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Paul Verlaine: His Life-His Work: Rimbaud, Page 11
by Edmond Lepelletier (1907); translated by E.M. Lang (1909).

Having realised a certain fortune by his labours, he made up his mind to return to France; it is the desire of every traveller's heart to go back to his native land. He met with an unfortunate accident while riding, and, on arrival at Marseilles he was obliged to go into hospital and have his leg amputated. Afterwards he returned to Charleville, suffering, irritable, and helpless. He soon made up his mind to set out again for Abyssinia, but was obliged to stop at Marseilles, where he died in the hospital of the Conception on the 10th November 1891, aged thirty-seven.

His death passed unnoticed. His name, however, was no longer unknown. Verlaine had dedicated a eulogistic article to him, and some quotations from his strangest verses had attracted attention. The sonnet of the vowels was celebrated; but no one knew what had become of the errant poet. His poems were published first of all by M. Rodolphe Darzens—which publication was the occasion of an action for piracy and a seizure—then M. Paterne Berrichon took them up. The latter, who had married the poet's sister, Mdlle. Isabelle Rimbaud, also published a complete biography of Rimbaud, with his letters from Abyssinia. He it was who described the existence, so long unknown, of the poet adventurer, enriched by trading, and made known the curious ups and downs of his commercial life at Harrar, and his tragic end in the Marseilles hospital.

Arthur Rimbaud played a decisive and fatal part in the private life of Paul Verlaine. He was the alleged cause of Mme. Verlaine's departure, and of the action for separation; he encouraged his friend's unfortunate drunkenness until it became dipsomania, for robust and able to resist the effects of alcoholic intoxication as he was, he could support doses of spirits which deranged Verlaine's more delicate organism. He dragged him away on journeys and aimless wanderings. He was the occasion of his long detention in Belgium. He has caused him to be suspected of unnatural passions which, brought forward in the action for separation, influenced the magistrates to pass a sentence afterwards interpreted as a divorce. In the minds of many persons, whether informed or ignorant of the facts hereafter to be recorded as they actually happened, these suppositions, due to Rimbaud's continued companionship, still persist and tarnish Verlaine's memory.

These are the misdeeds, unpunishable by ordinary laws, of this vicious and gifted scamp, who ended up his varied career as an energetic, active, hard-working, and enterprising man. He had a most malign influence over poor, weak Paul Verlaine. He dominated, bewitched, and spoilt his life. He was certainly the author of all the wretchedness, moral and physical, which engulfed Verlaine. Did he render him any service from the intellectual point of view? Did his influence affect the poet of the Romances sans Paroles? Was Verlaine's new art of poetry the result of intimacy with the author of Le Bateau Ivre? I do not think so. His imprisonment, extraordinary religious conversion, and prolonged reflections in the tranquillity and silence of his cell, gave opportunity for the crystallisation of a poetic theory which for a long time had been floating in his head, modified his style, and endued his verse with the original and impressionistic character which differentiated Sagesse from the Poèmes Saturniens.

Rimbaud's literary influence is doubtful; but that which he had upon Verlaine's actions and sentiments is, unfortunately, only too apparent.


PAGE 11 OF 11.

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