By Rosemary Lloyd
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In nineteenth-century Paris, Charles Baudelaire provoked the excoriations of critics and used to be legally banned for corrupting public morality, but he was once a key impact on many later thinkers and writers, together with Marcel Proust, Walter Benjamin, and T. S. Eliot. Baudelaire’s existence was once as arguable and vibrant as his works, as Rosemary Lloyd finds in Charles Baudelaire, a succinct but discovered recounting.
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Extra info for Charles Baudelaire
A single very high window looking onto the street; curtains of a heavy material, attractively hung. Opposite that window, at the back of 45 the room, a bed. A few armchairs amongst all that. 4 The paintings, frequently bought from Arondel, too often proved, predictably enough, not to be of the highest calibre, and a disabused Baudelaire would dispose of them disdainfully, at a ﬁnancial loss, only to fall victim yet again to the same temptation. He was an avid collector at this period of his life, gathering around him paintings, caricatures and books.
38 2 Revolt The ill-starred poet, rejected by his family, despised by the multitude and starving to death in his garret, was a standard element of Romantic mythology well before Paul Verlaine published his Poètes maudits in 1884. That Baudelaire was already beginning to work his way into a personal variant of the myth in his early twenties is obvious from reports of his friends from the Pension Bailly, in the days before his aborted voyage to India, when he constantly harped on the misfortune of his mother’s rejection of him, as revealed by her remarriage.
553) Indeed, while La Fanfarlo is much more than autobiographical, it seems to be in part a derisory projection of what Baudelaire’s life could have been; that of a journalist whose youthful romantic ideals are slowly submerged into anonymous, bourgeois semirespectability as his poetry is set aside for books written for the masses and his mistress works to ensure he becomes a member of the Institute and receives a medal from the government. The Baudelaire of Deroy’s portrait could well have followed such a trajectory, but his image of what it meant to be a writer and what was essential to poetry (now that the ‘good days of Romanticism’, as he terms them in La Fanfarlo, were over), was beginning to take shape as something radically different from, and far more powerful than, Samuel Cramer’s poetry volume Orfraies.