There is another world, but it is in this one.

Paul Eluard. Œuvres complètes, vol. 1, Gallimard, 1968.

Friday, July 26, 2019

[Baudelaire]



From Gaunt's Aesthetic Adventure:



....He avoided that to which the romantic Bohemian was prone the chic pittoresque that smart picturesqueness which in Gautier somewhat regrettably expressed itself by a flaming red waistcoat. A stickler for conventions he carried politeness to the verge of affectation, choosing his words with great care and avoiding volubility and gesture like the most phlegmatic of Britons though the satanic epigrams which fell from his lips were not British in the least.

In Edgar Poe he found an inspiring morbidity, a morbidity kindred to that which had lurked in France after its ordeal, but adapted to the purposes of literature. A creature of tragedy and a slave of the bottle he had made poetry out of delirium tremens, and induced strange dreams from which he had evolved masterpieces.

Roderick Usher, inPoe's weird story, the Fall of the House of Usher, had shown a perverted connoisseurship in books, scents and liquors which reflected the author's sense of values to be discovered in what was not normal and 'natural. And this was balanced, it seemed to Baudelaire, by a cool and calculating appreciation of artistic values like his own. Thus to attain a refinement of sensation by taking a hard way through the bog and quicksand of life presented itself to him almost as a duty. In this way the artist could signify the exacting nature of his own code and plunge into what people called evil from austere motives and with a singleminded devotion to his art. Had not Delacroix perceived the splendour of misery? Was not his painting a great and pitiful hymn rising from scenes of ferocious carnage and barbarism? The voyage of aesthetic discovery could be pressed further, towards stranger ends. What was gross and vile as well as what was savage and barbarous might be made to yield its quota of beauty: and any means were justified in achieving that result. There was even a sort of religious exaltation in choosing the necessary martyrdom of vice, a saintly courage in exploring sin, a religious belief implicit in the defiance of religious rule.

These strange notions revolved behind the noble forehead of Charles Baudelaire, and though he was the younger of the two, he exercised a great influence on Gautier. The latter was not so intense, so introvert, but he acquired, through their friendship, some of Baudelaire's refinement as Baudelaire acquired some of his audacity. Together they crystallized the exclusive position of the artist and his separation from the middle class world. Gautier, the man of slogans, put it in a phrase "l'art pour l'art" or, as it may be written in English, Art for Art's Sake....



THE AESTHETIC ADVENTURE
by William Gaunt
(1945).
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