Charles Baudelaire is largely considered to be the definitive writer of Decadence. Baudelaire was born in Paris in 1921. His father died soon after. The young Charles was very close to his mother, but had a difficult relationship with his step-father, who disapproved of his artistic leanings, and would later withdraw Baudelaire’s inheritance and plunging him into poverty when he thought his life had become too dissipated. As a young man in Paris, he quickly made a name for himself as a Dandy, developed an interest in the occult, and had a number of torrid love affairs. Yet he still found the time to write some of the most exquisite poetry of all time. He conjured up passages of agonised, haunting beauty, of demented despair, which pulse through the reader’s brain long after they have finished reading. As with so many Decadent artists, his misery and self-destructiveness fed his genius.
His most famous work, Les Fleurs du Mal, inspired a court case resulting in some of the poems in the collection being banned as obscene. He also wrote a collection of prose poems, entitled Paris Spleen, as well as several essays of art criticism, and a study of opium. There is neither time nor space to discuss Baudelaire’s oeuvre in one post, so I’ll be dedicating several future updates to discussions of different aspects of his work.
A combination of substance abuse, poverty and venereal disease finally shattered Baudelaire’s health, and in 1866 he suffered a massive stroke, leaving him paralysed. He died two years later, aged 46.
I guess it’s fairly obvious that I’m more than a little bit in love with Charles Baudelaire. I really must stop falling for men who have severe personal issues, especially ones who have been dead for well over a century. It’s really putting a cramp on my social life…