Baudelaire's suicide note sells for £180k

Charles Baudelaire is considered one of France's greatest poets and critics. Flaubert, who wrote Madame Bovary, once wrote to him about his great poetry book Les Fleurs du Mal (The Flowers of Evil) to say:

"You have found a way to rejuvenate Romanticism... You are as unyielding as marble, and as penetrating as an English mist."

However, that was in 1857 - in 1845 Baudelaire had no intention of seeing that date. Debts, loneliness and a lack of prospects weighed heavily on him that summer and he resolved to take his own life by stabbing himself.

Fortunately, his resolve was not all that strong and the knife wound was merely painful, not life-threatening.

However, before turning the knife on himself Baudelaire wrote a seven page long note. Part of this was specifically directed at a family friend, urging his to ensure that Baudelaire's mistress Jeanne Lemer inherits the bulk of his belongings, such as they were, whilst his mother would receive a portion.

Charles Baudelaire suicide note autograph
Baudelaire's suicide note
(Click to enlarge)

Baudelaire expected this Will to be contested, as his mother hated Lemer.

The note is clearly and calmly written, with some underlining for emphasis. Listed by Drouot's auction house at €50,000-75,000 this unique text far surpassed that, selling for €180,000.

A particularly interesting sale in the Baudelaire themed auction was a letter not written by Baudelaire himself, but his editor to Baudelaire's friend and manager of his estate Ancelle a few months after his death, noting how difficult it is to know how to act around his bereaved mother.

The letter, estimated at a paltry €1,000-2,000 was seen as more significant by the bidding audience and went under the hammer for €30,000, whilst a set of six letters from the painter Edouard Manet to his friend Baudelaire doubled its €35,000-50,000 estimate to sell for €88,000.

A letter by the painter Gauguin and autographs by literary figures such as F Scot Fitzgerald recently beat their estimates at auction.

These were some of the best examples in an auction where many lots doubled their expected prices in the five figure range, showing that the appetite for autographs associated with literary giants like Baudelaire is sufficient for collectors to pay handsomely for the best pieces.

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