The Life and Intimate Memoirs of Baudelaire, Page 19|
by Théophile Gautier (1868), translated by Guy Thorne (1915).
"The Truth of the Case of M. Waldemar," shakes the nerves even of the most robust, and the "Fall of the House of Usher" inspires profound melancholy.
PAGE 19 OF 26.
Imaginative natures were deeply touched by the faces of women, so vaporous, transparent, romantically pale, and of almost spiritual beauty, that the poet named Morella, Ligeia, Lady Rowena, Trevanion, de Tremaine, Lenore; but who are in reality only the incarnations under different forms of a unique love surviving the death of the adored one.
Henceforth, in France, the name of Baudelaire is inseparable from that of Edgar Poe, and the memory of the one immediately awakes thoughts of the other. It seems sometimes that the ideas of the American were really of French origin.
Baudelaire, like the greater number of the poets of his time, when the Arts, less separated than they were formerly, mingled more one with another and allowed of frequent transposition, had the taste for, sentiment and knowledge of, painting. He wrote noteworthy articles in the "Salon," and, amongst others, pamphlets on Delacroix, which analysed with clear penetration and subtlety the nature of a great romantic painter. He thought deeply, and we find, in some reflections on Edgar Poe, this significant phrase: "Like our Delacroix, who has raised his art to the height of great poetry, Edgar Poe likes to place his subjects on violet and green backgrounds which reveal the phosphorescence and the fragrance of the storm." How just is this sentiment, so simply phrased, incidental to the passionate and feverish colour of the painter! Delacroix, in effect, charmed Baudelaire by the "maladie" even of his talent, so troubled, restless, nervous, excitable, and so tormented with uneasiness, melancholy, febrile ardour, convulsive efforts, and the vague dreams of modern times.
At one time, the realistic school believed it could monopolise Baudelaire. Certain outrageously crude and truthful pictures in the "Flowers of Evil," pictures in which the poet had not hesitated before any ugliness, might have made some superficial minds think he leaned towards that doctrine. They did not note that these pictures, so-called real, were always ennobled by character, effect, or colour, and also served as a contrast to the smooth and idealistic work. Baudelaire, allowing himself to be drawn by these realists, visited their studios and was to have written an article on Courbet, the painting-master of Ornans, which, however, never appeared. Nevertheless, to one of the later Salons, Fantin, in the odd frame where he united round the medallion of Eugène Delacroix, like the supernumeraries of an apotheosis, the painters, and writers known as realists, placed Baudelaire in a corner of it with his serious look and ironical smile. Certainly Baudelaire, as an admirer of Delacroix, had a right to be there. But did he intellectually and sympathetically make a part of this company, whose tendencies were not in accord with his aristocratic tastes and aspirations towards the beautiful? In him, as we have already said, the employment of trivial and natural ugliness was only a sort of manifestation and protestation of horror; and we doubt if the Venus de Courbet had ever much charm for him, the amateur of exquisite elegance, refined mannerisms, and mannered evasions. Not that he was incapable of admiring grandiose beauty; he who has written "La Géante" ought to love "The Night" and the "Dawn," those magnificent colossal females that Michelangelo has placed on the voluta of the tombs of the Medici. Baudelaire had, moreover, metaphysical and philosophical tenets which could not but alienate him from this school, to which he had no pretext for attaching himself.
Far from being satisfied with reality, he sought diligently for the bizarre, and, if he met with some singular, original type, he followed it, studied it, and learnt how to find the end of the thread on the bobbin and so to unravel it. Thus he was familiar with Guys, a mysterious individual, who occupied his time in going to all the odd corners of the universe where anything was taking place to obtain sketches for English illustrated journals.
This Guys, whom we knew, was at one time a great traveller, a profound and quick observer, and a perfect humorist. In the flash of an eye he seized upon the characteristic side of men and things; in a few strokes of the pencil he silhouetted them in his album, tracing the cursive lines with the pen like a stenographer, and washing them over with a flat tint to indicate the colour.
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