Charles Baudelaire

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Baudelaire, Charles

Baudelaire, Charles (shärl bōdlârˈ), 1821–67, French poet and critic. His poetry, classical in form, introduced symbolism (see symbolists) by establishing symbolic correspondences among sensory images (e.g., colors, sounds, scents). The only volume of his poems published in his lifetime, Les Fleurs du mal (1857, enl. 1861, 1868; several Eng. tr., The Flowers of Evil), was publicly condemned as obscene, and six of the poems were suppressed. Later recognized as a masterpiece, the volume is especially remarkable for the brilliant phrasing, rhythm, and expressiveness of its lyrics. Baudelaire's erratic personality was marked by moodiness, rebelliousness, and an intense religious mysticism. His life was burdened with debts, misunderstanding, illness, and excesses, and his work unremittingly reflects inner despair. The main theme is the inseparable nature of beauty and corruption. A collection of poetic prose pieces was published posthumously as Petits poèmes en prose (1869). As poet and critic Baudelaire earned distinction in literary circles. Believing criticism to be a function of the poet, he wrote perceptive appraisals of his contemporaries. His criticism was collected posthumously in Curiosités esthétiques (1868) and L'Art romantique (1869). He felt a great affinity to Poe, whose works he translated and brought to the attention of the French public. One of the great figures of French literature, Baudelaire has also been a major influence in other Western poetry.


See his letters (tr. by S. Morini and F. Tuten, 1970), his intimate journal (tr. by C. Isherwood, 1947), and selected letters (tr. and ed. by L. B. and F. E. Hyslop, 1957); biography by E. Starkie (rev. ed. 1958), studies by J.-P. Sartre (1950, repr. 1972) and M. A. Ruff (1965).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Baudelaire, Charles


Born Apr. 9, 1821, in Paris; died there Aug. 31, 1867. French poet. Born into the family of a participant in the Great French Revolution.

Baudelaire began publishing in 1840; he was the author of the pamphlets The Salon of 1845 (1845) and The Salon of 1846 (1846). He participated in the Revolution of 1848, published the newspaper Le Salut public, and fought on the barricades. He opposed the reactionary romantics and the theories of the Parnassians (“The Pagan School,” 1852). In his poetry he expressed sympathy for the working people and the dispossessed (“Evening Twilight,” “Morning Twilight,” “Ragpickers’ Banquet”). The coup of Louis Bonaparte deprived Baudelaire of faith in direct social progress. In the middle of the 1850’s, Baudelaire was influenced by T. Gautier, E. Poe, and the Parnassians (the sonnet “Beauty,” 1857). In the collection The Flowers of Evil (1857; enlarged editions, 1861 and 1869, posthumously; Russian translations, 1895 and 1907), the weakening of the moral evaluation of the phenomena of life made Baudelaire a predecessor of the decadents. However, Baudelaire also included in his collection rebellious, human verses (the section “Revolt”). He is also the author of the collection of articles Romantic Art (1846–68, posthumous edition), the treatise on the immorality of the use of drugs Artificial Paradise (1860; Russian translation, The Search for Paradise, 1908), and Little Prose Poems (edition of 1869; Russian translation, 1902).

In numerous poetic works and especially in the surveys of the salons (beginning in 1845; published in the collection Aesthetic Rarities, 1868) and in essays (“Several French

Caricaturists,” 1857–58; “The Work and Life of Eugene Delacroix,” 1863), Baudelaire showed himself to be a perceptive and profound critic of art who correctly assessed the historical importance of the work of E. Delacroix, C. Corot, H. Daumier, E. Manet, and other contemporaries, as well as of the past masters (Michelangelo, F. Goya, and J. L. David). Rejecting the stilted forms of salon art, Baudelaire attributed great importance to the organic and coherent expression of the spiritual life, disposition, and ideals of the artist.

Bourgeois historians of literature primarily cultivate the aesthetic side of Baudelaire’s work. Marxist criticism assesses Baudelaire as a representative of that part of the French intelligentsia which “could not reconcile itself to the paltriness of bourgeois prospects and fell into despair” (A. V. Lunacharskii, “Bodler,” Literaturnaia entsi-klopediia, vol. 1, 1929, p. 550). M. Gorky said of Baudelaire: “He lived in evil, loving the good” (Sobr. soch., vol. 23, 1953, p. 128).


Oeuvres complètes. Vols. 1–18. Edited by J. Crépet and C. Pichois. Paris 1923–53.
In Russian translation: Tsvety zla. Moscow, 1908.
Tsvety zla. Translated by V. Briusov. In the collection Revoliutsionnaia poeziia Zapada 19 v. Moscow, 1930.
Lirika. Translated by P. Antokol’skii. Moscow, 1966.
Tsvety zla. Moscow, 1970.


Istoriia frantsuzskoi literatury, vol. 2. Moscow, 1956.
Levik, V. “Sh. Bodler.” In Pisateli Frantsii. Moscow, 1964.
Baudelaire. Actes du colloque de Nice. Paris, 1968.
Mouquet, J., and W. T. Bandy. Baudelaire en 1848. Paris, 1946.
Borgal, C. C. Baudelaire. Paris, 1967. (With bibliography.)
Les Lettres françaises, 1967, no. 1197 (special issue).
Europe, 1967, no. 456–57 (special issue).
Spoelberch de Lovenjoul, C. “Etude bibliographique sur les oeuvres de C. Baudelaire.” In his book Les lundis d’un cher-cheur. Paris, 1894.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

Baudelaire, Charles

(1821–1867) French poet whose dissipated lifestyle led to inner despair. [Fr. Lit.: NCE, 248]
See: Boredom
Allusions—Cultural, Literary, Biblical, and Historical: A Thematic Dictionary. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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In these different periods belonging to the nineteenth century one finds texts by some of Emerson's contemporaries: Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862), Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804-1864), Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849), Charles Dickens (1812-1870), Margaret Fuller (1810-1850), Herman Melville (1819-1891), Charles Baudelaire (1821-1867), Walt Whitman (1819-1892), Matthew Arnold (1822-1888) and Henry James senior (18431916), among others.
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In what artistic field was Frenchman Charles Baudelaire renowned?
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