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Charles Baudelaire

Charles Baudelaire Charles Baudelaire[1†]

Charles Pierre Baudelaire (April 9, 1821 – August 31, 1867) was a French poet, translator, and literary and art critic[1†]. His reputation primarily rests on his poetry collection, “Les Fleurs du mal” (1857; The Flowers of Evil), which is considered one of the most important and influential poetry collections published in Europe in the 19th century[1†][2†][1†]. His poems are known for their mastery of rhyme and rhythm, containing an exoticism inherited from Romantics, and are based on observations of real life[1†].

Early Years and Education

Charles Pierre Baudelaire was born on April 9, 1821, in Paris, France[3†]. His father, Joseph-François Baudelaire, was a middle-ranking civil servant who had also been a priest, tutor, and painter[3†]. His mother, Caroline Dufaÿs, was his father’s second wife and was 34 years younger than him[3†]. Charles had a half-brother, Claude Alphonse Baudelaire, from his father’s first marriage[3†].

When Charles was not yet six years old, his father passed away[3†]. After his father’s death, Charles and his mother lived together on the outskirts of Paris[3†]. In 1828, his mother married Major Jacques Aupick[3†]. This second marriage greatly affected Charles, as he was no longer the center of his mother’s attention[3†].

In 1831, Charles began his schooling as a boarder at the Collège-lycée Ampère in Lyon, where his stepfather was posted[3†]. He left the academy in 1836 when his family returned to Paris, and he entered the Lycée Louis-le-Grand[3†]. In April 1839, he was expelled from school for refusing to hand over a note passed to him by a classmate[3†][4†]. Thereafter, he entered Collège Saint-Louis, from where he passed his baccalaureate examinations in the same year[3†][5†].

Between 1839 and 1841, Baudelaire lived in the Latin Quarter of Paris, trying to pursue a literary career while accumulating debt[3†][4†][5†]. His stepfather hoped that he would follow a career in law, and to satisfy him, Baudelaire continued his studies at the Collège Saint-Louis[3†][5†].

Career Development and Achievements

Charles Baudelaire’s career was marked by a constant struggle for recognition and financial stability[1†]. After completing his studies, he embarked on a literary career, despite his stepfather’s hopes for him to pursue law or diplomacy[1†]. His mother later recalled, "Oh, what grief! If Charles had let himself be guided by his stepfather, his career would have been very different…He would not have left a name in literature, it is true, but we should have been happier, all three of us"[1†].

Baudelaire’s most significant work, “Les Fleurs du mal” (The Flowers of Evil), was published in 1857[1†][2†]. This collection of lyric poetry expressed the changing beauty of nature in rapidly industrializing Paris during the mid-19th century[1†]. The poems are known for their mastery of rhyme and rhythm, containing an exoticism inherited from Romantics, and are based on observations of real life[1†][2†].

His original style of prose-poetry influenced a generation of poets including Paul Verlaine, Arthur Rimbaud, and Stéphane Mallarmé[1†]. Baudelaire is also credited with coining the term “modernity” (modernité) to designate the fleeting experience of life in an urban metropolis, and the responsibility of artistic expression to capture that experience[1†].

Throughout his career, Baudelaire regularly begged his mother for money, often promising that a lucrative publishing contract or journalistic commission was just around the corner[1†]. Despite his financial struggles, Baudelaire’s influence on the literary world was profound, and his legacy continues to be felt today[1†][2†].

First Publication of His Main Works

Charles Baudelaire’s most significant works have left an indelible mark on the literary world. His unique style and innovative approach to poetry have influenced generations of poets and writers[1†][2†].

Baudelaire’s works are characterized by their depth of emotion, intricate imagery, and profound exploration of beauty in the mundane. His ability to capture the essence of the human experience in his works has made him a pivotal figure in the literary world[1†][2†].

Analysis and Evaluation

Charles Baudelaire’s work has had a profound impact on the literary world, and his influence extends beyond the realm of poetry. His unique style, characterized by its depth of emotion, intricate imagery, and exploration of beauty in the mundane, has made him a pivotal figure in the literary world[7†][8†].

Baudelaire is often associated with the Symbolists, a movement that emerged more than a decade after his death[7†]. However, he neither belonged to nor founded a school. It is probably fair to designate him as one of the earliest exponents of modernism[7†]. He constantly sought works that expressed a beauty specific to the reality of the moment, even if that reality was unpleasant or bizarre[7†]. His corrosive irony, suggestive understatement of the metaphoric sense of his images, and aggressive use of material drawn from the prosaic side of life have had a lasting success and influence[7†]. Movements as diverse as Symbolism, Dadaism, and the Italian neorealist cinema have claimed descent from his work[7†].

