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Baudelaire Charles

Baudelaire Charles

Baudelaire Charles
Charles Baudelaire was born on April 9th in 1821 in Paris, France and died there forty-six years later on the 31st of August in 1867. He is considered one of the most influential French poets in history and one of the greatest poets of the 19th century influencing an era of poetic symbolism. He was also a translator, essayist, and critic lauded for his celebration and acute articulation of a notion of modernity. Charles Baudelaire became the archetypal modern artist/poet living (and creating) the “bohemian” life that developed among the artists of the mid to late 19th century. He is most known for his scandalous work of poetry, Les Fleurs du Mal (Flowers of Evil), (1857), his translations and commentaries of the work of Edgar Allen Poe and his depiction of the modern artist in Le Peintre de la Vie Moderne (The Painter of Modern Life), (1863).
Born to Joseph-Francois Baudelaire and Caroline Archimbaut Dufays in Paris, Charles Baudelaire had an early exposure to art through his father who was an amateur artist as well as a civil servant. Unfortunately, his father, who was anywhere between thirty and thirty-four years older than his mother, died when he was just six years old. While Charles Baudelaire developed an intensely close relationship with his mother it was also contentious due to his despair over her second marriage a year later to Major Jacques Aupick. He was sent to a military boarding school in Lyon where the family had moved in 1832/3. He was an intelligent student yet not always taken with instruction and especially rebelled against the military structure. Fortunately the family moved back to Paris in 1936 and he attended the Lycée Louis-le-Grand, though was apparently dismissed just before graduation in 1839.
Back in Paris, Charles Baudelaire found himself most at home in the Latin Quarter, or what has infamously become known as the “left bank”. Formal schooling not being of interest to the young man, the emerging poet setout to pursue a career in writing. As well, he pursued a flagrant lifestyle, running up great debts, and pursued his interest in sex through various prostitutes. It is presumed that he contracted gonorrhea and syphilis at this time, which would obviously come to cause health problems. His mother and stepfather stepped in a couple years later and offered him a trip to India with the hope that the young “rebel” would adjudicate his ways. In 1841, Charles Baudelaire set sail on his ‘imposed’ adventure only to return within ten months.
Upon his return to Paris, Charles Baudelaire also received his inheritance, due him on his 21st birthday. The “un-reformed” poet-in-waiting thus embarked on his luxurious bohemian lifestyle, which included a penchant for fashion, experimenting with hashish and opium, and a ‘commitment’ to spending his days frequenting artists and cafes. He met and fell in love with Jeanne Duval who would be his long-time mistress and is considered the inspiration behind the “Black Venus” in Les Fleurs du mal; “This girl of another race who like a slave let him drape her in his exotic dreams. He loved her for her savage blood, defiantly.” Having gone through almost half of his inheritance within a couple years his parents managed a court order in 1844 to control his funds dispensing it in small increments over the rest of his life.
Charles Baudelaire’s disdain for the growing bourgeoisie escalated and he became politically involved and participated in the infamous 1848 revolution. This was, sadly for many, followed by the coup d’état and Napoleon III’s coronation in 1852. His brief participation in the 1848 revolution and the events that spawned from it turned to be incredibly disillusioning for Charles Baudelaire and he “retreated” into his work aligning more and more with an emergent awareness of modernity’s sense of alienation. It was also at this time that he discovered Edgar Allan Poe and thought of him as his “twin soul” and he would publish translations of his work in 1854 and 1855.
There is no form of rational and assured government save an aristocracy. A monarchy or a republic, based upon democracy, are equally absurd and feeble. The immense nausea of advertisements. There are but three beings worthy of respect: the priest, the warrior and the poet. To know, to kill and to create. The rest of mankind may be taxed and drudged, they are born for the stable, that is to say, to practice what they call professions.
In his own writing, Charles Baudelaire was praised for his first major public work, which was a piece of art criticism on the Salon of 1845, in which he championed the work of Eugene Delacroix as a “poet in painting”. This was followed by another critical discussion of the Salon the following year in which he expounded on his admiration and critique of Romanticism and put forth substantive ideas that would later be evident in the new painting of the later 19th century. It is in his Salon of 1846 that Charles Baudelaire would speak of the “Heroism of Modern Life.” He addresses the review, “To the Bourgeoisie”, “some are scholars, others are owners; a glorious day will come when the scholars shall be owners and the owners scholars.” He heeds to the bourgeoisie as the mass audience and posits his criticism more specifically with the arbiters of taste, “the monopolists of the things of the mind … But the monopolists have decided to keep the forbidden fruit of knowledge from you, because knowledge is their counter and their shop, and they are infinitely jealous of it.”
The next year Charles Baudelaire published La Fanfarlo (1847), an autobiographical novella. As well, some of his poems that would comprise Les Fleurs du mal were published in Revue des deux mondes (Review of Two Worlds). In 1857 the first edition of Les Fleurs du mal was published by his friend Auguste Poulet-Malassis; apparently Charles Baudelaire was so consumed with the publication that he was a constant presence during its production, assuring the quality of printing et al. Immediately there were six poems that were condemned by the Ministry of Interior due to their obscene content that included vampires and lesbian love (the ban remained in effect until 1949). Four years later there were another thirty-five poems added to the publication, along with the section “Tableaux parisiens”, but no longer included the six poems that had been banned, published in 1961.
Les Fleurs du mal, at first, received more attention because of its ‘scandalous’ subject matter than anything else though it was immediately praised and lauded by the great French writers of the day such as Gustave Flaubert and Victor Hugo. Gustave Flaubert wrote to him, “You have found a way to inject new life into Romanticism. You are unlike anyone else (which is the most important quality) … You are as unyielding as marble, and as penetrating as an English mist.” Victor Hugo wrote, “your fleurs du mal shine and dazzle like stars … I applaud your vigorous spirit with all my might.” Some of the critics hailed it as a passionate success of art and poetry while others, as Habas writing for Le Figaro, claimed the Les Fleurs du mal as “incomprehensible” and “hideous” and anything one understands is “putrid”.
The work was “shocking” and “modern” in its content, juxtapositions and tone. Charles Baudelaire came from the Romantic tradition yet his poetry seized the edge of modernity in all its expanding industrial depravity as sublime and beautiful. Within that is the one who roams within such modernity and his plague of existence. Charles Baudelaire gave voice, gave a new, cutting, direct voice to what he found already accumulating in the alleys and sewers, and the salons and table settings of a bourgeoisie milieu, including then of course, the reader to whom his collection of poems opens up with/to:
If rape, poison, daggers, arson
Have not yet embroidered with their pleasing designs
The banal canvas of our pitiable lives,
It is because our souls have not enough boldness.
But among the jackals, the panthers, the bitch hounds,
The apes, the scorpions, the vultures, the serpents,
The yelping, howling, growling, crawling monsters,
In the filthy menagerie of our vices,
There is one more ugly, more wicked, more filthy!
Although he makes neither great gestures nor great cries,
He would willingly make of the earth a shambles
And, in a yawn, swallow the world;
He is Ennui! — His eye watery as though with tears,
He dreams of scaffolds as he smokes his hookah pipe.
You know him reader, that refined monster,
— Hypocritish reader, — my fellow, — my brother
! Au Lectuer (To the reader)