Classics and Commercials: A Literary Chronicle of the Forties

By Edmund Wilson | Go to book overview

THE SANCTITY OF BAUDELAIRE

A TRANSLATION by Christopher Isherwood of Baudelaire's Intimate Journals was published in England in 1930, with an introduction by T. S. Eliot. It has now been brought out here for the first time, in a somewhat revised text and with an introduction by W. H. Auden instead of the one by Eliot, which in the meantime had been included in the volume of the latter's Selected Essays and become one of the principal stimuli for the recent vogue of Baudelaire.

When I speak of Baudelaire's "recent vogue," I do not, of course, mean to imply that his reputation has at any time seriously declined. Baudelaire was one of the greatest of French poets, and has been recognized as such by writers of all periods and many schools. But during the last fifteen years or so, he has been pressed into service by certain elements in the literary world who want to claim him for their own cause, and his career has been shown in a light which falsifies the meaning of his work. Messrs. Eliot, Auden and Isherwood are all, in their several ways, active champions of Christian doctrine. In times of disillusion with politics, it is usual to find a retreat in the direction of traditional religion, and that is what we have been getting lately. Now, Baudelaire, after his exploit of 1848, when he leapt on the barricades and shouted "Down with General Aupick!" (his stepfather),

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