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A striking example of fictionized biography which will reward literary readers with sufficient stamina to stay by through White's torrent of verbiage. The personality of his central figure, Baudelaire, the man and his work, and the picture of the world in which he lived eventually emerge. In precise and supersensory perception, White clinically dissects a personality in relation to his historical, social and political background, coordinates the psychological with the poetical, and focusses attention on the mainsprings of a major, perfectionist poet, from the time he was twenty one, to the eve of his departure for Belgium. Here with the dreams of youth in conflict with the realities he had to face, with the malady of exoticism and a drive to solitude, with mounting resentment against his mother who had remarried, with loyalty to the colored woman who was his mistress -- are the constants of a self-confident genius, debt, and a love for the mother he had rejected. Here too are his extravagances,-money, opium, words; here the proud isolation, the frustrated love for other women, the exhausting results of the publishing of his poetry, stigmatized by indecency. In the sensual, sensuous and sensitive processes of a poet, this delicate refinement does not lose the human terms, the sad drama of an artistic life. White in his earlier books, wrote of painters; he has used the same techniques for this study of a poet.

Pub Date: Aug. 4th, 1948
Publisher: Harper