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Encyclopaedia Brittanica: Rimbaud, Page 2
by Edmund Gosse (1911).

Here he settled, at Harrar, as a trader in coffee and perfumes, to which he afterwards added gold and ivory; for the next eleven years, during which he led many commercial expeditions into unknown parts of northern Africa, Shoa and Harrar were his headquarters, and he lived almost entirely with the natives, and as one of themselves. From 1888 to 1891, having prospered greatly as a merchant, he became a sort of semi-independent chieftain, intriguing for France, just outside the borders of civilization. From documents which were first produced in 1902 it appears that from 1883 to 1889 Rimbaud was in close relations with the Ras Makonnen and with Menelek, then only king of Shoa. At the death of the Negus John, in 1888, he was concerned in the formation of the empire of Ethiopia. From this time Rimbaud had a palace in the town of Harrar, and intrigued with the French government in favour of Menelek and against Italy. Meanwhile, in 1886, believing Rimbaud to be dead, Verlaine had published his poems, under the title of Les Illuminations, and they had created a great sensation in Paris. In this collection appeared the sonnet on the vowels, attributing a different colour to each: "A noir, E blanc, I rouge, U vert, O blue voyelles." But the author, in his Abyssinian hut of palm-leaves, was, and remained, quite unconscious of the fact. In March 1891 a tumour in his knee obliged Rimbaud to leave Harrar and go to Europe for surgical advice. He reached Marseilles, but the case was hopeless; the leg had to be amputated, and Rimbaud died there in hospital on the 10th of November 1891. The poems of Rimbaud all belong to his earliest youth. Their violent originality, the influence which they have exercised upon younger writers, the tumultuous existence of their author, and the strange veil of mystery which still hangs over his character and adventures, have given to Rimbaud a remarkable fascination. His life has been written by M. Paterne Berrichon (1897), and valuable reminiscences by his sister, Mlle Isabella Rimbaud. His Œuvres were collected in 1898 by MM. Berrichon and Delahaye, and in 1901 his statue was unveiled at Charleville.
(E.G.)

See also Lettres de Jean Arthur Rimbaud (Égypte, Arabie, Éthiopie), 1899, edited by P. Berrichon; Paul Verlaine, Les Poètes maudits (1884); George Moore, Impressions and Opinions: Two Unknown Poets (1891); and A. Symons, The Symbolist Movement in Literature (1900).


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