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Paul Verlaine: His Life-His Work: Rimbaud, Page 2
by Edmond Lepelletier (1907); translated by E.M. Lang (1909).

During the siege and the Commune, Verlaine and his wife lived in an apartment with a balcony at No. 2 Rue du Cardinal-Lemoine, at the corner of the Quai de la Tournelle; but believing it necessary in consequence of what happened during the Commune to relinquish his employment, and as it were, hide himself, he took her back to the little house belonging to her parents M. and Mme. Mauté de Fleurville, No. 15 Rue Nicolet, at the foot of the hills of Montmartre, close to the Rue Ramey.

We have already pointed out that Verlaine's political and judicial apprehensions were exaggerated and without foundation. He had taken no part in the insurrection; he was guilty merely of having remained at the Hôtel-de-Ville instead of rejoining M. Thiers at Versailles. He was the object of no enquiry, no investigation. It might have been supposed that at this period of merciless repression and general suspicion Verlaine's absence from his office, when order was re-established, would be regarded as an admission of guilt; nothing of the kind, and Verlaine did not take flight. He did not abandon his usual haunts; he went with the same frequency to see his mother in the Rue Lécluse, where he might easily have been surprised if his retreat in the Rue Nicolet was unknown to the police. But no notice was taken of him; so inoffensive a subordinate was not considered worth pursuing.

He had taken alarm too easily; perhaps, at bottom, he wanted to take advantage of circumstances. A little tired of servitude, however light, of the office, aspiring after independence, which, truly, is favourable to poetic inspiration, doubtless he did not regret the political pretext which permitted him to return no more to the Hôtel-de-Ville.

The desire to conceal himself by changing his quarters, and also the necessity of reducing expenses by cutting off the rent of an apartment of 1,500 francs, in order to compensate for the loss of his official salary, led him to the Rue Nicolet. Life in common with his wife's parents had this inconvenience that Verlaine's Bacchic entrances, unperceived or unnoted in a separate abode, now had witnesses, naturally intolerant. The quarrels with the wife which ensued furnished the father and mother, supporting and pitying their daughter, with grievances, which, accumulating, required but the classic last drop of water, to make the cup of conjugal happiness spill over.

The climax occurred about the month of October 1871, when an element of discord was introduced into the household: Arthur Rimbaud, fatal guest, evil genius, knocked at the door of the house in the Rue Nicolet, and, unmindful of evil, it was opened to him. There are moments in life when a destiny is completely altered, an existence, perhaps more than one, completely disorganised and spoiled by the chance arrival of some person, who unknown the day before at once assumes an excessive importance, exercises a most baleful influence without any presentiment having forewarned the victim. Such ills one is powerless to avert.


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AUTHOR: Edmond Lepelletier (1907); translated by E.M. Lang (1909).
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