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Page [vii]


What kind of a man wrote this book?

A deeply religious man, whose blasphemies horrified the
orthodox. An ex-dandy, who dressed like a condemned
convict. A philosopher of love, who was ill at ease with
women. A revolutionary, who despised the masses. An
aristocrat, who loathed the ruling class. A minority of one.
A great lyric poet.

By nature, Baudelaire was a city-dweller. He was born
(1821) and died (1867) in Paris. He loved luxury and
fashionable splendour, the endless cavalcade of the boulevards,
the midnight brilliance of talk in the artists' cafés.
Paris taught him his vices, absinthe and opium, and the
extravagant dandyism of his early manhood which involved
him in debt for the rest of his life. Even in extreme
poverty, he preferred the bohemian freedom of the Latin
Quarter to the sheltered respectability of his family home.
The atmosphere of Paris was the native element of his inspiration.
He speaks of the `religious intoxication of the great
cities'. `The pleasure of being in crowds is a mysterious expression
of sensual joy in the multiplication of Number.'

Brussels, in the eighteen-sixties, was not a great city. It
was a provincial town. Baudelaire hated it. Expressing his
contempt for a man, he calls him `a Belgian spirit'. But
no doubt this attitude was also due to the state of his affairs
and his health. Baudelaire did not come to Brussels until
1864, when he was already ruined, financially and physically.
He was miserably poor. His work had failed to obtain
proper recognition. Six of the poems in Les Fleurs du Mal
had been judged obscene and suppressed by court order.
His publisher had gone bankrupt. He was slowly dying of
syphilis. Violent nervous crises made him dread insanity.
`Now I suffer continually from vertigo, and today,


Page [viii]
23rd of January, 1862, I have received a singular warning.
I have felt the wind of the wing of madness pass over me.'

Baudelaire was one of the first writers of `the poetry of
departure'. His longing for escape—from the nineteenth
century and himself—fastened nostalgically upon ships.
`When', he imagines them asking, `shall we set sail for

When Baudelaire was a boy of twenty, his parents became
alarmed by the wildness of the life he was leading.
They persuaded him to take a long ocean voyage, hoping
that it would change his tastes and ideas. The ship was
bound for Calcutta. Baudelaire insisted on leaving it at the
island of Réunion and being sent back to France. He detested
the sea and his fellow-passengers, but he never forgot
this glimpse of the tropics. It is characteristic of him, and
of the romantic attitude in general, that he later pretended
to have been in India, told fantastic lies about his adventures,
and always regretted the opportunity he had missed.

Shy men of extreme sensibility are the born victims of,
the prostitute. Baudelaire's mulatto mistress, Jeanne
Duval, was a beautiful, indolent animal. She squandered
his money and slept with his friends. The biographers
usually condemn her; most unjustly. Few of us would really
enjoy a love-affair with a geni. Jeanne had to endure
Baudelaire's moods and listen to his poems; she understood
neither. But, in some mysterious manner, these two human
beings needed each other. They stayed together, on and
off, for twenty years. Baudelaire always loved and pitied
her, and tried to help her. Hideous and diseased, she limps
out of his history on crutches and disappears.

Like many lesser writers before and after him, Baudelaire
suffered constantly from Acedia, `the malady of monks',
that deadly weakness of the will which is the root of all evil.
He fought against it with fury and horror. `If, when a man
has fallen into habits of idleness, of day-dreaming and of


Page [ix]
sloth, putting off his most important duties continually till
the morrow, another man were to wake him up one
morning with heavy blows of a whip and were to whip
him unmercifully, until he who was unable to work for
pleasure worked now for fear—would not that man, the
chastiser, be his benefactor and truest friend?' The Intimate
are full of such exclamations, coupled with resolves
to work—`to work from six o'clock in the morning, fasting
at midday. To work blindly, without aim, like a madman.
. . . I believe that I stake my destiny upon hours of
uninterrupted work.' It is terribly moving to read these
passages, knowing that the time is close at hand when
Baudelaire will be lying dazed and half-paralysed; when
he will no longer be able to remember his name and have
to copy it, with tedious care, from the cover of one of his
books; when he will not recognize his own face in the
mirror, and will bow to it gravely, as if to a stranger.

