Jean Nicolas Arthur Rimbaud was a famous French poet and adventurer. He came out with some of his finest poems while he was still in his late teens, which is why Victor Hugo gave him the title of “an infant Shakespeare”. Surprisingly, Rimbaud quitted working on creative writing prior to the age of 21 only. During the decadent movement, he greatly influenced modern literature, music and art. The works of Rimbaud are considered as the most original one in the Symbolist movement. Not just poems, Rimbaud was also popular for his libertine and restless nature. He also journeyed a lot, visiting three continents. One of his most famous and appreciated poem was “The Drunken Boat”, completed in 1871. Some of his other works are “Les Illuminations” and “A Season in Hell”.
Arthur Rimbaud Childhood & Early Years
Arthur Rimbaud was born on 20th October, 1854 in a provincial middle class family of Charleville in the Ardennes department in northeastern France to Frédéric Rimbaud and Marie-Catherine-Vitalie Cuif. His parents got married in February 1853 and he was the second child of his parents. Rimbaud had four other siblings namely Jean-Nicolas-Frederick, Victorine (died a month after she was born), Vitalie and Isabelle. His father belonged from the Burgundian of Provençal extraction. He took a major leap in his career from being a simple recruit to becoming a captain and spent a large portion of his army years serving in foreign services. His father fought in the conquest of Algeria. For the same he was honored with the “Légion d'honneur” award. It is believed that the time of Arthur Rimbaud's infancy was prodigious. When he was of six years old, Captain Rimbaud quit his regiment in Cambrai and did not come back ever as he became frustrated by domesticity and children’s presence. But Madame (Mme) Rimbaud was confident enough and brought up and educated her children by herself only. She raised the children under her strict management and religious beliefs. Soon after Captain Rimbaud’s departure, people began calling his mother as “Widow Rimbaud”.
Schooling & Teen Years
In 1862, Mme Rimbaud shifted to the Cours d'Orléans because of the fear that her children were spending more time with the poor neighboring children and were getting deeply influenced by them. Initially, Arthur got educated at home only and was later sent to Pension Rossat at the age of eight. For the next five years he attended school but was constantly nagged by his mother who enforced her wish upon him, forcing for a scholastic success. His mother pushed him and his brother by making them learn a hundred lines of Latin verse and if in case they wrongly recited a word, she used to keep them hungry. At the age of nine, Rimbaud wrote an essay of 700 words objecting his Latin learning in the school. He vigorously blamed classical education as just a path to attain a position with a good salary. As much as young Rimbaud hated schoolwork, he disliked his mother’s constant control and assessment. At the age of eleven, he had his first Communion. He was quite religious like his mother, which his why his schoolmates often called him “sale petit Cagot” (“snotty little prig”). Afterwards he and his brother were admitted to the Collège de Charleville. Till this time, his studies were entirely based on the Bible. Rimbaud also had a great fascination for fairy tales and stories of adventure like the novels of James Fenimore Cooper and Gustave Aimard. Eventually, he became an excellent student and headed his class. He was greatly appraised by his teachers in school. Arthur won eight first prizes in the school in 1869 which contained the prize for Religious Education. The following year, he bagged seven firsts.
When Rimbaud entered third class, his mother with a hope for his excellent scholastic career, hired a private tutor, Father Ariste Lhéritier. The tutor successfully ignited the spark in the young boy towards the love for Greek, Latin and French classical literature. Lhéritier also became the first person to hugely encourage Rimbaud to write original verse in French and Latin. His poem “Les Etrennes des orphelins” was his first poem to get published in the Revue pour tous on 2nd January 1870. Post two weeks of his poem’s publication, a new schoolmaster called Georges Izambard joined the Collège de Charleville. Izambard then became Rimbaud’s literary mentor and shortly, a close bonding was built between the both. With the time, Rimbaud matured as a poet. When he was 15, he presented his first poem to Izambard titled “Ophélie”, which later became on of his best creations. While the Franco-Prussian War was going on, Izambard moved from Charleville. As a result, Rimbaud became quite depressed and ran away to Paris without having any money for buying tickets. Later he was arrested and imprisoned for seven days. After he came back home, he again ran away in the fear of his mother’s anger. From October 1870, his behavior became extremely proactive. Rimbaud began drinking alcohol; spoke bluntly, wrote scatological poems, stole books from the sops and grew his hair long.
