London's Departure
London, the Houses of Parliament by Claude Monet.
Verlaine's letter to Rimbaud (3rd July 1873)

At sea,

My friend,

spaceI don't know if you will be still in London when this letter arrives to you. Yet I want you to know that you must, basically, understand, finally, that I absolutely had to go, that this violent life with all these scenes without any reason than your whim couldn't the hell suit me anymore!

spaceBut, as I loved you immensely (Evil be to him who evil thinks) I want to confirm to you too that, if in three days, I'm not r' with my wife, in perfect conditions, I will blow my face out. 3 days in hotel, a rivolvita, that costs: the reason for my "stinginess" of this afternoon. You should forgive me. - If, as it is too probable, I must do that last damned stupid thing, I at least will do it as a good idiot. - My last thought, my friend, will be for you, you who called me all the worse this afternoon, and that I didn't want to join because I had to pop off, - FINALLY!
spaceDo you want that I kiss you while I'm dying?

Your poor
P. Verlaine.

spaceAnyway, we will not see each other anymore. If my wife comes, you will receive my address, and I hope you will write to me. While waiting, for three days, no more, no less, Brussels poste restante, - with my name. Give back to Barrere his three books.

Lettre de Verlaine

 
Rimbaud's letter to Verlaine (4th July 1873)

London, Friday afternoon.

spaceCome back, come back, dear friend, only friend, come back. I swear I shall be kind. If I was sullen with you, it was a joke which I persisted to carry on;I repent of it more than can be said. Come back, it will be quite forgotten. What a pity that you should have believed to that joke. For two days I have not stopped crying. Come back. Be brave, dear friend. Nothing is lost. You just have to do the journey again. We will live here again, very bravely, patiently. Oh! I implore you! It's for your good, besides. Come back, you will find all your things there. I hope you realise now that there was nothing real in our argument, that awful moment! But you, when I made a sign to you to get off the boat, why didn't you come. We have lived together for two years to come to that hour! What are you going to do! If you don't want to come back here, would you like me to join you where you are?
Yes, It's me who was wrong.
Oh, you will not forget me, will you?
No you can't forget me.
Me, I always have you there.
spaceTell me, answer your friend, must we not live together anymore? Be brave. Answer me quickly. I can't stay here much longer. Just listen to your good heart. Quick, tell me if I must come to you.
Yours for the whole life.

Rimbaud

spaceAnswer, quickly, I can't stay here later than Monday evening. I do not have a penny yet, I can't post this. I have given Vermersch your books and manuscripts to look after.
If I must not see you again, I am going to enlist in the navy or the army.
spaceO come back, every hours I'm crying again. Tell me to meet you, I will come, tell it to me, send me a telegram. I must leave on Monday evening, where are you going? what do you want to do?

(Rimbaud had not posted his letter yet that he received Verlaine's one on Saturday morning. He took his letter again and went on to write it)

spaceDear friend, I have your letter which is headed. "At sea". You are wrong, this time, very wrong. First, there is nothing positive in your letter;your wife will not come, or she will come in three months, three years, who knows. As for kicking the bucket, I know you. So you are going, while waiting for your wife and for death, to struggle, to wander about, and to bore people. What, you, didn't you realise yet that our anger was false on both sides! But it is you that would be in the wrong finally, because, even after I called you back, you persisted in your false feelings. Do you think that your life will be more pleasant with other people than it was with me: Think about it! - Oh! surely not! -
spaceIt is only with me that you can be free, and, seeing that I swear to be very nice in the future, that I deplore all my part in the wrong, that finally my mind is clear, that I like you very much, if you don't want to come back, or me to join you, you are committing a crime, and you will repent of it for long years by losing all your freedom, and by more terrible troubles perhaps than you have undergone until now. After that, think of what you were before you knew me.
spaceFor myself, I'm not going back to my mother's: I am going to Paris, I shall try to be gone by Monday evening. You will have compelled me to sell all your clothes, I can't do anything else. They aren't sold yet: they are not coming to get them from me until Monday evening. If you want to write me in Paris, send letters to L. Forain, 289 rue Saint-Jacques, for A. Rimbaud. He will know my address.
spaceOne thing is certain: if your wife comes back, I shall never compromise you by writing to you - I shall never write.
spaceOne single true word, is: come back, I want to be with you, I love you, if you listen to this, you will show courage and a sincere spirit.
Otherwise, I pity you.
But I love you, I kiss you and we'll see each other again.

Rimbaud

8 Great Colle, etc...
Until Monday evening - or Tuesday midday, if you send me word.

I love you

 
Rimbaud's letter to Verlaine (London, 7th July 1873)

Monday midday.

My dear friend,

spaceI saw the letter you sent to Mrs Smith. Unfortunately, it is too late. You want to come back to London! You don't know how everybody will welcome you! And the faces that Andrieux and others would have if they see me with you again. Nevertheless, I shall be very courageous. Tell me your very sincere idea: do you want to come back to London for me? and which day? Is this my letter who advises you. But nothing remains in the room. - All is sold, except a cardigan. I received two pounds ten. But the linen is still at the laundry and I kept a lot of things for me: five waistcoats, all the shirts, pants, collars, gloves, and all the shoes. All your books and manuss are in a safe place...In fact, only your trousers are sold, black and grey, a cardigan and a waistcoat, the bag and the hatbox. But why don't you write to me.
spaceYes, dear little one, I shall stay one more week. And you will come, won't you? tell me the truth. You would have given a sign of courage. I hope that is true. Be sure of me, I shall have a very good nature.
Yours. I'm waiting for you.

Rimb.

Lettres de Rimbaud

 

- Rimbaud's letters written in London are kept in the Royal Library Albert I in Brussels. They are extracted from the book n° 4: RIMBAUD les lettres manuscrites, commentaires, transcriptions et cheminements des manuscrits by Claude Jeancolas.
- Verlaine's letters are extracted from "Verlaine Fêtes galantes et autres poèmes - Ecrits sur Rimbaud".
- Illustration comes from "Passion Rimbaud, Album d'une vie" by Claude Jeancolas.
- Translation by Catherine, with the help of Angie and Dany. All Right Reserved.



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