of tuberculosis as well as its etiology. Called the "disease of love," consumption was believed to increase the capacity for euphoria as it diminished the span of life.

Only by literally ceasing the activity of daily life could one hope to arrest the ravages of the disease. Once Marguerite surrenders to Armand’s love and accepts his care, she becomes stronger and healthier; when that love and care are withdrawn, she quickly declines, inwardly consumed by unrequited desire.


Translated by Sir Edmond Gosse. This edition includes 15 pages of photographs from stage productions and film adaptations.


Signet Classic Penguin

Place Published

New York



Page Count