On June 30, 1845, the French poet, critic, and essayist Charles Baudelaire decided that he had had enough and was going to end his life, and the “extraordinary” suicide letter that he addressed to his lover Jeanne Duval has just fetched $267,000 after being sold at auction, which is three times what it was originally estimated to have been worth before going up for sale.
As the BBC reported, Baudelaire was just a tender 24 years of age on the day that he attempted suicide, and fortunately for the world his attempt at stabbing himself in the chest was wholly unsuccessful and the modernist romantic poet went on to live a further 22 years, finally dying in 1867 at the age of 46.
Charles Baudelaire was reputed to have only loved his mother more than the Haitian-born actress Jeanne Duval, who he was with for two decades, and called her the “mistress of mistresses.” His mother, however, was not quite so taken with this Venus and was once said to have remarked that she “tortured” her son “in every way,” extracting money from him whenever she could.
This, however, is doubtful as Baudelaire would not have needed help with spending money as he was always frivolous with his inheritance and allowance, going through most of it in short order.
In Baudelaire’s poignant suicide letter to Duval, he claimed that immortality was his birthright and that he yearned to experience the true freedom that could only come through death of the flesh.
“By the time you receive this letter, I will be dead. I am killing myself because I can no longer live, because the exhaustion of going to sleep and the exhaustion of waking up are unbearable to me. I am killing myself because I believe myself to be immortal, and I hope for it.”
After Charles Baudelaire’s unsuccessful attempt at suicide, the poet went on to celebrate Jeanne Duval with numerous poems dedicated to her in Les Fleurs du mal (The Flowers of Evil), which was first published in 1857. Some of these include “Le serpent qui danse” (“The Dancing Serpent”), “Parfum exotique” (“Exotic Perfume”) and his classic “La chevelure” (“The Hair”), in which he dreams of his lover’s luxurious head of hair.
A long time! Forever! my hand in your thick mane
Will scatter sapphires, rubies and pearls,
So that you will never be deaf to my desire!
Aren’t you the oasis of which I dream, the gourd
From which I drink deeply, the wine of memory?
The suicide letter of Charles Baudelaire was officially sold to a private buyer on November 4 by the French auction house Osenat, who have called the note “without doubt the most extraordinary letter from Baudelaire in private hands.”