Charles BaudelaireCharles Baudelaire 1821-1867

French poet.
While a law student he became addicted to opium and hashish and contracted syphilis. His early reckless spending on fine clothes and furnishings led to a life dogged by debt. In 1844 he formed an association with Jeanne Duval, a woman of mixed black and white ancestry who inspired some of his finest poetry. He published a single novel, La fanfarlo, in 1847. His discovery of the works of Edgar Allan Poe in 1852 led to years of work on Poe, which produced many masterly translations and critical articles. His reputation rests primarily on the extraordinary poetry collection Les fleurs du mal (1857; The Flowers of Evil), which dealt with erotic, aesthetic, and social themes in ways that appalled many of his middle-class readers, and he was accused of obscenity and blasphemy. Though the title became a byword for depravity, the book became perhaps the most influential collection of lyrics published in Europe in the 19th century. His Petits poèmes en prose (1868) was an important and innovative experiment in prose poetry. He also wrote provocative essays in art criticism. Baudelaire's later years were darkened by disillusionment, despair, and mounting debt; his death at 46 resulted from syphilis. He is regarded as the earliest and finest poet of modernism in French.

Courtesy of Britannica Concise Encyclopedia. 2003.