history meme: 02/07 pairings | Arthur RIMBAUD & Paul VERLAINE
Arthur Rimbaud’s relationship with Paul Verlaine could be accurately described as tempestuous. They met in 1872, when Verlaine was 28 years old and Rimbaud 18. The already famous poet Verlaine received the yet unknow Rimbaud in his home for a few weeks, when their love story started. After that, Verlaine escaped for 2 yeard to London and Brussels with his lover.
During the few years the couple spent together, Verlaine left his wife and child; fought viciously with Rimbaud using knives wrapped in towels; and shot him in the arm with a gun intended for Verlaine’s own suicide (for which Rimbaud ensured he spent two years in prison). The latter had originally sought out Verlaine to be his mentor -it is hard to imagine two people more ill-suited to one another, nor what Verlaine saw in the unwashed, self-mutilating Rimbaud, whose appearance he described as “the real head of a child, chubby and fresh, on a big, bony, rather clumsy body”. However, alongside their bitter feuds and drunkenness, the pair’s turbulent romance also coaxed great poetry from them both, especially when they left France for London in 1873.
Though short, this relationship was productive. The two were greatly inspired by the cities they visited, and by each other: Verlaine almost finished his Romances sans paroles, while Rimbaud penned his critically acclaimed Illuminations. The two parted when Verlaine was jailed, and only met once more, briefly, after his release.
While in prison, Verlaine completed and published Romances sans paroles, a collection which didn’t sell a single copy when first published in 1874, but was seen as revolutionary within a decade. Rimbaud published Une saison en Enfer, his only book, in the same year.*