French poet's suicide note garners $267,000 at auction

By AFP
Published: November 6, 2018
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PHOTO: BBC

PHOTO: BBC

PARIS: Auction houses witness various items being sold off day in, day out. While the norm is to sell the likes of famous paintings or antique collections, there have been some rather odd pieces put up for bidding in the past. From Britney Spears used chewing gum to Brangelina’s breath, we thought we’d seen it all.

Until, in recent news, a suicide letter written by 19th century French poet Charles Baudelaire went up for auction. The handwritten note is an announcement of his suicide attempt and it fetched about $267,000 at auction, three times more than was anticipated.

PHOTO: AFP

PHOTO: AFP

Best known for his poem collection The Flowers of Evil, Baudelaire was 24 when he wrote the letter to inform his mistress Jeanne Duval about his suicide intention. “When you receive this letter I will be dead… I am killing myself because I cannot carry on living, I can no longer endure the ordeal of falling asleep or waking up again,” the letter read.

It continued, “I am killing myself because I believe myself to be immortal, and I hope for it,” Baudelaire wrote. The poet was in debt and had not yet established his fame when the letter was written in 1845. Baudelaire stabbed himself in the chest on that day, but suffered no serious injuries. The poet went on to live for another 22 years, during which his most famous poems were published. He died at the age of 46 in 1867.

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The French auction house Osenat said this item is “without doubt the most extraordinary letter from Baudelaire in private hands.” Osenat had estimated that the letter would sell for between $68,000 and $91,000, but it was acquired by a private buyer for about three times the price.

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