Charles Baudelaire


9 April: Birth of Charles-Pierre Baudelaire at 13 rue Hautefeuille, Paris, to Joseph-François Baudelaire (aged 62) and his wife Caroline, née Archenbaut Defayis (aged 27).


10 February: Death of CB's father. CB will remember the period following his father's death -- during which he had his mother all to himself -- as an idyllic interlude.


8 November: CB's mother marries Major Jacques Aupick, a career military officer.


October: CB is sent by his parents to a boarding school.


November: Aupick is stationed in Lyon to help put down workers' riots. CB enters the Royal College of Lyon as a boarder.


Aupick joins the General Staff in Paris as a colonel.

CB enters the well-known Collège (roughly the equivalent of an American prep school or a British "public" school) of Louis-le-Grand in Paris as a boarder. He begins his reading of Romantic literature, most notably encountering Victor Hugo's prose and poetry and Saint-Beuve's novel, Volupté.


CB is expelled from Louis-le-Grand for insubordination. Sometime in the Autumn, he contracts gonorrhea, probably during an encounter with a prostitute. Sometime during this period he also contracts syphilis. He will suffer from health complications related to venereal disease for the rest of his life.

CB lives as a boarder with a private tutor and, in August, passes his exams. His mother and stepfather want him to become a diplomat; he declares his intention of being a writer, but agrees to continue his education. He enters the student bohemia of the Latin Quarter, making friends with the young poets known as the "Norman School."


9 June: After a family council, CB is shipped off to India from the port city of Bordeaux, in the hopes of breaking him of his dissolute ways.

1-19 September: CB stays on the Mauritius Island. He writes "A une Créole."

CB reaches Réunion Island, but then refuses to continue his voyage and returns home. Many subsequent poems will be inspired by this aborted journey.


Back in Paris, CB begins an affair with Jeanne Duval, "The Black Venus," a mulatto actress and (probably) prostitute.

9 April: CB turns 21 and comes into the 100,000 francs left him in his father's money.

June: CB moves to the Île Saint-Louis in central Paris and begins to squander his inheritance.


CB moves into the Hôtel Pimodan on the Île Saint-Louis. He collects many debts furnishing his apartment with artwork and extravagant furnishings. He attends meetings of the "Club des Haschischins." CB frequents young artists and poets, including Théophile Gautier.


CB has spent half of his inheritance in two years. A family council meets and procures a court order subjecting his remaining assets to the control of a court-appointed legal guardian, Narcisse-Désiré Ancelle, a notary-public and small town mayor.

Already burdened with debt, Baudelaire will spend the rest of his life fleeing creditors and begging for cash advances from Ancelle and from his mother.


CB publishes his first art criticism, the Salon of 1845, under the name Baudelaire-Dufaÿs (combining his father's name with his mother's maiden name).

"À une dame créole" is published in L'Artiste. It is the first poem CB publishes under his own name (a few others had been published anonymously in compilations put together by friends).

Despondent over his financial situation, CB (apparently) attempts to commit suicide. CB and his mother reconcile, although he is permanently alienated from his step-father.

24 November: CB publishes a satirical attack on Honoré de Balzac, "Comment on paie ses dettes quand on a du génie."


CB publishes a short story, "Le Jeune enchanteur," in reality a translation of an anonymous English publication.

CB publishes a variety of articles and essays. The most important publication of this year is his Salon de 1846, which further establishes his growing reputation as an art critic.


CB publishes his short novel, La Fanfarlo.


CB begins his translations of Edgar Allen Poe.

CB participates in the February Revolution. While some biographers downplay his political engagement (many note that he seemed motivated mostly by a desire to encourage the revolutionaries to kill his step-father), he seems to have been genuinely concerned with "The Social Question." This is seen most notably in his sympathy for the writings of the utopian-socialist/anarchist Joseph-Pierre Proudhon. During the revolution, CB joins a revolutionary club and works on a short-lived republican newspaper. Oddly enough, he became the editor of a conservative provincial paper in October, but this seems to have been the result of his family's intervention -- and he quickly left to return to Paris.


CB publishes his first essay on Edgar Allen Poe (which is largely plagiarized from an American work).


1 June: CB publishes 18 poems in the influential Revue des deux mondes. A highly critical review of the poems is published in the more conservative Figaro later in the year.

c. 1855-1859

The actress Marie Daubrun may have been CB's mistress sometime during these years. She will remain an important friend throughout much of his life. During the 1850s CB also meets Madame de Sabatier, with whom he will carry on a largely platonic friendship for many years. Like Jeanne Duval, both Daubrun and Sabatier will inspire their own cycles of poems.


The first volume of CB's Poe translations is published as Histoires extraordinaires.


Publication of volume two of the Poe translations, as Nouvelles histoires extraordinaires.

22 June: Publication of Les Fleurs du mal.

5 July: An extremely critical review of Les Fleurs du mal by Gustave Bourdin appears in the Figaro.

"[...] Never have such brilliant qualities been so madly wasted. There are times when one has doubts about Monsieur Baudelaire's mental state; there are other times when one doesn't have any doubts: most of the time, it is the monotonous and premeditated repetition of the same words, the same thoughts. The odious jostles against the ignoble; the repulsive joins with the foul. Never have so many breasts been bitten and even chewed in so few pages; never has there been such a parade of demons, foetuses, devils, chloroses, cats, and vermin.
This book is a hospital open to all the dementia of the spirit, all of the putridity of the heart; it would be one thing if it was meant to cure them, but they are incurable.
[...] one might understand if the imagination of a twenty-year-old poet had let itself be dragged down to such subjects, but nothing can justify a man of more than thirty for having published a book that gives publicity to similar monstrosities."

7 July: CB and his publishers, Poulet-Malassis and Debroise, are brought up on charges of having outraged public morals.

"[...] Alongside these poems ["Le Reniement de Saint-Pierre", "Abel et Caïn", "Les Litanies de Satan", and "Le Vin de l'assassin"] and several others in which the immortality of the soul and the dearest beliefs of Christianity are considered as nothing, there are others which are the expression of the most revolting lewdness [including "Femmes damnées", "Les Métamorphoses du Vampire", and "Les Bijoux"]."

21 August: CB and his publishers are found guilty. CB is fined 300 francs (reduced to 50 francs upon intervention of the Queen), Poulet-Malassis and Debroise 100 francs each, and six of the poems mentioned in the indictment (all of the above, with the exception of "Le Vin de l'assassin") are banned.


Publication of Les Paradis artificiels.


Publication of the second edition of Les Fleurs du mal, minus the six poems banned in 1857 and with the addition of 35 new poems.


Publication of Petits poèmes en prose.


Private publication of a small collection of new poems and of the poems condemned in 1857, known as Les Épaves.

CB suffers a massive stroke and spends over a year both aphasic and paralyzed.


31 August: CB dies in Paris.


A posthumous third edition of Les Fleurs du mal, with an introduction by Théophile Gautier is published, including 151 poems.


31 May: The condemnation of Les Fleurs du mal is formally annulled by a French court.


The whole visible universe is but a storehouse of images and signs to which the imagination will give a relative place and value; it is a sort of pasture which the imagination must digest and transform.