The story centers around a priest, Romuald, and his meeting with a young, beautiful woman, Clarimonde. He is incapable of restraining himself and falls into a peculiar situation. The gothic segments are profound, and the story includes everything from death to vampires. Although, it's a rather nice vampire and a victim that prefers to be with her instead of living his chaste life.
The novel alternates between Romuald's two conditions and he is not aware of which is his real life. Is he dreaming when meeting Clarimonde, or when he is a priest? What is reality and what is illusion? Another question is whether it could all be a dream about seduction considering his newly taken wows?
Gautier was one of the initial French authors in the romantic period. According to Gautier, art is eternal, while everything else perishes. The phrase ”l’art pour l’art” - art for art's sake – is credited to him, even if not made up entirely by him. He claimed that art didn't need moral justification and was allowed to be neutral. Gautier was highly influential in the early romantic era.