‘On strike against society’

Baudelaire’s immortal instinct for the beautiful
by
July 2022, no. 444
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The Beauty of Baudelaire: The poet as alternative lawgiver by Roger Pearson

Oxford University Press, £110 hb, 669 pp

‘On strike against society’

Baudelaire’s immortal instinct for the beautiful
by
July 2022, no. 444
Portrait of Charles Baudelaire, c.1862, by Étienne Carjat (Wikimedia Commons)
Portrait of Charles Baudelaire, c.1862, by Étienne Carjat (Wikimedia Commons)

The life and work of Charles Baudelaire (1821–67) must be viewed against the historical background of the crushing failure of the Paris revolution of 1848, in which soldiers massacred three thousand workers. In the elections that followed this unsuccessful working-class uprising, which Baudelaire and his fellow artists supported, the French Romantic poet Alphonse de Lamartine received 18,000 votes, while Louis Napoleon received fifteen million. As Karl Marx wrote in The Eighteenth Brumaire, it was an historical moment when ‘the extra-parliamentary masses of the bourgeoisie’ called upon the regime of the Second Empire ‘to destroy their speaking and writing segment, their politicians and literati’ in the interests of ‘strong government’. The new materialism of what Eric Hobsbawm terms The Age of Capital had little use for the Romantic role of the artist as ‘unacknowledged legislator’: scientific ‘progress’, economic determinants, and consumption become the ruling values of the modern world.

John Hawke reviews 'The Beauty of Baudelaire: The poet as alternative lawgiver' by Roger Pearson

The Beauty of Baudelaire: The poet as alternative lawgiver

by Roger Pearson

Oxford University Press, £110 hb, 669 pp

Buy this book

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