She was born at Aachen, and christened Delphine Gay. Her mother, the well-known Madame Sophie Gay, brought her up in the midst of a brilliant literary society. She published two volumes of miscellanea, Essais poetiques (1824) and Nouveaux Essais poétiques (1825). A visit to Italy in 1827, during which she was enthusiastically welcomed by the literati of Rome and even crowned in the capitol, produced various poems, of which the most ambitious was Napoline (1833).
Delphine's marriage in 1831 to Émile de Girardin opened up a new literary career. The contemporary sketches which she contributed from 1836 to 1839 to the La Presse, under the nom de plume of Charles de Launay, were collected under the title of Lettres parisiennes (1843), and obtained a brilliant success. Contes d'une vieille fille a ses neveux (1832), La Canne de Monsieur de Balzac (1836) and Il ne faut pas jouer avec la douleur (1853) are among the best-known of her romances; and her dramatic pieces in prose and verse include L'École des journalistes (1840), Judith (1843), Cléopâtre (1847), Lady Tartufe (1853), and the one-act comedies, C'est la faute du mari (1851), La Joie fait peur (1854), Le Chapeau d'un horloger (1854) and Une Femme qui deteste son mari, which did not appear till after the author's death.
Madame Girardin exercised considerable personal influence in contemporary literary society, and in her drawing-room were often to be found Théophile Gautier, Honoré de Balzac, Alfred de Musset and Victor Hugo. Her collected works were published in six volumes (1860-1861).