Paul Verlaine

Paul Verlaine books and biography


Paul Verlaine

Paul Verlaine illustrated in the frontispiece of Oeuvres complètes de Paul Verlaine, Vol. 1, 1902
Paul Verlaine illustrated in the frontispiece of Oeuvres complètes de Paul Verlaine, Vol. 1, 1902
French literature
By category
French literary history

16th century - 17th century
18th century -19th century
20th century - Contemporary

French Writers

Chronological list
Writers by category
Novelists - Playwrights
Poets - Essayists
Short story writers

France Portal
Literature Portal
This box: view  talk  edit

Paul-Marie Verlaine (French IPA: [vɛʀˈlɛn]) (March 30, 1844 – January 8, 1896) is considered one of the greatest French poets of the "fin de siècle".



Early life

Born in Metz, he was educated at a lycée in Paris and then took up a post in the civil service. He began writing poetry at an early age, and was initially influenced by the Parnassien movement and its leader, Charles Leconte de Lisle. Verlaine's first published collection, Poèmes saturniens (1867), though adversely commented upon by Sainte-Beuve, established him as a poet of promise and originality.

Marriage and military service

Verlaine's private life spills over into his work, beginning with his love for Mathilde Mauté, a disciple of Louise Michel. Mauté became Verlaine's wife. At the proclamation of the Third Republic in 1870, Verlaine joined the 160th battalion of the Garde nationale, turning Communard on March 18, 1871. He became head of the press bureau of the Central Committee of the Paris Commune. He escaped the deadly street fighting known as the Bloody Week, or Semaine Sanglante, and went into hiding at Pas-de-Calais.


Verlaine returned to Paris in August 1871. In September he received the first letter from Arthur Rimbaud. By 1872 he had lost interest in Mathilde and effectively abandoned her and their son, preferring the company of his new lover, a situation that had a devastating effect on the insecure and overemotional Verlaine. He now became a heavy drinker, and shot Rimbaud in a jealous rage, wounding him, but not mortally. As an indirect result of this incident, he was arrested and imprisoned at Mons, where he underwent a conversion to Catholicism, which again influenced his work (and earned him the vicious mockery of the inconstant Rimbaud.) Romances sans paroles was the poetic outcome of this period.

Following his release from prison, Verlaine travelled to England, where he worked for some years as a teacher and produced another successful collection, Sagesse. He returned to France in 1877 and, while teaching English at a school in Rethel, became infatuated with one of his pupils, Lucien Létinois, who inspired Verlaine to write further poems. Verlaine was devastated when the boy died of typhus.

Final years

Verlaine's last years witnessed a descent into drug-addiction, alcoholism, and poverty. Yet his poetry was admired and recognised as ground-breaking, and served as a source of inspiration to famous composers, such as Gabriel Fauré, who set many of his poems to music, including La bonne chanson, and Claude Debussy, who turned the entire Fêtes galantes into a classic mélodie album.

Verlaine in café.
Verlaine in café.

Numerous artists painted Verlaine's portrait. Among the most illustrious: Henri Fantin-Latour, Antonio de la Gándara, Eugène Carrière, Frédéric Cazalis, and Théophile-Alexandre Steinlen.

On his death in 1896, Paul Verlaine was interred in the Cimetière de Batignolles in Paris.


The French poetry of much of the literature in the latter half of the century (or "fin de siècle") was often characterized as "decadent" for their lurid content or moral vision. In a similar vein, Verlaine used the expression "poète maudit" (accursed poet) in 1884 to refer to a number of poets like Stéphane Mallarmé and Arthur Rimbaud who had fought against poetic conventions and suffered social rebuke or had been ignored by the critics.

But with the publication of Jean Moréas "Symbolist Manifesto" in 1886, it was the term symbolism which was most often applied to the new literary environment. Along with Verlaine, poets such as Stéphane Mallarmé, Paul Valéry, Arthur Rimbaud, and Albert Samain (amongst others) were called symbolists. The symbolist poets often share themes that parallel Schopenhauer's aesthetics and notions of will, fatality and unconscious forces, and used themes of sex (such as prostitutes), the city, irrational phenomena (delirium, dreams, narcotics, alcohol), and sometimes a vaguely medieval setting.

In poetry, the symbolist procedure - as typified by Verlaine- was to use subtle suggestion instead of precise statement (rhetoric was banned) and to evoke moods and feelings by the magic of words and repeated sounds and the cadence of verse (musicality) and metrical innovation.


Verlaine's Complete Works are available in critical editions from the Bibliothèque de la Pléiade.

  • Poèmes saturniens (1866)
  • Les Amies (1867)
  • Fêtes galantes (1869)
  • La Bonne chanson (1870)
  • Romances sans paroles (1874)
  • Sagesse (1880)
  • Les Poètes maudits (1884)
  • Jadis et naguère (1884)
  • Amour (1888)
  • Parallèlement (1889)
  • Dédicaces (1890)
  • Femmes (1890)
  • Hombres (1891)
  • Bonheur (1891)
  • Mes hôpitaux (1891)
  • Chansons pour elle (1891)
  • Liturgies intimes (1892)
  • Mes prisons (1893)
  • Élégies (1893)
  • Odes en son honneur (1893)
  • Dans les limbes (1894)
  • Épigrammes (1894)
  • Confessions (1895)


The life of Verlaine and Rimbaud was the subject of the 1995 movie Total Eclipse, directed by Agnieszka Holland and with a screenplay by Christopher Hampton, based on his play. Verlaine was portrayed by David Thewlis.


  • Paul Verlaine, Correspondance générale : [Vol.] I, 1857-1885 (edited and annotated by Michael Packenham). Paris : Fayard, 2005. 16 x 24 cm. 1,122 pages. ISBN 2-213-61950-6

See also

  • symbolism
  • Stéphane Mallarmé
  • Paul Valéry
  • Joris-Karl Huysmans
  • Arthur Rimbaud
  • Jules Laforgue
  • Jean Moréas
  • Gustave Kahn
  • Albert Samain
  • Jean Lorrain
  • Rémy de Gourmont
  • Pierre Louÿs
  • Tristan Corbière
  • Henri de Régnier
  • Villiers de l'Isle-Adam
  • Stuart Merrill
  • René Ghil
  • Maurice Maeterlinck
  • Laurent Tailhade, a French poet and contemporary of Verlaine's

This article might use material from a Wikipedia article, which is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.

Sponsored Links

Romances Sans Paroles

By Paul Verlaine
Litterature , Commentaire

Romances Sans Paroles
Details Report
Share this Book!
message of the week Message of The Week

Bookyards Youtube channel is now active. The link to our Youtube page is here.

If you have a website or blog and you want to link to Bookyards. You can use/get our embed code at the following link.

Follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

Bookyards Facebook, Tumblr, Blog, and Twitter sites are now active. For updates, free ebooks, and for commentary on current news and events on all things books, please go to the following:

Bookyards at Facebook

Bookyards at Twitter

Bookyards at Pinterest

Bookyards atTumblr

Bookyards blog

message of the daySponsored Links