Paul Verlaine: His Life-His Work: Rimbaud, Page 6|
by Edmond Lepelletier (1907); translated by E.M. Lang (1909).
The phenomenon was awaited with rather sceptical curiosity. Verlaine had offered him hospitality. "Come beloved great soul," he wrote, "we await you and want you."
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It was not in his own house, but in his father-in-law's, that Verlaine thus granted board and lodging to this vagabond of letters. M. Mauté was absent at the time, but his wife and young Madame Verlaine having been prejudiced beforehand in favour of the mysterious guest, received him kindly. It was not long, however, before they regarded him very differently, with angry eyes and twitching hands. The first impression was certainly disconcerting. Verlaine himself, ready as he was to be enthusiastic over the author of the Assis and Le Bateau Ivre, could not restrain a movement of surprise when he caught sight of the pale, beardless, meagre boy in place of the grown man he had expected to meet. The second impression was not much better, except in the case of Verlaine, who soon recovered from the first shock. They seated themselves at table, and Rimbaud ate voraciously without utterly a single word, except to reply with an air of fatigue to the questions which the ladies put to him regarding his journey and life at Charleville. He did not condescend to furnish any details regarding the composition of his poems to a guest, Charles Cros, who questioned him amiably on the subject. The last mouthful swallowed, Rimbaud pleaded fatigue, lighted a pipe, and with a "good-night," retired to bed.
He showed himself equally uncouth, taciturn, and unsociable on the following days; so much so, in fact, that Verlaine was asked to send away his young protégé. M. Mauté was about to return, and he would not be able to support the presence in his house of the ill-bred, disagreeable youth. It was agreed that Rimbaud should go and lodge with some friends of Verlaine's and await events. Banville, among others, took him in for a time, and then Madame Banville bought a bed for him which was placed in Charles Cros's laboratory. In this way he slept successively in the quarters of a number of hospitable and generous artists and poets, who had barely room for themselves. They clubbed together to enable him to live. He received three francs a day to allow him to devote himself to art independent of money. He was always in the cafés in company with Verlaine, and his labours chiefly consisted in digesting food and absorbing drink, for he ate like an ogre and drank like a templar.
Proud of his prodigy Verlaine displayed him everywhere, extolling, eulogising, and exciting his nervous vanity. Victor Hugo, to whom he was introduced as a direct successor, greeted him with his grave beneficent irony as a "child Shakespeare." The master did not mean what he said, but he loved to lavish hyperboles of eulogy and prognostication on the beginner whom he wished to number among his disciples.
Verlaine, becoming more and more wrapped up in his companion, obtained his inclusion in Fantin-Latour's Coin de Table, a picture exhibited in the Salon of 1892, which displayed the physiognomies of poets and writers in the dawn of fame, viz.: MM. Jean Aicard, Léon Valade, Emile Blémont, Pierre Elzéar, Bonnier-Ortolan, Ernest d'Hervilly, Camille Pelletan, Verlaine, and Rimbaud. This picture is now in the possession of M. Emile Blémont.
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