6 November (1837): Charles Baudelaire to Caroline AupickBelow, a sixteen-year-old Charles Baudelaire writes home to his mother, Caroline Aupick, about his falling ill at school and relocating to the sickbay. Throughout his life, Baudelaire would have an extremely charged and difficult relationship with his mother; he would tell her, in 1861, “We’re honestly destined to love one another, to end our lives as honestly and gently as possible…I’m convinced that one of us will kill the other.”
TO CAROLINE AUPICK
November 6, 1837
Dear Mother,This is just to let you know that everything has been perfect. I’ll tell you about it from the moment I left you, since I’ve nothing in particular to do at present. Scarcely had I got back with the vice-principal and was, as it happens, taking my hat off, that one of the secretaries began saying: “look, it’s that very impolite pupil, the one who treated you so badly.” So he said: “It appears, Mr. Vice-Principal, that you cured M Baudelaire’s cold very suddenly. Now you’re here he takes off his hat; he kept it on just now for the whole time I was the only one here.” The vice-principal looked at me, laughing, which shows clearly that he didn’t want to criticize me for that. I didn’t condescend to say anything in reply; sunk in my chair I sent him a look which said that he himself was very insolent in lodging such a complaint.
The vice-principal didn’t dare take matters into his own hands and install me definitely in sickbay; but later the Head confirmed everything. He spoke to me in a kindly way about my class, how I fitted into it; and then I went to undress and move into sickbay. When I went into our quarters, my friends seemed really taken aback to see me limping. Then I almost fell over in an unlit corridor. Afterwards I filled my pockets with all my toiletries and all the books I need in sickbay. Several of my classmates thought I was leaving the college for good when they saw me with all my books. Imagine the problems I had! Thirty odd books under my arms, an immense distance to cover, from my quarters to sickbay, stairs to go up and down, and all that, loaded down and limping. I really don’t know how I’d have managed if one of the Head’s servants, whom I met by chance, hadn’t carried my books for me. So this is what my life is like now: I get up when I please, during the day the only walking I do is to go to my class twice, and I’ll do all my work here. Although I’m using M. Choquet’s liniment, I’ll talk to the college surgeon about it. You left a handkerchief with me: if you come to get it, or indeed whenever you come, don’t come to the sickbay because you’d have to cross the courtyard and some pupils running through could—quite without wanting to—knock you over: you’d kill yourself. Please have me called to the parlor, don’t come to the sickbay. At the porter’s lodge insist on having someone bring me from sickbay, and tell him very clearly, otherwise he could send no one at all, or send someone to my old quarters. When you send for me on Sunday, don’t let Joseph forget to say, if he wants me to come, that I’ve got to be summoned from sickbay. Please remember all that. Farewell, I truly promise you and Father that I’ll work.