Suicide letter by Baudelaire sells at auction for $266,000

Letter by Charles Baudelaire
(Jacques Demarthon / AFP/Getty Images)

A suicide letter from the French poet Charles Baudelaire to his lover sold at auction for $266,000, more than three times its estimated sales price, the Guardian reports.

The letter was written in 1845 by Baudelaire to Jeanne Duval, the Haitian actress who was Baudelaire’s lover and muse for two decades.

Baudelaire wrote, “By the time you receive this letter, I will be dead.”

The long letter detailed his financial woes and deep despair. “I am killing myself because I can no longer live, because the exhaustion of going to sleep and the exhaustion of waking up are unbearable to me,” Baudelaire wrote. “I am killing myself because I believe myself to be immortal, and I hope for it.”


After sending the letter, the 24-year-old cut himself with a knife in a suicide attempt. He survived and went on to publish his still-significant poetry collection “The Flowers of Evil” in 1857.

The letter was sold by Osenat, a French auction house, which described the letter as being “without a doubt the most extraordinary missive of Baudelaire in private hands.” Osenat said that at the time Baudelaire wrote the letter, he was “unloved by his stepfather ... humiliated by his financial guardianship (since September 1844) and nevertheless crippled with debt” and in “doubt about his literary genius.”

Baudelaire, usually associated with the Decadent literary movement, was one of the most influential poets of the 19th century. He died at age 46, presumably from syphilis.