Cover image for Baudelaire in chains : portrait of the artist as a drug addict
Baudelaire in chains : portrait of the artist as a drug addict
Hilton, Frank, 1929-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
London ; Chester Springs : Peter Owen, 2004.
Physical Description:
269 pages, 16 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations, facsimiles, portraits ; 23 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PQ2191.Z5 H558 2004 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



An acclaimed and most unusual biography of Baudelaire, showing him ensnared by his passions for poetry, prostitutes, and drugs. A crucial link between romanticism and modernism, Charles Baudelaire is a pivotal figure in European literature and thought. His influence on modern poetry is immense. In the English language, where his literary reputation is less well known, it is his link with drug culture that gives him contemporary resonance. It is commonly known that Baudelaire used opium. Many writers have described him as being addicted to the drug, but none of his biographers, Frank Hilton argues, has fully understood the effect of opiate addiction on the personality and, in the case of Baudelaire, the extent to which it damaged his life and work. In this original contribution to Baudelaire studies Hilton contends that the drug is at the root of all Baudelaire's problems and in particular--something that constantly tormented him--his chronic inability to apply himself to any prolonged creative work. Unquestionably, there is significantly more to Baudelaire than his opium addiction. But a proper awareness of what it did to the poet helps to illuminate those puzzling aspects of his life and behavior that were not previously understood. Written with the general reader in mind, Baudelaire in Chains will give those who know little or nothing about him a comprehensive picture of his life. To those who know a great deal it will present him in an unexpected light.

Author Notes

Frank Hilton has for many years been a visiting lecturer in European Literature at Central St Martins College of Art and Design, London, as well as working for television. He has written drama series and serials, translated French and German documentary and feature films and worked on a variety of political and military documentaries as a writer and researcher

Reviews 2

Library Journal Review

This book is different from most Baudelaire biographies because it focuses on how the poet's drug addiction affected his relationships and his work. An accomplished dramatist, Hilton (The Paras) argues that none of Baudelaire's biographers, including Jean-Paul Sartre, has fully understood the effect of drugs on the poet's personality, life, and work. Hilton further suggests that most biographers take Baudelaire's words at face value and give a jaundiced view of his situation, blaming his mother, family, and close associates for his poverty and misfortunes and letting him completely off the hook. Hilton throws a different light on Baudelaire's life when he argues that his opium consumption made him practice a variety of deceptions-with his friends, family, and colleagues and, most important, with himself. This chronic self-deception prevented him from undertaking any prolonged creative work. Far from ennobling the poet, Hilton's book analyzes the root of his problems, outlines the damage, and reveals the puzzling areas of his life. Written in jargon-free language, this book is fine for those who enjoy writers' biographies but begs the question whether it matters how Baudelaire behaved; what really matters is the quality of his poetry. Recommended for public libraries.-Aparna Zambare, Central Michigan Univ. Libs., Mount Pleasant (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

Although Baudelaire's opium habit--he took both laudanum, the medical form of opium, and recreational opium--is well known, Hilton contributes little to understanding his life and nothing to understanding his literary production. The slippery connection between life and work is especially tenuous with so few concrete details of Baudelaire's medically recognized or diagnosed opium habit. Though the book is entertaining, much of it remains conjecture, and explaining away biographic episodes with overgeneralized phrases such as "a characteristic drug abuser's cover-up" shows nothing beyond the author's opinion--however informed it may be--of the matter. In short, though Hilton's book might appeal to newcomers to Baudelaire, it will not reward those interested in "the impact opiate addiction can have on the personality or the extent of the damage it did to Baudelaire's life and work." ^BSumming Up: Optional. Extensive collections serving undergraduates and general readers. S. Whidden Villanova University

Table of Contents

Prefacep. 7
List of Illustrationsp. 10
1. The Problemp. 13
2. False Trailsp. 19
3. Hashishp. 25
4. Opiump. 43
5. Growing Upp. 51
6. On the Townp. 65
7. Running Wildp. 75
8. Tantrumsp. 85
9. Addictionp. 93
10. Tough Lovep. 107
11. Writer's Blockp. 119
12. Getting Drunkp. 133
13. Hangovers and Ennuip. 137
14. In Remissionp. 149
15. Trippingp. 159
16. Withdrawalp. 165
17. Taking the Curep. 173
18. Going Straightp. 179
19. Hello, Old Friendp. 187
20. A Jealous Mistressp. 199
21. Last Callsp. 211
Notesp. 221
Bibliographyp. 255
Indexp. 261