Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Baudelaire, Charles

(1821-1867) French poet. Théophile Gautier, who provided CB's funeral oration and wrote his biography, identified his work as the definitive example of the "Decadent literary style" (see Decadence). His worldview – which arose out of a curious combination of a dissolute lifestyle, the interrupted voyage to the Orient on which he was sent in the hope of curing his bad habits, and the fact that his one major commercial project was the translation into French of the works of Edgar Allan Poe – attained multifaceted expression in the classic poetry collection Les Fleurs du Mal (coll 1857; exp 1861; part trans Richard Herne Shepherd in Translations from Charles Baudelaire with a Few Original Poems coll 1869 UK; full trans Cyril Scott as The Flowers of Evil coll 1909 US), which was sufficiently shocking to attract prosecution for obscenity. The contents included: CB's crucial contribution to the tradition of Literary Satanism (see Satan) "Les Litanies de Satan"; two poems eroticizing the Vampire motif, "Le Vampire" and "Les Métamorphoses du vampire"; and four poems entitled "Spleen" which delimited one of the notions central to the aesthetics of Decadence.

CB went on to establish the prose-poem as a significant form in Decadent art, his work in that vein including such hymns to Escapism as "Anywhere out of the World" (1857), whose title is a quotation from Thomas Hood, "L'Invitation au voyage" (1862) and "La Chambre double" (1862), and such sarcastic fantasies as "Les Dons des fées" (1862) and "Les Tentations, ou Éros, Plutus et la Gloire" (1863). These were intended for publication together as «Le spleen de Paris», but were eventually issued in volume IV (coll 1869) of Oeuvres complètes (coll 1868-1870 7 vols) along with the clinical study Les paradis artificiels, opium et haschisch (1860), which takes a jaundiced view of the potential of drug-assisted escapism. They are also in vol IV of the definitive Oeuvres complètes (coll 1923-1965 19 vols) ed Jacques Crépet, along with the novella "Le Jeune enchanteur; histoire tirée d'un palimpseste de Pompeïa" (1846 as by Baudelaire Dufays). Translations of the prose-poems can be found in many collections. [BS]

further reading: Charles Baudelaire: His Life by Théophile Gautier, Translated into English, with Selections from his Poems, "Little Poems in Prose" and Letters to Sainte-Beuve and Flaubert, and An Essay on his Influence (coll 1915) by Guy Thorne (1876-1923); Baudelaire (1957) by Enid Starkie; Baudelaire (1994) by Joanna Richardson.

Charles Pierre Baudelaire


This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.