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Charles Baudelaire (1821 - 1867)

Le beau est toujours bizarre. --Baudelaire

Lifespan: 1821 - 1867

Baudelaire's world: 1840s - 1850s - Paris

Related: 1800s literature - dandy - bohemianism - cultural criticism - Les Poètes Maudits - French literature - Modernism - translation

Charles Baudelaire

Titles: Histoires Extraordinaires (1840s) - Les Fleurs du mal (1857) - Artifical Paradises (1860) - The Painter of Modern Life (1863) - Le Spleen de Paris (1869)

Contemporary cultural critics: Matthew Arnold - John Ruskin

Baudelaire was influenced by: Edgar Allan Poe - E.T.A. Hoffmann - Honoré de Balzac

Baudelaire was influential to: Walter Benjamin - Les Poètes Maudits

Les Epaves frontispiece (1866) - Félicien Rops [detail]

Baudelaire had learned English in his childhood, and Gothic novels, such as Poe's short stories and Lewis's The Monk, became some of his favorite reading matter. [Apr 2006]

The teenaged Baudelaire was kicked out of his prestigious Parisian lycée in 1839 for, among other offenses, having bad taste in literature: the radically anti-bourgeois poet-novelists Théophile Gautier, Gérard de Nerval, and Sainte-Beuve in particular. [Oct 2006]

With Stéphane Mallarmé and Paul Verlaine, the founder of the Decadents. He also founded the journal Le Salut Public, translated Edgar Allan Poe, and was prosecuted along with the publisher and printer for blasphemy associated with Les fleurs du mal. He held salons to encourage such painters as Delacroix. [Mar 2006]

After gaining his father's inheritance in 1842, Charles Baudelaire began leading the life of a dandy in Paris. This led his family to transfer control of his finances to a notary in 1844, and thereafter he lived on an allowance and on loans. [Jul 2006]


Charles Pierre Baudelaire (April 9, 1821–August 31, 1867) was one of the most influential French poets. He was also an important critic and translator. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Baudelaire [Dec 2004]

One of the greatest French poets of the 19th century, called 'the father of modern criticism,' who shocked his contemporaries with his visions of lust and decay. Baudelaire formed with Stéphane Mallarmé and Paul Verlaine the so-called Decadents. Baudelaire was the first to equate modern, artificial, and decadent. In Le peintre de la vie moderne (1863, The Painter of Modern Life) Baudelaire argued in favor of artificiality, stating that vice is natural in that it is selfish, while virtue is artificial because we must restrain our natural impulses in order to be good. The snobbish aesthete, the dandy, was for Baudelaire the ultimate hero and the best proof of an absolutely purposeless existence. He is a gentleman who never becomes vulgar and always preserves the cool smile of the stoic. --http://www.kirjasto.sci.fi/baudelai.htm [Mar 2006]


Baudelaire is one of the most famous decadent poets, but before the 20th century, when his work underwent considerable re-evaluation, he was generally considered by many to be merely a drug addict and a very vulgar author. His importance among serious literary critics and writers was, however, rarely in dispute. He was one of the first to recognize and to commend Poe's literary worth, and was also a noted art critic.

Baudelaire's confrontation of depression with the consumption of drugs such as opium, hashish and alcohol was a major influence on his work. Many of his poems were influenced by his interest in "les correspondances", or synaesthesia. Synaesthesia is the mixing of the senses, that is, the ability to smell colors or see sounds. He wrote several poems about the subject itself, such as "Correspondances", and used imagery and symbolism based on the experiences of synaesthesiacs. In general, Baudelaire was a sensualist, in love with sensations, and he tried to experience them and express them in abundance.

Andre Breton claimed that Baudelaire had been one of the first surrealists.

Baudelaire was affected by bipolar disorder, commonly known as manic depression. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Baudelaire#Influence [Dec 2004]

Madame Sabatier

At times Praz's The Romantic Agony reads as the gossip pages from the Decadents. Here is a quote on the supposed impotence of Baudelaire:

"[The] case of Baudelaire's exotic exclusiveness will be understood, and of his strange conduct towards Madame Sabatier, and it can be why so many people give credit to the rumour reported by Nadar. (Baudelair's impotence, generally admitted in this case, is denied by Flottes.)" pages 153 and 187 of The Romantic Agony.