Baudelaire’s poetry is known for its stark and bold images sharply contrasted, richly textured lines that reward close reading with symbolic discovery, and a sense of form and control that validates the modern artist’s right to deal with matters usually considered too unconventional for public discourse[7†][9†]. His work is credited for much of what we have come to take for granted in modern poetry[7†][9†].

Baudelaire’s name is inextricably linked with the idea of the flâneur: the anonymous street wanderer who created a poetic record of the rapidly shifting environment to which he, and his fellow urban dwellers, were exposed[7†][8†]. As a “man of the city”, he wandered anonymously throughout the streets, embankments, and arcades of Paris observing the behavior of crowds in this new age of window shopping and cafe culture[7†][8†].

In conclusion, Baudelaire’s work, characterized by its emotional depth, intricate imagery, and exploration of beauty in the mundane, has left an indelible mark on the literary world[7†][8†].

Personal Life

Charles Baudelaire was born in Paris, France, on 9 April 1821[1†]. His father, Joseph-François Baudelaire (1759–1827), a senior civil servant and amateur artist, was 34 years older than Baudelaire’s mother, Caroline (née Dufa s) (1794–1871)[1†]. His father died during Baudelaire’s childhood, on 10 February 1827[1†]. The following year, Caroline married Lieutenant Colonel Jacques Aupick[1†], who later became a French ambassador to various noble courts[1†]. Baudelaire’s biographers have often seen this as a crucial moment, considering that finding himself no longer the sole focus of his mother’s affection left him with a trauma, which goes some way to explaining the excesses later apparent in his life[1†]. He stated in a letter to her that, "There was in my childhood a period of passionate love for you."[1†]

In 1833, the family moved to Lyon, where Baudelaire attended a military boarding school[1†][4†]. At 14, he was described by a classmate as "much more refined and distinguished than any of our fellow pupils…we are bound to one another…by shared tastes and sympathies, the precocious love of fine works of literature."[1†] Baudelaire was erratic in his studies, at times diligent, at other times prone to "idleness"[1†]. Later, he attended the Lycée Louis-le-Grand in Paris, studying law, a popular course for those not yet decided on any particular career[1†]. He began to frequent prostitutes and may have contracted gonorrhea and syphilis during this period[1†]. He also began to run up debts, mostly for clothes[1†]. Upon gaining his degree in 1839, he told his brother "I don’t feel I have a vocation for anything."[1†] His stepfather had in mind a career in law or diplomacy, but instead Baudelaire decided to embark upon a literary career[1†].

Baudelaire regularly begged his mother for money throughout his career, often promising that a lucrative publishing contract or journalistic commission was just around the corner[1†].

Conclusion and Legacy

Charles Baudelaire’s influence on the literary world is undeniable. He is arguably the most influential French poet of the nineteenth century and a key figure in the timeline of European art history[8†]. His writings showed a strong inclination towards experimentation, and he identified with fellow travellers in the field of contemporary painting, most notably Eugène Delacroix and Édouard Manet[8†]. Despite the controversies and challenges he faced in his personal life, he managed to leave his indelible stamp on three overlapping idioms: art criticism, poetry, and literary translation[8†].

Baudelaire’s name is inextricably linked with the idea of the flâneur: the anonymous street wanderer who created a poetic record of the rapidly shifting environment to which he, and his fellow urban dwellers, were exposed[8†]. This concept became an important phenomenon for future artists and for the academic development of cultural studies[8†].

As a translator of Edgar Allan Poe’s works, Baudelaire began France’s love affair with US pulp fiction[8†][10†]. His translations inspired writers like Jules Verne and influenced the nouvelle vague’s championing of film noir[8†][10†].

Many of Baudelaire’s writings were unpublished or out of print at the time of his death, but his reputation as a poet was already secure with Stephane Mallarmé, Paul Valaine, and Arthur Rimbaud all citing him as an influence[8†].

Baudelaire’s legacy continues to be felt today, not only in the field of literature but also in art criticism and translation. His exploration of taboo subjects and his innovative style have made him a lasting figure in the world of literature and beyond[8†].

Key Information

References and Citations:

  1. Wikipedia (English) - Charles Baudelaire [website] - link
  2. Britannica - Charles Baudelaire: French author [website] - link
  3. The Famous People - Charles Baudelaire Biography [website] - link
  4. Academy of American Poets - About Charles Baudelaire [website] - link
  5. eNotes - Charles Baudelaire Biography [website] - link
  6. Wondershare EdrawMind - Charles Baudelaire (Biography, Poems, & Mind Maps) [website] - link
  7. eNotes - Charles Baudelaire Analysis [website] - link
  8. TheArtStory - Charles Baudelaire Overview and Analysis [website] - link
  9. eNotes - Flowers of Evil Summary [website] - link
  10. The Guardian - Charles Baudelaire: the debauchee’s debauchee [website] - link
  11. Britannica - Charles Baudelaire summary [website] - link
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