Baudelaire’s prose style

Illustration de Baudelaires «Les Fleurs du Mal...

Illustration de Baudelaires «Les Fleurs du Mal», Paris:Charles Meunier, 1900. (Credit: Wikipedia)

In Fleurs du mal, Baudelaire uses a verse form, the alexandrine, that was used by Corneille and Racine and hence was associated with the highly rational and ordered French neo-classicisim. He also uses formal language in these poems, which contrasts dramatically with his violent or grotesque images and subject matter.


In Le Spleen de Paris, however, he seems to use much more vernacular language. The subject matter is often similar to that of Hugo’s Les Misérables or Dickens Our Mutual Friend, both written at around the same time. In fact Baudelaire’s ”Le Gâteau” reminds me of the opening scene from The Tale of Two Cities. But there are difference between Hugo’s French and Baudelaire’s. While Hugo mastered many different voices including argot, he displays erudition, sentimentality and respect that is completely missing from Baudelaire. This comes across in the language and word choices in Le Spleen de Paris. Baudelaire seems more violent and excitable while Hugo is more detached. I keep wondering if a prose poem from Le Spleen de Paris could be mistaken for missing page of Les Misérables. I just don’t think so. While the subject matter is often the same, the character is dramatically different. Hugo views humanity with sympathy whereas Baudelaire views it with disgust.

~ by severalfourmany on March 13, 2013.

6 Responses to “Baudelaire’s prose style”

  1. I just started reading the essay Walter Benjamin wrote on Baudelaire, he jumps right in with what you’ve written here … you may find it of interest if you find a copy (in Illuminations) ~ a

    • I have a copy of it. It’s been ages since I read it. I’ll have to take a look at it in a couple of weeks when things settle down a bit. Benjamin wrote quite a bit on Baudelaire.

  2. Hello. I’m your coursera classmate. I think what you said about dandyism is right and I’d like to thank you for drawing my attention to that point. Also, congratulations for your blog. It’s very interesting. Hey, if you’re not too busy, maybe we could become “pen pals”. You could email me writing what you’re reading and what your interests are. All the best, Gus

    • Yes, that would be great. Most of what I write ends up here eventually in some for or another. I’ll send you and email.

  3. […] Baudelaire’s prose style ( […]

  4. […] Baudelaire’s prose style ( […]

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