Jeanne Duval

Jeanne Duval was the lifelong romantic association of French poet and art critic Charles Baudelaire. One of Les fleurs du mal poems, "Une charogne," was dedicated to Jeanne Duval, a second-tier mulatto actress.

Jeanne Duval was also served as a main character in Carribean Author, Nalo Hopkinson's, Salt Roads a work of historic fiction. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jeanne_Duval [Dec 2004]

her gross conduct

He had for many years a liaison with a colored woman, whom he helped to the end of his life in spite of her gross conduct. --1911 Encyclopedia Britannica

I realize that as far as 1924 African Americans referred to themselves as colored, which is evident from this poem by African American literary figure Jessie Redmon Fauset :

"The Complex of color...every colored man feels it sooner or later. It gets in the way of his dreams, of his education, of his marriage, of the rearing of his children." --Jessie Redmon Fauset, There is Confusion (1924)

What draws my attention is her gross conduct. Charles Baudelaire's work has undergone serious re-evaluation. At the time of his writing he was considered by many to be merely a drug addict and a very vulgar author. Today, his importance as a literary figure, however, is rarely in dispute.

I hope the same re-evaluation will happen to the colored woman and the way she is presented. For after all, if she was worth to be mentioned in 1911 for her gross conduct, she should be worth to be mentioned for the role she did play in his conduct [Dec 2004]

--http://www.1911encyclopedia.org/B/BA/BAUDELAIRE_CHARLES_PIERRE.htm via LoveToKnow™ Free Online Encyclopedia (http://1911encyclopedia.org) World Wide Web edition. This appears to be a raw, unproofread OCR-scanned version, and so contains many errors and no illustrations. However, it is gratis and text-searchable. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1911_Encyclop%E6dia_Britannica [Dec 2004]

On the dandy

Dandyism is not, as is commonly supposed, simply an excessive love of clothes and material elegance. To the perfect dandy such matters are merely symbolic of his own spiritual perfection. To his eyes, valuing as he does distinction above all, perfect dress is founded in absolute simplicity - which in fact is the best way to distinguish yourself ... [Dandyism] is above all the urgent need to make oneself original, within the exterior limits of conventional behavior. It is a kind of cult of the self, which [goes beyond] the quest for happiness through women...which can even survive the loss of...illusions. It is the pleasure of astonishing and the proud satisfaction of never being astonished .... In truth, I am not altogether wrong to consider dandyism a form of religion. -- The Painter of Modern Life (1863) - Charles Baudelaire

Felicien Rops

  • 1864: Charles Baudelaire meets Félicien Rops Baudelaire and Rops first met through the editor Auguste Poulet-Malassis.

    In a letter written to Edouard Manet, May 11 1865, the poet said:
    "Rops is the one true artist - what I and perhaps I alone mean by artist - that I have found in Belgium!"

    Rops for his part said:
    "I was, I believe, not merely a friend, but the most faithful and respectful companion to Baudelaire, I "lightened his sadness in Belgium", as he describes it in a dedication which is very dear to me....".

    The poet visited Namur and the family château of Thozée many times.

    Baudelaire's World (2002) - Rosemary Lloyd

    Baudelaire's World (2002) - Rosemary Lloyd
    [FR] [DE] [UK]

    Charles Baudelaire is often regarded as the founder of modernist poetry. Written with clarity and verve, Baudelaire's World provides English - language readers with the biographical, historical, and cultural contexts that will lead to a fuller understanding and enjoyment of the great French poet's work. --from the publisher

    Though it is often said Charles Baudelaire published only a single volume of poetry, The Flowers of Evil, this is untrue if you count his published prose poetry such as Spleen de Paris.

    See also: modernist poetry

    Commodification of art

    [...] Greenberg failed to comprehend how mass culture-as-spectacle enabled kitsch to gobble up authentic masterpieces, even the Venus de Milo herself. Charles Baudelaire foresaw this involution in his 1863 essay “The Painter of Modern Life”:
    “The world—and even the world of artists—is full of people who can go to the Louvre, walk rapidly, without so much as a glance, past rows of very interesting, though secondary, pictures, to come to a rapturous halt in front of a Titian or Raphael—one of those that would have been most popularized by the engraver’s art; then they will go home happy, not a few saying to themselves, ‘I know my Museum.‘” -- Charles Baudelaire

    On photography

    Charles Baudelaire despised photography as being a product of industry. He felt it provided an impression of reality that did not have the 'spiritual momentum' which came from the imagination. Whilst reviewing a photographic exhibition in 1859, clearly saw the need to put photography firmly in its place:

