The gun Paul Verlaine used to shoot Arthur Rimbaud
O n 30 November, Christie’s Paris will feature the gun Paul Verlaine bought with the intention of killing his friend Arthur Rimbaud. This gun will be offered in The Exceptional Sale at €50,000-70,000.
Paul Verlaine had bought the gun on the morning of 10 July 1873 from a gunsmith in Brussels. In the afternoon, he attempted to murder Arthur Rimbaud but only managed to reach his wrist. Rimbaud then spent ten days in hospital, and Verlaine was sent to jail for two years.
The poets had known each other since 1871 and were inseparable. Verlaine was married to Mathilde Mauté, but hardly enjoyed daily life. Together, they decided to flee to London where in May and June 1873, Verlaine and Rimbaud argued violently. On 3 July, Verlaine left London to find refuge in Brussels, where Rimbaud soon joined him. They kept fighting and Rimbaud decided to return to Paris. However, before he could do so, Verlaine shot him twice, shouting “here’s for you, since you are leaving!”.
Rimbaud called for help and the police arrested everyone. The story of this ‘Brussels Affair’ is well documented as statements and depositions taken at the time are now kept at the Royal Library in Belgium. As for the gun, seized by the police, it was given back to its original gunsmith for a ballistic report. It is marked with serial n°14096, which matched Verlaine’s name in the gunsmith’s registry book, later handed to the police station when it closed in 1981.