Charles Baudelaire – Teenage Adulation

Originally posted March, 2012:

P1000461

Squibs – Intimate Journals

Even though God did not exist, Religion would be
none the less holy and divine.
God is the sole being who has no need to exist in
order to reign.
That which is created by the Mind is more living
than Matter.
Love is the desire to prostitute oneself. There is,
indeed, no exalted pleasure which cannot be related
to prostitution.
At the play, in the ball-room, each one enjoys
possession of all.
What is Art? Prostitution.
The pleasure of being in crowds is a mysterious
expression of sensual joy in the multiplication of
Number.
All is Number. Number is in all. Number is in the
individual. Ecstasy is a Number.
Inclinations to wastefulness ought, when a man is
mature, to be replaced by a wish to concentrate and
to produce.
Love may spring from a generous sentiment, the
desire for prostitution; but it is soon corrupted by
the desire for ownership.
Love wishes to emerge from itself, to become, like
the conqueror with the conquered, a part of its victim,
yet to preserve, at the same time, the privileges
of the conqueror.
The sensual delights of one who keeps a mistress
are at once those of an angel and a landlord. Charity
and cruelty. Indeed, they are independent of sex, of
beauty and of the animal species.
The green shadows in the moist evenings of summer.
Immense depths of thought in expressions of
common speech; holes dug by generations of ants.
The story of the Hunter, concerning the intimate
relation between cruelty and love.

According to the dates in my mini-Baudelaire library, 1972-73 were those of my fascination for his writing and their wild, irreverent philosophies and explorations. All obviously in translation, I devoured Selected Writings on Art and Artists [Penguin Classics], Selected Verse [The Penguin Poets], Twenty Prose Poems [Cape Editions], Intimate Journals [Panther], and the brilliant Enid Starkie Baudelaire autobiography [Pelican] that fuelled the wonder and amazement I mainlined from his writings.

The seepage that plagues my memory means I can recall little of that reverie, with some excuse that it was nearly 40 years ago and I was only 18 and juggling ideas rather than catching and pocketing. But as the extract from Intimate Journals above so clearly demonstrates, Baudelaire’s ideas and their expression were so declaratory and assured that they appealed to the teenage search for alternative beliefs and the willingness to express them wildly but with such conviction.

I still don’t fully grasp his dichotomy of the dandy and the woman, but I still enjoy the celebration of the former’s spirit, especially when searching for that free spirit which seemed achievable at that time and with those incipient readings. The woman represents the opposite of this,

Of airs in Woman.
The charming airs, those in which beauty consists,
are:
The blasé,
The bored,
The empty-headed,
The impudent,
The frigid,
The introspective,
The imperious,
The capricious,
The naughty,
The ailing

In the introduction to the Intimate Journals by WH Auden I highlighted back then this one brief passage/explanation:

‘The truly dandyish act is the acte gratuite, because only an act which is quite unnecessary, unmotivated by any given requiredness, can be an absolutely freely self-chosen individual act’

and you can see how this would appeal to the  teenage urge for independence and individuality. Perhaps in retirement and after all these years I could in reality be more free to follow the independent spirit of Baudelaire’s dandy. We shall see.

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