Paris in colour before the First World War

Baudelaire wrote of the strolling poet  in the Paris crowd:-

The poet enjoys the incomparable privilege of being able to be himself of someone else, as he chooses. Like those wandering souls who go looking for a body, he enters as he likes into each man’s personality. For him alone everything is vacant; and if certain places seem closed to him, it is only because in his eyes they are not worth visiting.

The solitary and thoughtful stroller finds a singular intoxication in this universal communion. The man who loves to lose himself in a crowd enjoys feverish delights that the egoist locked up in himself as in a box, and the slothful man like a mollusk in his shell, will be eternally deprived of. He adopts as his own all the occupations, all the joys and all the sorrows that chance offers.

The Paris, a few years after Baudelaire’s passing is shown in these remarkable pictures taken between 1900 and 1917. Baudelaire died in 1867 but his remarks are interesting and pertinent to some of the following photographs, which were shot in direct colour using the Autochrome process developed by the famous Lumière brothers in 1903.

In the original French from Spleen (1869)

Le poète jouit de cet incomparable privilège, qu’il peut à sa guise être lui-même et autrui. Comme ces âmes errantes qui cherchent un corps, il entre, quand il veut, dans le personnage de chacun. Pour lui seul, tout est vacant ; et si de certaines places paraissent lui êtres fermées, c’est qu’à ses yeux elles ne valent pas la peine d’être visitées.

Le promeneur solitaire et pensif tire une singulière ivresse de cette universelle communion. Celui-là qui épouse facilement la foule connaît des jouissances fiévreuses, dont seront éternellement privés l’égoïste, fermé comme un coffre, et le paresseux, interné comme un mollusque. Il adopte comme siennes toutes les professions, toutes les joies et toutes les misères que la circonstance lui présente.

 

Author: penwithlit

Freelance writer and radio presenter

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