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Jean Nicolas Arthur Rimbaud 1854- 1891

Rimbaud was born in Charleville, Ardennes, to an army captain who deserted his family when Arthur was only six years old. His mother brought up her children alone and insisted on strict moral principles intended to obviate repetition of the father's shortcomings. Rimbaud showed precocious talents in classics and literature stimulated by his teacher, Georges Izambard, and winning several prizes for his school work.

His studies were interrupted in 1870 by the Franco-Prussian war during which he twice absconded from school. After the abdication of Napoleon III, he lived a homeless existence in Paris for two weeks. He was later invited by Paul Verlaine, to whom he had sent some poems, including Le Batteau Ivre, to share his home. Rimbaud's personality was unsocial, however, because he deliberately sought to debase his personality in order to gain the insight for his poetry that he maintained could be achieved only by transgressing the limits of accepted relations. His stay with the Verlaine family was therefore of short duration.

Nonetheless, Verlaine left his recently celebrated marriage for Rimbaud with whom he formed a relationship and they lived together for 18 months moving from France to Belgium and, briefly, to England where they lived in penury in a union that became increasingly strained. Verlaine left Rimbaud but subsequently pleaded for him to come to Brussels. Their association ended when Verlaine, in a quarrel, shot Rimbaud in the wrist for which Verlaine was briefly imprisoned. Rimbaud returned to Charleville and wrote Une Saison en Enfer but was unable to pay the Brussels printer with the consequence that it remained unpublished until 1901.

In 1875, he ceased writing poetry in order to take various jobs of short duration in order to eke out a living. His career became a turmoil of enlistment in the Dutch army and subsequent desertion, stone quarry supervisor in Cyprus and, from 1881, a business manager in Aden subsequently becoming a coffee merchant and arms supplier in Ethiopia. He fatally delayed his return to France for medical treatment where, in 1891, he underwent amputation of a leg in an attempt to limit the onset of cancer but died after further encroachment only 6 months later.

Despite his short period of poetic creativity, which was confined to his late teens, Rimbaud is credited with being a major influence on his contemporaries and later poets in their adoption of his themes and form.