In his lifetime, Baudelaire witnessed the dawn of the
Steam Age—a false, gaslit dawn, loud with engines and
advertisement, faithless, superstitious and blandly corrupt.
Baudelaire foresees the future with dismay and denounces
it in the magnificent outburst which opens with the words:
`The world is about to end. . . .' Elsewhere he writes:
`Theory of the true civilization. It is not to be found in gas,
or steam, or table-turning. It consists in the diminution of
the traces of original sin.' After two world-wars and the
atomic bomb, we of today should understand him better
than his contemporaries.

Baudelaire's nervous, unstable temperament, his contempt
for bourgeois ethics and his impatience of mediocrity
led him into a series of quarrels—with his family, his friends
and his business associates. For his mother—the only
important woman in his life except Jeanne Duval—he
experienced mingled feelings of love, exasperation, pity, rebellion
and hatred. He sincerely admired his distinguished


Page [x]
stepfather, General Aupick; but the two men were worlds
apart, they spoke different languages and could never
understand each other. He could appreciate the honesty
and good-faith of Ancelle, his legal guardian; but the
elderly lawyer's primness and caution drove him frantic.
Even in middle age, Baudelaire often seems touchingly
immature, like a defiant schoolboy surrounded by disapproving

His passionate outbursts and bitter words hurt nobody
so much as himself. His rage was immediately followed
by remorse. His last years were darkened with regrets—
regrets for deeds done and undone, for health and vigour
lost, for time irretrievably wasted. Yet Baudelaire never
gave way finally to despair. He struggled with himself to
the very end, striving and praying to do better. His life is
not the dreary tale of a talented weakling, it is the heroic
tragedy of a strong man beset by great failings. Even its
horrible closing scenes should not disgust or depress us.
They represent a kind of victory. Baudelaire died undefeated—a
warning and an inspiration to us all.

The Intimate Journals consist of papers which were not
collected and published until after Baudelaire's death. The
section called Squibs was probably written before 1857;
My Heart Laid Bare belongs, more or less, to the Brussels
period. This latter title is taken from the writings of Edgar
Allan Poe, who says that if any man dared to write such a
book, with complete frankness, it would necessarily be
a masterpiece. Baudelaire certainly dared, but he did not
live to carry out his project. What we have here is an
assortment of wonderful fragments, cryptic memoranda,
literary notes, quotations, rough drafts of prose poems,
explosions of political anger and personal spleen.

After some thought, I have decided not to attempt
annotation. I have neither the time nor the scholarship


Page [xi]
for such a task—and, anyway, what does it matter to the
average reader who Moun was, or Castagnary, or Rabbe?
Read this book as you might read an old diary found in
the drawer of a desk in a deserted house. Substitute—if
you like—names from your own life and world, names of
friends and enemies, of band-wagon journalists and phoney
politicians. Much of the obscurity is unimportant or on the
surface. The more you study these Intimate Journals, the
better you will understand them.

This translation was made from the French text published
by Georges Grès. It first appeared in England, in a
limited edition, in 1930. Professor Myron Barker of
U.C.L.A. has very kindly helped me to make the work of
revision as accurate as possible. Where the reference is so
often uncertain, it is hard to avoid some mistakes.

Mr. T. S. Eliot wrote an admirable introduction to the
original edition. We have decided not to ask permission to
reprint this, however, since it is already available in his
Selected Essays, 1917-1932, published by Faber and Faber.

Except for the frontispiece, all the illustrations reproduced
in this book are from drawings by Baudelaire himself.
Baudelaire was not only an art-critic of the first rank, he
had remarkable artistic talent. Daumier, whose portrait he
once drew, said of him that he might have become a great
draughtsman, if he had not preferred to be a great poet.

The first three drawings are, of course, self-portraits. Next
comes a portrait of Jeanne Duval—the only authenticated
one we have. The last two drawings are of unidentified or
imaginary women. On the first of these, Baudelaire has
written: `A specimen of Antique Beauty, dedicated to
Chenavard'. Chenavard, whose name also appears in the
text of the Intimate Journals, was a painter and philosopher
of the period. Baudelaire evidently intended a caricature
of his style.


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