Charles Baudelaire, whom I’ve mentioned several times before on this blog (here, here, and here), published extensively on Edgar Allan Poe. He translated most of Poe’s short stories into French, and was instrumental in clearing the way for Poe’s artistic reception in Europe. He is also partially responsible for Poe’s reputation as an alcoholic. However, unlike the Boston Frogpondians who saw this as Poe’s greatest vice, Baudelaire believed that alcohol was completely essential to Poe’s writing; that it released in Poe an imagination that could not be fully expressed if he were in complete control of his senses.
Baudelaire found in Poe a kindred spirit. He is known for claiming that when he first encountered Poe’s work, it was as if all the shapes and stories that floated around in his own head were staring back at him, on paper, in someone else’s hand. In his own literary career, Baudelaire essentially tried to become the Edgar Allan Poe of Europe, inspired by Poe’s aesthetic and verse structure. Though the two never met (Baudelaire’s translations were published mostly in 1846 and 1847, and Poe would die in 1849), their lives seemed to follow a similar trajectory. Both Baudelaire and Poe suffered through their own addictions and poverty. Both were outsiders to the literary elite and were judged for their interest in the supernatural and the macabre. Both used their work to wrestle through philosophical questions and contemplations of an aesthetic that focused on the grotesque nature of humanity.
Some excerpts on what Baudelaire had to say about Poe:
“Poe made great efforts to subject the fleeting demon of the happy minutes to his will.”
“In Edgar Poe there is no tiresome sniveling; but everywhere and at all times an indefatiguable enthusiasm in seeking the ideal.”
“Imagination is an almost divine faculty which, without recourse to any philosophical method, immediately perceives everything: the secret and intimate connections between things, correspondences and analogies.”