Gun that nearly killed poet Rim­baud fetches $460,000

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - WORLD - By AGENCE FRANCEPRESSE in Paris

The most fa­mous gun in French lit­er­ary his­tory, the re­volver with which Paul Ver­laine tried to kill his lover and fel­low poet Arthur Rim­baud, sold for $460,000 at auc­tion in Paris on Wed­nes­day.

The stag­ger­ing price for the 7 mm six-shooter — which al­most changed the course of world lit­er­a­ture — was more than seven times the es­ti­mate, auc­tion­eers Christie’s said.

Ver­laine bought the weapon in Brussels on July 10, 1873, deter­mined to put an end to his tor­rid two-year af­fair with his teenage lover.

The 29-year-old poet had aban­doned his young wife and child to be with Rim­baud, who would later be­come the sym­bol of re­bel­lious youth, idol­ized by 1960s singers like Jim Mor­ri­son.

But af­ter an opium- and ab­sinthe-soaked stay in Lon­don, which would in­spire Rim­baud’s A Sea­son in Hell, Ver­laine wanted to go back to his wife.

It was in a ho­tel room there at 2 pm where, af­ter the lovers had rowed, cried and got drunk — ac­cord­ing to Rim­baud — that the sui­ci­dal Ver­laine raised the pis­tol.

“Here’s how I will teach you how to leave!” he shouted be­fore fir­ing twice at Rim­baud.

One bul­let hit him in the wrist while the other struck the wall and then ric­o­cheted into the chim­ney.

But Rim­baud still wouldn’t take no for an an­swer. Hav­ing been ban­daged up in hos­pi­tal he again begged the au­thor of Poemes sat­urniens not to leave him.

Ver­laine — who was to be dogged by drink and drug ad­dic­tion all his life — pulled out the re­volver again and threat­ened him with it in the street.

He was ar­rested by a pass- ing po­lice­man and sen­tenced to two years in jail with hard la­bor where — much to Rim­baud’s fury — he em­braced Catholi­cism.

In prison, he wrote 32 po­ems that would later ap­pear in some of his best-known col­lec­tions, Sagesse, Jadis et na­guere and In­vec­tives.

Rim­baud moved back in with his dom­i­neer­ing mother and fin­ished A Sea­son in Hell.

His home­town CharlevilleMezieres in eastern France had set up a fund to buy the gun but was out­bid by an un­named tele­phone bid­der.


The re­volver is dis­played in Paris on Wed­nes­day.

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