Biography of Famous Alcoholic and Poet Paul Verlaine

About the famous French poet and alcoholic Paul Verlaine, about his struggle with the disease.

PAUL VERLAINE (1844-1896). French poet.

His moral conduct earned him the title "the Deplorable Verlaine," while his poetry established the school of Symbolism in French literature.

Raised and educated in Paris, Verlaine began publishing poems and mingling in advanced literary circles while in his early 20s. Among his acquaintances were Victor Hugo, Anatole France, and Theodore de Banville. He had published several books of verse by the time he was 26.

Verlaine's fondness for absinthe had taken him well down the path of alcoholism by the time he married 17-year-old Mathilde Maute. A year after this marriage, Verlaine abandoned his wife and infant son to travel with the 17-year-old poet Rimbaud. Their homosexual association lasted some 18 months until Verlaine, in a fit of anger, shot and slightly wounded Rimbaud. Verlaine was sentenced to 2 years in prison.

By 1875, his drinking had increased and his poetry production had declined. As his talent diminished, however, his literary reputation, based upon his earlier work, grew. He was able to support himself by lecturing on the poetic doctrine of Symbolism. Meanwhile, he was living in an ever increasing alcoholic squalor. He was looked after, when not in hospitals, by 2 elderly prostitutes. He died at the age of 51.

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