    "If photography is allowed to supplement art in some of its functions, it will soon have supplanted or corrupted it altogether....its true duty..is to be the servant of the sciences and arts - but the very humble servant, like printing or shorthand, which have neither created nor supplemented literature....
    "Let it rescue from oblivion those tumbling ruins, those books, prints and manuscripts which time is devouring, precious things whose form is dissolving and which demand a place in the archives of our memory - it will be thanked and applauded.
    But if it is allowed to encroach upon the domain of the... imaginary, upon anything whose value depends solely upon the addition of something of a man's soul, then it will be so much the worse for us."

    Some painters dubbed the new invention "the foe-to-graphic art." Certainly those artists who specialised in miniature portraits suffered; in 1810 over 200 miniatures were exhibited at the Royal Academy; this rose to 300 in 1830, but thirty years later only sixty-four were exhibited, and in 1870 only thirty-three.

    On the other hand, the painter, Gustave Courbet, recognised photography as a useful aid in depicting motifs. However, his paintings seem to illustrate, by the thickness of colour, that he saw photography as consisting merely of a copy of reality, and that painting went much further.

    A number of artists, seeing the writing on the wall, turned to photography for their livelihood, whilst others cashed in on the fact that the images were in monochrome, and began colouring them in. Baudelaire's assertion that photography had become "the refuge of failed painters with too little talent" was rather unfair, but it is true that a number turned to this new medium for their livelihood. By 1860 Claudet was able to claim that miniature portraits were no longer painted without the assistance of photography. --http://www.rleggat.com/photohistory/history/artists.htm [Dec 2004]

    Pauvre Belgique

    Fusées ; Mon coeur mis à nu ; La Belgique déshabilleé: Suivi de Amoenitates Belgique () - Charles Baudelaire [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

    Undoubtedly, the most damning opinion [on Belgium] was pronounced by Baudelaire. On the run from his Parisian creditors, he saw fit to spend several years in Brussels - a veritable culture shock, for which he took a verbally drastic revenge in his papers. There has probably never been such a summarily withering judgment pronounced on a city - along with its entire nation - as the one in Pauvre Belgique (Poor Belgium). This collection of notes and impressions reads like a one-man-crusade against all things Belgian, and is NOT recommended reading for the politically correct. Baudelaire was smart enough to refrain from trying to publish it; he would probably have had a very hard time finding a publisher, anyway. If he had, he would have had to live in fear of being drowned in a barrel of liquid manure by the more sensitive Belgian thinkers, as he himself imagined. --http://www.morgenwelt.de/futureframe/991108-brussels.htm [Mar 2006]

    Baudelaire and Schizoanalysis: The Socio-Poetics of Modernism (1993) - Eugene W. Holland

    Baudelaire and Schizoanalysis: The Socio-Poetics of Modernism (1993) - Eugene W. Holland [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

    This is the first book to apply the principles of schizoanalysis to literary history and cultural studies. By resituating psychoanalysis in its socio-economic and cultural context, this framework provides a new and illuminating approach to Baudelaire's poetry and art criticism. Professor Holland demonstrates the impact of military authoritarianism and the capitalist market (as well as Baudelaire's much-discussed family circumstances) on the psychology and poetics of the writer, who abandoned his romantic idealism in favor of a modernist cynicism that has characterized modern culture ever since.

    First Sentence:
    "Au fond del'Inconnu pour trouver du nouveau!" To the depths of the unknown to find something new: is this the battle cry of modernism or an advertising slogan?

    Schizoanalysis was first introduced in 1972 by the philosopher Gilles Deleuze and the psychoanalyst Felix Guattari in their book Anti-Oedipus. Its formulation was continued in their follow-up work, A Thousand Plateaus. The concept takes many different definitions over the course of its development in their collaborative work and individually in the work of Guattari. The most precise definition however is given in Felix Guattari's untranslated work Cartographies Schizoanalytiques as "the analysis of the incidence of Dispositions [agencements] of enunciation upon semiotic and subjective productions, in a given problematic context". Put in other terms, it is the practice of meta-modelization of endo- and exo-referentialities, and the modelization of the transformation of such referencialities. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Schizoanalysis [Jun 2006]

    See also: Gilles Deleuze - psychoanalysis - Baudelaire

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