Paul and Virginia was first published in 1787. The novel's title characters are very good friends since birth who fall in love, but sadly die when the ship Le Saint-Geran is wrecked. The story is set in the island of Mauritius under French rule, then named Île de France, which the author had visited. 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.