|Absinthe Ephemera V - Verlaine by Dornac
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The portraits that the celebrated Parisian photographer Paul Marsan Dornac collected and published as Les books and
tools of their trade. Uniquely, this 1896 photo of the great poet and habitual absintheur Paul Verlaine shows this
melancholic figure in the last year of his life with his ever-present glass of absinthe seated in a café. The location is
believed to be the Café François Ier, although it may also show the Café Procope, which to this day has similar leather
banquettes against the walls.
Although the original photograph was taken in 1896, this
albumen print (12,2 x 17 cm), flush-mounted to the original
studio board with the photographer's name and address
Aside from his hat and cane, Verlaine has a water carafe, a
large glass of absinthe, an ink-well, a blotter and paper, and
a pyrogene on the marble tabletop in front of him.
Absinthiana collectors often refer to this type of large verre
Click on the images to enlarge.
had sworn off absinthe, and for several years after his release drank only beer and worked steadily at his poetry. But
by the 1890's he was drinking heavily again, and had become a well-known and pathetic figure in the Latin Quarter,
sitting in a corner at the Cafe Francois Ier on the Boulevard Saint-Michel or at La Procope, nursing absinthe after
absinthe. The terrible tole the drink took on him is clearly visible in this photograph.
Verlaine's last years were spent in and out of hospitals and institutions, were he was treated for amongst other things
cirrhosis of the liver, pneumonia, rheumatism, gonorrhea and syphilis. During his last illness the hospital nurses would
small pleasures to make any difference. Verlaine died in 1896 a few months after he sat for this portrait, drinking to the
end, although he had bitterly repented of his absinthe addiction in his Confessions, published the previous year:
"...later on I shall have to relate many [...] absurdities which I owe to my abuse of this horrible drink: this drink, this
abuse itself, the source of folly and crime, of idiocy and shame, which governments should tax heavily if they do not
suppress it altogether: Absinthe!"