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letters and correspondence


"If it were not for the millstone which Fate so often keeps in reserve to hang about our necks, I should say we are beholding the birth of a genius."

-Paul Verlaine, from a letter to Blemont





To Verlaine

London, Friday afternoon (4 July 1873)

Come back, come back, my dear friend, my only friend, come back. I swear I shall be kind. If I was cross with you, it was a joke which I was obstinately determined to carry on; I repent of it more than can be said. Come back, it will be quite forgotten. How terrible that you should have taken that joke seriously. For two days I have not stopped crying. Come back. Be brave, dear friend. Nothing is lost. All you have to do is make another journey. We'll live here again, very brave and very patiently. Oh! I beg you! It's for your good, besides. Come back, you'll find all your things here. I hope you realize now that there was nothing real in our argument. That frightful moment! But you -- when I signalled to you to get off the boat -- why didn't you come? Have we lived together for two years to come to this? What are you going to do? If you won't come here, would you like me to come and meet you where you are?

Yes, I was in the wrong.

Oh, you won't forget me, will you?

No, you can't forget me.

As for me, I still have you, here.

Listen, answer your friend, must we not live together anymore?

Be brave. Answer this quickly. I can't stay here much longer. Do not read this except with goodwill.

Quick, tell me if I must come to you.

Yours, all my life.



To Verlaine

London, 5 July 1873

My dear friend,

I have your letter which is headed 'At sea'. You are wrong, this time, very wrong. To begin with, there is nothing postive in your letter. You wife is not coming, or she is coming in three months, three years, whatever. As for kicking the bucket, I know you too well. And so you are going - while you wait for your wife and for death - to struggle, to wander about, and to bore people. What! don't you realize that our anger was false, on both sides? But you will be in the wrong at the end, because, even after i called you back, you persisted in your unreal feelings. Do you think that your life will be happier with other people than it was with me? think about it! Oh! surely not!

It is only with me that you can be free, and since I swear to be very nice to you in the future, and deplore the whole part of my part in the wrong, and since my head is clear, at last, and I like you very much, if you don't want to come back, or for me to join you, you are committing a crime, and you will do penance for it for LONG YEARS TO COME, by losing all your freedom, and by sufferings more terrible perhaps than you have undergone. When you read this, think of what you were before you knew me!

For myself, I'm not going back to my mother's. I am going to Paris.

I shall try to be gone by Monday evening. You will have compelled me to sell all your suits, I can't do anything else. They aren't sold yet: they are not coming to get them from me until Monday evening. If you want to write me in Paris, send letters to L. Forain, 289 rue Saint-Jacques (for A. Rimbaud). He will know my address.

One thing is certain: if your wife comes back, I shall never compromise you by writing to you - I shall never write.

One single true word: it is, come back. I want to be with you, I love you. If you listen to this, you will prove your courage and sincerity.

Otherwise, I'm sorry for you.

But I love you, I kiss you and we'll see each other again.


8 Great Colle, etc... until Monday evening - or Tuesday midday, if you send me word.



To Theodore de Banville

Charleville (Ardenennes), 24 May 1970

Dear Maitre,
We are now in the months of love; I am seventeen. The hopeful, dreamy age, as they say - and I have begun, a child touched by the Muse - excuse this if it is a platitude - to express my beliefs, my hopes, my feelings, all those things proper to poets - this is called Spring.

And if I send you some of these verses - and this through Alph. Lemerre, the good publisher - it is because I love all poets, all good Parnassiens - since a poet is a Parnassien - in love with ideal beauty; it is because I admire you, very naively (of course), a descendant of Ronsard, a brother of our masters of 1830, a real romantic, a real poet. That is why. - All this foolish, I fear; but still?...

In two years, in one year perhaps, I shall be in Paris.

- Anch'io, gentlemen of the Press, I too shall be a Parnassien.

- I do not know what is inside me... that wishes to come out... - I swear, cher maitre , that I shall always worship the two goddesses, the Muse and Freedom.

Do not frown too much when you read these verses: ... You would send me mad with joy and hope, cher maitre, if you would arrange to make room for 'Credo in Unam' among the Parnassiens ... I should be in the latest number of Parnasse : it would become the Credo of the poets!... - O mad ambition!



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