Faith and despair, depravity and genius marked the life of Paul Verlaine, who in the latter half of the nineteenth century was heralded as a mystical poet of genius, a degenerate, possessed by insidious passions. His love for the bourgeoise Mathilde, his child bride, sharply conflicted with his passion for the renegade poet Rimbaud. His dipsomania, a tendency apparently inherited from his forebears, rendered him totally incapable of dealing with the conflicts which tormented him, finally driving him away from the woman he loved, into a self destructive alliance with Rimbaud, and finally into prison. Adored by his mother, Verlaine's obsession to attain forgiveness drove him toward the Church, and, physically unable to adhere to the religious vows he perpetually took, he fell deeper and deeper into the vortex of guilt. Physically a coward, he jeopardized his pregnant wife's life rather than expose himself to enemy bullets, and yet, in the face of the appalling circumstances in which he lived, he had the courage of a poet and throughout his life did not compromise his artistic vision. Less popular in tone than Lawrence and Elizabeth Hanson's Verlaine, Fool of God, this biography, translated from the Dutch by Elfriede Zayen, reads like a grim anatomy of paradox, emphasizing neither the poems nor the times, but rather the insistent pattern of repeated folly that was Paul Verlaine's agony.