"Charles Baudelaire was one of the greatest French poets of the 19th century. His work has been a major influence on Western poetry and modern poetry in general as, thematically, he was one of the first poets (along with Rimbaud) whose subject was often urban life and its dark side, with all of its evils and the degradation of its temptations. His poems, classical in form, introduced Symbolism, he is also known as a writer of the Decadent group.
Baudelaire was moody and rebellious, imbued with an intense religious mysticism, and his work reflects an unremitting inner despair. His main theme is the inseparable nature of beauty and corruption. His major work, Les Flers du Mal, translated as The Flowers of Evil (1857), originally condemned as obscene, is recognized as a masterpiece, especially remarkable for the brilliant phrasing, rhythm, and expressiveness of its lyrics.
Baudelaire published his first novel, the autobiographical La Fanfario, in 1847. From 1852 to 1865 he was occupied in translating Edgar Allan Poe's writings. When his Les Fleursdu Mal appeared in 1857 all involved - author, publisher, and printer - were prosecuted and found guilty of obscenity and blasphemy. The remaining years of Baudelaire's life were darkened by despair and financial difficulties. He returned to Paris in 1864 from extended stay in Brussels and stayed in a sanatorium. He died in Paris of aphasiac and hemiplagiac on August 31, 1867, in his mother's arms.
For further reading: Baudelaire the Critic by Margaret Gilman (1943); Baudelaire by Enid Starkie (1957); Baudelaire by Claude Pichois and Jean Ziegler (1989); Charles Baudelaire Revisited by Lois Boe Hyslop (1992); Baudelaire by Joanna Richardson (1994).