Rimbaud-Verlaine lovenest up for sale

The house at 8 Royal College Street was where French poets Arthur Rimbaud and Paul Verlaine had a scandalous homosexual liaison.
The house at 8 Royal College Street was where French poets Arthur Rimbaud and Paul Verlaine had a scandalous homosexual liaison.PHOTO: RIMBAUDVERLAINE.ORG

LONDON (AFP) - The London home where French poets Arthur Rimbaud and Paul Verlaine had a tempestuous affair has gone on sale, threatening plans for it to house an arts centre.

The 19th-century poets had a scandalous homosexual liaison, living for a few months at the house in Camden in north London, which is their only surviving address in the city.

It was here that the poets broke up after Verlaine slapped Rimbaud in the face with a fish. Their story has been turned into Total Eclipse, a 1995 film starring Leonardo DiCaprio.

The house has gone on the market for £1.75 million (S$3.1 million) after the current owner, Mr Michael Corby, had previously backed plans to turn it into a "Poetry House" open to visitors and holding cultural events.

Mr Corby could not immediately be contacted for comment.

Mr Graham Henderson, chief executive of the Rimbaud and Verlaine Foundation, said last Saturday that Mr Corby had not informed him before putting the house on the market.

The British foundation already holds arts events and hopes to turn the house into a large centre open to visitors with facilities such as a cafe and bookshop.

"We think it's a great shame. We very much hope Mr Corby will change his mind about selling the property," Mr Henderson said.

He added that the situation was "fast-moving" and he was seeking a solution.

The foundation's website says it is due to receive the house as a "legacy gift" and plans to turn it into a "living centre for the appreciation and promotion of poetry and the arts".

The house was put on the market last month, according to the RightMove property app. The listing makes no mention of its connection to the poets.

The house at 8 Royal College Street came under threat of destruction early this century when a property developer planned to turn it into smaller houses. Celebrities including rock musician Patti Smith and writer Julian Barnes campaigned to save it.

Mr Corby bought the Georgian house in 2007. He told the Camden New Journal at the time: "My first objective is to get the place restored and then use this as a base to promote their works."

A group of French artists, intellectuals and politicians in September appealed to President Emmanuel Macron to move Rimbaud and Verlaine's remains to the Pantheon, a memorial to literary luminaries such as Voltaire, Rousseau and Dumas.