BAUDELAIRE, Charles (1821-1867)

Autograph letter signed « Charles Baudelaire » to Alphonse de Calonne
[Paris], 23rd February [18]64, 1 p. in-8° on blue paper

« A heavy work, I assure you, but of which I am quite happy »

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BAUDELAIRE, Charles (1821-1867)

Autograph letter signed « Charles Baudelaire » to Alphonse de Calonne
[Paris], 23rd February [18]64, 1 p. in-8° on blue paper
Autograph address on verso, signed « C.B. »
Old and discreet repair with tape on second folio, usual fold marks

Baudelaire asks Alphonse de Calonne to return the manuscripts of three sonnets and announces the forthcoming sending of prose poems, which would form Le Spleen de Paris

« Cher Monsieur, Avez-vous publié trois sonnets de moi, Le Tasse en prison, Le gouffre, Bien loin d’ici, que je vous ai remis, il y a quelques temps ? Si cela n’a pas été publié, vous me rendriez très heureux en les retrouvant et en les remettant au porteur. Il y en a un particulièrement (Le Tasse) que je cherche en vain da ma mémoire. J’aurais prochainement  trois feuilles au moins à vous  donner ; un lourd travail, je vous assure, mais dont je suis assez content. Veuillez agréer, cher Monsieur, l’assurance de mes parfaits sentiments. Charles Baudelaire. » 

Sur Le Tasse en prison d’Eugène Delacroix” was written in 1844. At the end of 1863 or 1864, Baudelaire sent it in the form of a letter to Alphonse de Calonne. He had already contacted him in 1860, without success. At the end of February 1864, the poet sent another copy of the sonnet to Albert de Collignon, who directed La Revue nouvelle. It is found in Les Epaves, section added to the Flowers of Evil in 1866. In these verses, Baudelaire seems to report his own physical and mental decay – a year later, he wrote a letter to Madame Aupick in which he explained that he wanted to commit suicide – incarnating in the Torquato Tasso in the asylum of fools (1839), a painting by Delacroix that we are talking about here.

Le Gouffre” was first published in the magazine L’Artiste on 1 March, then in La Revue nouvelle, exactly two years later, and finally in Le Parnasse contemporain on 31 March 1866. The poet’s voice becomes aware of death, generating distressing or even neurotic situations.

Bien loin d’ici” was published in La Revue nouvelle and then in Le Parnasse contemporain on the same dates as “Le Gouffre“, but also a week before in another magazine, on February 23. This suggests that Baudelaire was approaching various magazines a lot. In this poem, he takes up topoi from the Flowers of Evil such as exoticism and sensual woman.

With regard to the “heavy work … of which [Baudelaire is] quite happy“, it is in all likelihood the Petits Poèmes en prose, a collection also known under the title of the Spleen of Paris (1857-1864). When we know the perpetual relentlessness of the poet to achieve perfection – it is enough to see the corrected proofs of the Flowers of Evil, which include many annotations – such a statement may seem paradoxical.

Alphonse de Calonne, founder and director of La Revue contemporaine, never published the three sonnets mentioned by Baudelaire. They appear in Michel Levy’s posthumous edition of the Flowers of Evil of 1868, section “Spleen et idéal“, under the numbers CI, CII and XCIX – according to the order of mention in the letter.

Collection Minnoret-Rochambeau, Drouot, 20-21 avril 1948, n°14

Correspondance, Bibl. de la Pléiade, t. II, p. 348