Poet. He received notoriety as a French poet in the 19 th century, known as "the father of modern criticism." Charles Baudelaire was born in Paris, where he lived most of his life. At his parents' wedding, his widowed father was a sixty-year-old former Roman Catholic priest and his twenty-six-year-old mother had been an orphan. His father instilled in him the love of the arts. When he was six years old, his father died. In the year that followed his father's death, he and his mother became very closed before his mother remarried. His stepfather, who had a successful military career, was appointed French ambassador to the Ottoman Empire and Spain before becoming a senator, died in 1857. He studied at the College Royal in Lyon from 1832 to 1836 and prestigious Grand School in Paris from 1836 to 1839, from where he was regularly disciplined and eventually was expelled in April of 1839. After passing the entrance examinations, he began studying law and began a very liberal lifestyle. At this time he became addicted to opium and from prostitutes, contracted syphilis, which was probably the underlying cause of his death. He received his law degree in 1836 but never practiced but instead fell heavily into debt supporting a drug habit. In June of 1841, his family sent him to India “to remove him from his bad environment”, but he jumped ship at Mauritius Island returning to Paris by February of 1842. Two months later, he inherited a large sum of money which was spent on the expensive bohemian lifestyle he wanted, which included women and drugs. At this point, he met an exotic Creole woman, Jeanne Duval, who became his mistress for twenty years and an inspiration for his poems including "Black Venus." In 1844, with about half of his inheritance spent, his family legally gave him a monthly allowance from t he remaining inheritance. Bitter about this arrangement, he attempted suicide during this period. He became an art critic writing bold reviews in “The Salon of 1845.” In October of 1845 he published a collection of poems, “The Lesbians,” and in 1848 another collection, “Limbo.” He became involved in radical politics fighting at the barricades during the French Revolution of 1848 and in the same year, he co-founded the journal "Le Salut Public." He published his first novel, the autobiographical "La fanfario" in 1847. From 1852 to 1865 he translated from English to French Edgar Allan Poe's stories. He also helped with the translation of Thomas de Quincey's “ Confessions of an English Opium Eater.” In 1857 he published his most successful collection of poems, "The Flowers of Evil," which was seized by the French government for being too outrageous with themes of sex and death and followed by him being fined. Another collection of poems, "The Painter of Modern Life" was published in 1863. The remaining years of his life were darkened by despair with his reoccurring battle with his mental illness of depression and financial difficulties. Even though he was chronically ill after his 1862 heart attack, he traveled to Belgium in 1864 in hope of finding an income by lecturing to resolve his debt. After having a serious stroke in 1866, he was left with aphasia and hemiplegia, hence brought back to Paris staying in a rest home until his death. Many of his works were published posthumously, allowing his mother to resolve his debts.
Bio by: Linda Davis
Ora Octa Sayre Rhoades