The most famous gun in French literature, the revolver with which poet Paul Verlaine tried to kill his lover Arthur Rimbaud, is going under the hammer, Christie’s said Wednesday.
Verlaine bought the 7mm six-shooter in Brussels on the morning of July 10, 1873, determined to put an end to his torrid two-year affair with his teenage lover.
The 29-year-old poet had abandoned his young wife and child to be with Rimbaud, who would later become the symbol of rebellious youth.
But after an opium and absinthe-soaked stay in London, which would inspire Rimbaud’s ‘A Season in Hell’, Verlaine wanted to go back to his wife.
He fled to the Belgian capital to get away from Rimbaud only for the younger man to follow him.
It was in a hotel room there at two in the afternoon where, after the lovers had rowed, cried and got drunk — according to Rimbaud — that the suicidal Verlaine raised the pistol.
“Here’s how I will teach you how to leave,” he shouted before firing twice at Rimbaud.
One bullet hit him in the wrist while the other bullet struck the wall and then ricocheted into the chimney.
But Rimbaud still wouldn’t take no for an answer. Having been bandaged up in hospital, he again begged the author of ‘Poemes saturniens’ not to leave him.
Verlaine — who was to be dogged by drink and drug addiction all his life — pulled out the revolver again and threatened him with it in the street.
He was arrested by a passing police officer and sentenced to two years in jail with hard labour, where — much to Rimbaud’s fury — he converted to Catholicism.
In prison, he wrote 32 poems that would later appear in some of his best-known collections, ‘Sagesse’, ‘Jadis et naguere’ and ‘Invectives’.
Rimbaud — who would inspire the 1960s counter-culture movement and rock rebels like Jim Morrison — moved back in with his domineering mother and finished ‘A Season in Hell’.
The gun was confiscated and finally fell into the hands of a private owner, Christie’s said. They estimate it could make up to 60,000 euros (about Rs 43.8 lakh) at an auction in Paris on November 30.