Baudelaire and De Maistre

Español: Charles Baudelaire

Charles Baudelaire (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“De Maistre et Edgar Poe m’ont appris à raisonner.”
Charles Baudelaire, «Hygiène» Œuvres complètes

After a briefly supporting Republicanism during the 1848 revolutions, Baudelaire, disillusioned, came under the influence of the political and ethical writing of Joseph De Maistre.

De Maistre did not think rational grounds were sufficient to found and maintain government. He thought it was more compelling for authority to lie with strong individuals capable of decisive action. This is, I think, what really appeals to Baudelaire, who did not think very highly of ordinary people’s ability to reason or act in creative or decisive ways. This can be more clearly seen in a few excerpts from a notebook, Mon coeur mis à nu, found among his posthumous papers:

Belief in progress is a doctrine of the slothful, a doctrine of the Belgians. It is the individual who relies on his neighbors to tend his affairs. There can be no progress (true, that is, moral) save in the individual and by the individual himself. But the world is composed of folks who can think only in common, in bands. Thus the Belgian societies. There are also folks who can amuse themselves only in droves. The true hero find his pleasure alone.”
Charles Baudelaire, Mon coeur mis à nu, Œuvres posthumes

“There is no reasonable, stable government save the aristocratic. Monarchy and republic, based on democracy, are equally weak and absurd. … There exist but three respectable beings: the priest, the warrior, the poet. To know, to kill, and to create. Other men are serfs or slaves, created for the stable, that is, to exercise what are called professions.”
Charles Baudelaire, Mon coeur mis à nu, Œuvres posthumes

The other reason is De Maistre’s conception of original sin which is, of course, the most encompassing theme in all of Baudelaire’s writing.

“Crime, the taste for which the human animal acquired in his mother’s belly, is originally natural. Virtue, on the contrary, is artificial, supernatural, since in all times and nations, gods and prophets were necessary to teach it to animalized man, and since man alone would have been powerless to discover it. Evil is done without effort, naturally, by fatality.”
Charles Baudelaire, «Le peintre de la vie moderne» Œuvres complètes


~ by severalfourmany on March 17, 2013.

One Response to “Baudelaire and De Maistre”

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