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The modern literary spirit was born out of the measured angles so carefully calculated by Laclos. He was the first element discovered by Baudelaire, who was a refined and reasonable explorer from a privileged background, but whose views on modern life contained a particular madness.
Laclos delighted in inspiring the corrupt bubbles that rose from the strange and rich literary mud of the Revolution. Like Diderot, Laclos was the intellectual son of Richardson and Rousseau, and his work was continued by Sade, Restif, Nerciat - some of the most notable philosophical storytellers of the late 18th century. Most of them, in fact, contained the seeds of the modern spirit, and they were poised to create a triumphant new era for arts and letters.
During this nauseating and often brilliant era of Revolution, Baudelaire mingled his spiritualistic poison with the writings of Edgar Allan Poe, a strange American, who had composed, in the poetic field, work which was as disturbing and as marvellous as the work of Laclos.
Baudelaire then is the son of Laclos and Poe. One can easily untangle the influence that each exerted on Baudelaire's prophetic mind and on his work, both so full of originality. As of this year, 1917, when his work enters the public domain, we can not only place him in the front rank of the great French poets, but also award him a place alongside the greatest of universal poets.
The evidence for the influence of the cynical writers of the Revolution on Les Fleurs du Mal can be seen everywhere in Baudelaire's correspondence and in his notes. When he decided to translate and adapt Poe's works, strangely, he found a higher lyricism and moral feeling than he had thought was present in the writings of the marvellous Baltimore drunkard and his prohibited readings.
In the novelists of the Revolution, he had discovered the importance of the question of sex.
From the Anglo-Saxons of the same era, such as de Quincey and Poe, Baudelaire had learned that there were artificial paradises. Their methodical exploration - supported by Reason, the revolutionary goddess - enabled him to reach the lyrical heights towards which the mad American predicants had directed Poe, their contemporary. But Reason blinded him, and he abandoned it as soon as he had reached the heights.
Baudelaire then is the son of Laclos and Edgar Allan Poe, but a son who is blind and insane...