By Patricia Clements
This examine of Baudelaire and English modernism observes his protean effect on poets from Swinburne, who wrote the 1st English evaluate of Les Fleurs du Mai, to T. S. Eliot. Documenting Baudelaire's effect on Swinburne, Pater, Wilde, Arthur Symons, Aldous Huxley, Edith and Osbert Sitwell, D. H. Lawrence, the Imagists, John Middleton Murry, Eliot, and others, Patricia Clements describes the Baudelaire who's the production of the English poets and identifies a few significant strains within the improvement of modernism in English literature.
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He modelled both his analysis and his praise precisely on what Baudelaire himself had written in his own Notes Nouvelles Sur Edgar Poe. ) The historical irony in Swinburne's use of them is unavoidable: what Eliot saw as "extravagant" advertisement turns Baudelaire's own criticism to praise of his own poems. Swinburne opens his review onto a wide perspective, sug gesting at the outset that a power of more than national appeal distinguishes the best poetry. He goes on, however, to claim that conditions are no less adverse to poetry in France than in Eng land: there, as here, he says, taking the "thin-spun classical work" of Theodore de Banville as an example, poetry is starved by the 26 CHAPTER 1 soil in which it attempts to grow, restrained by a wrong-headed and tyrannical criticism.
C, 191). Un semblable . . A s o c i a l e n v i r o n m e n t o f t h i s o r d e r i s b o u n d t o p r o d u c e c o r responding literary errors. It is these errors that Poe battled against, as often as he could, and with all his might. We must therefore be in no way surprised that American writers, whilst recognizing his remarkable power as poet and story teller, have always tended to challenge his value as a critic. In a country where the utilitarian idea, the most hostile in the world to the idea of beauty, takes first place and dominates all other considerations, the perfect critic will be the most 'respectable,' that is to say, the critic whose instinctive attitudes and desires will come closest to the attitudes and desires of his readers; the one who, confusing faculties and types of production, will ascribe to them all one single purpose; the one who will seek in a book of poetry a means of perfecting the conscience.
He also was able to ensure that what he wrote on French literature commanded attention in France. "44 Swinburne wrote delightedly to Dante Ga briel Rossetti in i86g that "The Rappel has reprinted from the Courier de l'Europe an excellent version of my article on l'Homme Qui Rit. . ' (Pendez-vous MM. 46 To dismiss Swinburne's Ie double . . the double interest of being by a famous writer and of showing how French writers are appreciated in England. du ά la plume . . ). " How unlikely that would have seemed when Swinburne wrote his early famous essay on Baudelaire, or when he made his only public speech, is worth remembering.