Baudelaire: A Fire to Conquer Darkness by Nicole Ward Jouve

By Nicole Ward Jouve

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The author of, among others, Considerations sur Ia France, a work akin in its bias and vehemence to Burke's Reflections on the Revolution in France, and the more metaphysical Soirees de Saint-Petersbourg, he became, along with Bonald, one of the apostles of 'Legitimisme' in Restoration France. His historical predicament may have made him, in many ways (as Sartre rather unfairly stressed) the spokesman for a doomed class. But his voice, unlike Sade's, transcends his situation. Baudelaire calls him a seer, 'un voyant'.

Also, the righteous energy of his stance made him vivifying in an age of weakness and confusion. All one discovers in 'nature' for Maistre, is the law of our common corruption: ... le mal a tout souille, et l'homme entier n'est qu'une maladie . . . Qui pourrait croire qu'un tel ihre ait pu sortir dans cet etat des mains du Createur7 Cette idee est si revoltante, que la philosophie seule, j'entends Ia philosophie paienne, a devine le peche originel. 74 This is echoed, with a sense of the oddity of such a position in the 1860s, by Baudelaire's confession to Flaubert: ...

Uke the Julien Sorel of Le Rouge, Frederic is looking for a Mme de Renal; like Napoleon, Deslauriers is waiting for an 18 Brumaire. Marx too saw the - as it turned out, grotesquely - imitative character of this revolution and its sequels: 'Louis Napoleon, with the emperor's hat and the eagle, parodied the old Napoleon no more miserably than the Montagne, with its phrases borrowed from 1793 and its demogogic poses, parodied the old Montagne. ' 7 Frederic and Deslauriers live through amorous encounters or days of riot, trying to create opportunities which never come or which they never catch; never able to identify completely, without irony, calculation or second thoughts, with anything.

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