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  • Print publication year: 2006
  • Online publication date: August 2006

Afterword

Summary

An aspect of French poetic life has changed since the middle of the nineteenth century, as it had already been altered twenty years after the death of Baudelaire by the publication of the poet's Posthumous Works [Œuvres posthumes]. This publication was the work of Eugène Crépet, who included an extensive biography as well as numerous documents and letters.

1953 saw the completion of the Complete Works [Œuvres complètes] in an edition begun by Jacques Crépet, Eugène's son, and finished by me, who am to some degree his son-in-law, his natural son being Jean Ziegler, who has been a close collaborator of mine. The nineteen volumes of this irreplaceable critical and annotated edition, which was published by Louis Conard (whose successor was Jacques Lambert), began with The Flowers of Evil [Les Fleurs du Mal] (1922) which, like Baudelaire's other works, the rights of which had belonged since 1867 to Michel Lévy and then to Calmann Lévy, had now entered the public domain. (Whence the more or less meticulous editions of the Fleurs that appeared in 1917, one of them being produced by Apollinaire.) While working on his great edition, Jacques Crépet, in collaboration with Georges Blin, gave the Librairie José Corti a far more scholarly edition of the Fleurs in 1942 and, in September 1949, an edition of Intimate Journals [Journaux intimes], a traditional and misleading title that includes My Heart Laid Bare [Mon cœur mis à nu], Rockets [Fusées] and the Notebook [Carnet] (this last, moreover, having no title).

1949 is also a date that is as important as it is ridiculous. It was on 31 May of that year that, after a lengthy procedure, the Court of Appeal annulled the verdict of 20 August 1857 that had ordered the suppression of six of the finest poems of the Fleurs du Mal. These poems had in any case been clandestinely reproduced several times already. Baudelaire thus became a politically correct author. The condemnation had been inept, but understandable, given the hypocritical morality of the time. It was the judges of 1857 who were condemned by this rehabilitation.

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