Charles Baudelaire


Charles Baudelaire The Flowers of Evil

 

Easton Press Charles Baudelaire books

The Flowers of Evil - 100 Greatest Books Ever Written - 1977

Franklin Library Charles Baudelaire books

The Flowers of Evil - 100 Greatest Books of All Time - 1977


Who is Charles Baudelaire?

Charles Pierre Baudelaire, (1821 - 1867), was a French poet and critic, born in Paris, and educated at the College Louis le Grand. His boyhood and adolescence were unhappy, for his father died when he was six years old, and shortly thereafter his mother married an army officer. Charles Baudelaire disliked his stepfather and resented his mother for having married him. After the completion of his studies Baudelaire announced his intention to pursue a literary career. Opposed to his choice and hoping to distract him, his parents sent him on a sea voyage to India. However, he left the ship at the island of Reunion and returned to Paris more determined than ever to devote himself to writing. At first his decision was facilitated by a small inheritance from his father, but Charles Baudelaire soon spent most of the money. In an effort to solve his financial problem he began to write critical journalism. His first important publications were two booklets of art criticism, Les Salons (1845 - 1846), in which he discussed with acute insight the paintings and drawings of such contemporary French artists as Honore Daumier, Edouard Manet, and Eugene Delacroix. He gained his acclaim as skilled literary craftsman in 1848, when his translations of the American writer Edgar Allan Poe's Tales of Mystery and Imagination (Histoires Extraordinaires) began to appear. Encouraged by that success and spurred on by his enthusiasm for Poe, with whom he felt a strong affinity both as a man and as an artist, Baudelaire continued to translate Edgar Allan Poe's sores until 1857, when the entire five volumes were completed.

Charles Baudelaire's major work, the volume of poetry The Flowers of Evil ("Les Fleurs du Mal"), appeared in 1857. Immediately after its publication the French government prosecuted Baudelaire on a charge of offending public morals. Although the elite French literature came to his support, he was fined, and six poems in the volume were suppressed in subsequent editions. His next work, Les Paradis Artifciels (1860), is a confessional, self analytical book, based on his own experiences and inspired by British writer Thomas De Quincey's Confessions of an English Opium Eater. Baudelaire lived in Belgium from 1864 to 1866, having gone there with the plan of lecturing and bringing out the complete edition of his work. Baudelaire soon became stricken by paralysis and was brought back to Paris were he died.

One of the great poets of French literature, Charles Baudelaire possessed a classical sense of form, great skill at choosing the appropriate word, and a true gift for musical language; he produced some of the most powerful and lovely verse in French. His originality sets him apart from the dominant literary schools of his time. His poetry has been variously regarded as the last brilliant summation of romanticism, the precursor of symbolism, and the first expression of modern techniques. Because Baudelaire viewed man as a divided being, drawn equally toward God and Satan, he felt impelled to deal in his poems with all of man's experiences, from the most sublime to the most sordid. Yet despite his lurid subject matter, his obsession with death and decay, and his joyless carnality, Baudelaire was in essence a profoundly religious man grappling with the age-old problem of the conflict between the ideal and the sensual.

Beyond poetry, Baudelaire was a keen art critic and translator. His essays on art, collected in The Painter of Modern Life and Other Essays, reflected his views on the changing nature of art in an industrialized and urbanized society. He championed the work of artists like Eugène Delacroix and Constantin Guys, emphasizing the importance of capturing contemporary life.

Baudelaire's influence extended beyond his lifetime, inspiring later poets, including the Symbolists and the Surrealists. His complex and introspective approach to the human condition resonated with writers exploring the inner workings of the mind and the darker aspects of existence. Charles Baudelaire's health deteriorated in his later years, and he faced financial difficulties. He passed away on August 31, 1867, in Paris, at the age of 46. Despite the controversies surrounding his work during his lifetime, Baudelaire's legacy has endured, and he is widely recognized as a key figure in French literature and poetry.

 

The Flowers of Evil

Baudelaire’s most famous collection of poems is The Flowers of Evil, which was published in 1857 and which was widely condemned as being unwholesome and decadent. The publication actually led to Baudelaire being prosecuted on a charge of offending public morals.  The poems focus is on death, of disease, of prostitution, of the ordinary street life of Paris, of everything that shed light or spoke to humanity. Scandalous at the time of first publishing, and still challenging nowadays. Some critics call it a “masterpiece of passion, art and poetry”.


Charles Baudelaire quotes

"The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn't exist."
"One should always be drunk. That's all that matters...But with what? With wine, with poetry, or with virtue, as you choose. But get drunk."
"The poet is a liar who always speaks the truth."
"What strange phenomena we find in a great city, all we need do is stroll about with our eyes open. Life swarms with innocent monsters."
"Genius is nothing more nor less than childhood recaptured at will."
"I am unable to understand how a man of honor could take a newspaper in his hands without a shudder of disgust."
"It is time to get drunk! So as not to be the martyred slaves of Time, get drunk; get drunk without stopping! On wine, on poetry, or on virtue, as you wish."
"The more a man cultivates the arts, the less he fornicates. A more and more apparent cleavage occurs between the spirit and the brute."
"There are as many kinds of beauty as there are habitual ways of seeking happiness."
"To be thoroughly conversant with Man's heart, is to take our final lesson in the iron-clasped volume of Despair."


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