Aug 192011

I have already made some slight mention of Baudelaire’s reaction to the intrusive prudery of the courts of the Second Empire–that time of dull public morality and wild private vice when Inspectors, gendarmes, and all manner of prissy officials caressed in private the very evils they excoriated in the sunlit square. There was the question of who was to prosecute the case too–would it be the sympathetic Guilliarme Moldave? He had been known to visit many new artists’ studios, and respected Baudelaire’s criticism on the subject. Also, he was an evening companion of Mme. Sabatier, whose Sunday salons were well known as an hospitible refuge for artiste and thoughtful audience alike. It was the sort of ‘cultural’ event that Baudelaire refused to acknowledge–although his company was itself a perpetual pow-wow on the muse and her minions. The danger was Pinard, who Baudelaire had a penchant for nicknaming Pinhead Pinard. He was a priggish stickler about ‘the letter, and even the punctuation, of the law’ as he had famously declared. Rumor had it that he even lectured his own children on such fine points of law as judicial scarves and the correct angle for wearing the epitoge when a fatal judgement was handed down. A clash with Pinard could cost Baudelaire both his liberty and his renown–for Baudelaire was betting heavily on poetry book sales to float his independence from the hideous insufficency of his allowance.

Here, in the very shadows of Lady Justice’s skirts, I said a prayer–(cozener and villan in my day though I have been, let not the fiedom of false friendship be laid at my feet)–on the day Baudelaire went through those portals, just there, scuffing his slick black shoes petulantly on the stone steps, his mouth a pouty downspout as pronounced as any child’s. I can still recall the words I used then, pacing alone even as I am doing now.

“Dear blind lady with arms upraised, I beg you not to use my blue Baudelaire the way he would use you.”

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