Born in Charleville, the second son of an army lieutenant and a severe and bigoted mother. Prodigally gifted as a schoolboy, he soon grew irritated by conventional bourgeois provincial life, and ran away to Paris without a penny in his pocket. Returned home to run away again repeatedly, until finally installing himself in Paris and in the affections of Verlaine in 1871. Continued in the company of Verlaine the pattern of vagrancy which was to mark his life after he had abandoned poetry; wrote almost all the poems now associated with him (except ' Le Bateau ivre') during his troubled period with Verlaine. Within a short time of separating from him abandoned poetry unequivocally, and showed no interest when a decade later literary Paris was impressed by what it took to be the posthumous publication of Les Illuminations ( 1886). Printed Une Salson en Enfer at his own expense in 1875, though is generally presumed to have written at least some of the Illuminations after completing this work in the summer of 1873. Redirected his energies to the study of music and the acquisition of languages before enlisting in the Dutch Colonial Army, becoming a building foreman in Cyprus and finally a trader and explorer in the Middle East and East Africa, where he is believed to have married. Finally laid low by a cancer in the leg which necessitated amputation on his return to Marseilles, where he died. With the much inferior Lautréamont a profound influence on the Surrealists, since which time his poetry and his legendary life have come to seem representative of a visionary strain in modern literature.