Life with Verlaine
The friends and colleagues of Rimbaud encouraged him to write letter toPaul Verlaine who was a prominent Symbolist poet. Finally, he wrote two letters to Verlaine having a number of his poems including the shocking “Le Dormeur du Val”.Verlaine got greatly influenced by the same and replied saying "Come, dear great soul. We await you; we desire you" accompanied with a one-way ticket to Paris. Rimbaud reached in late September 1871 and stayed at Verlaine's home for a short period of time. He, along with Verlaine, moved to London in September 1872. They both spent their days in London suffering from poverty. They mainly lived from the earnings they got from teachings and Verlaine's mother allowances. Rimbaud used to spend his days in the reading room of the British Museum. Eventually, the relationship between the two began to sour.
By the early 1873, Verlaine got extremely annoyed with the relationship and moved back to Paris, where he soon started to miss Rimbaud. On July 8, Verlaine telegraphed Rimbaud, asking him to come to the Hotel Liège in Brussels. Following the instructions, Rimbaud went there but the meeting did more bad than good as the two argued continuously. Verlaine resorted to drinking to seek solace. On the afternoon of July 10, Verlaine under the influence of heavy drinking fired two shots at Rimbaud, out of which one wounded the eighteen years old Arthur in the left wrist. Arthur discarded the wound as casual and initially did not charge against Verlaine but later he ran away fearing the insane behavior of Verlaine. Verlaine was soon arrested but later Rimbaud took the complaint back. Thereafter, Rimbaud came back to his home in Charleville and finished his prose work “Une Saison en Enfer.” In 1874, he moved back to London with the poet Germain Nouveau and placed together his groundbreaking “Illuminations”.
The last meeting ofRimbaud and Verlaine took place in March 1875 in Stuttgart, Germany. By this time, Rimbaud had given up his writing and carried on his traveling interests. In May 1876, he was listed as a soldier in the Dutch Colonial Army to journey free to Java in the Dutch East Indies. In December 1878, he visited Larnaca, Cyprus and worked as a foreman at a stone quarry. In May 1879, he left Cyprus as he was suffering from fever. When he came back to France, he was diagnosed with typhoid.
Arthur Rimbaud finally settled down in Aden, Yemen in 1880. He was appointed as the chief employee in the Bardey agency. However, he had quit the job in 1884 to become a merchant on his account in Harar, Ethiopia. The commercial trades of Rimbaud mainly included coffee and weapons. During this time, Rimbaud developed a great and close friendship with the Governor of Harar, Ras Makonnen, father of future Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie.
Contracting Bad Health
Rimbaud, in February 1891, thought that he was suffering from arthritis in his right knee. As such, he took treatment for the same but the treatment did not work. Because of his ill health, he returned back to France for the correct treatment as a British doctor in Aden mistakenly diagnosed tubercular synovitis and advised to go for amputation as soon as possible but Rimbaud delayed the same until 9th May, as he had to settle his financial affairs before heading back to France. When he finally reached France, Rimbaud was admitted to hospital in Marseille. On 27th May, his right leg was amputated but after the operation, he was diagnosed with cancer.
Rimbaud briefly resided at his family home in Charleville and attempted to move to Africa. On his way, his health greatly declined and he was again admitted to the same hospital in Marseille. He went through a surgery in the hospital and stayed there for some time. Arthur Rimbaud died on 10th November 1891 in Marseille and he was buried in Charleville.