- "A Simple Heart" was inspired by several events in Flaubert's own life: he also lived in a farmhouse in rural Normandy, he also was adrift in his studies, much like Paul. Most importantly, he suffered an epileptic fit in the same way that Félicité does in the story.
- "The Legend of Saint Julian the Hospitalier" was inspired by a large stained glass window at Rouen Cathedral. Flaubert deliberately made his story markedly different from the story told in glass.
- "Herodias" is based on the biblical figure of the same name. Flaubert based the section on the dance of Salomé from a bas-relief also at Rouen Cathedral, and his own experience watching a young female dancer while in Egypt.
- "A Simple Heart" was the inspiration for Flaubert's Parrot, a literary novel by Julian Barnes.
- "Hérodias" is said to have influenced Oscar Wilde's later Salome (1893) and Jules Massenet's opera Hérodiade (1881); "The Legend of Saint Julian the Hospitalier" was the basis for an opera of the same title by Camille Erlanger (1888)
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