Poetic injustice if Rimbaud and Verlaine house is lost

Thursday, 12th November 2020

Rimbaud and Verlaine House

Rimbaud and Verlaine house in Royal College Street, Camden Town

THE decadent lives of Rimbaud and Verlaine inspired the lyrics of Bob Dylan, and countless other “rock stars” and writers have referenced them.

Their explosive, often violent relationship, was characterised by a duelling game they invented where they would try to stab each other in knives wrapped in towels.

Verlaine ended up actually shooting Rimbaud, and was sentenced to two years in prison. Their poetry continues to capture the imagination of “romantics” around the world.

There is something beautifully Camden about this particularly scandalous chapter of local history, which took place in the small house in Royal College Street and often spilled out into the streets.

Historic England acknowledged their relationship’s importance when re-listing the property in 2017, in order to mark the half-century since the decriminalisation of homosexuality in Britain.

But now the future of their former home hangs in the balance and it is difficult to see, even with the council’s help in offering planning protection through an Asset of Community Value, how the Foundation’s plans to convert it into a Poetry House will be saved.

The building should be kept for the public, but it will take an altruist with deep pockets. Its potential loss raises the question of whether Camden should have a permanent museum?

Should there not be a place where its vibrant characters and eclectic history, as represented by these two poets, is maintained for posterity?

It could be a venue for artistic performance and political thought. Done with imagination, what an exciting project it could be. Any takers?

Sordid spying

BY coincidence, a public inquiry into the scandal of the cops ordered to spy on political activists is taking place as a new proposed law on police powers to commit certain “criminal” offences is going through parliament.

It’s hard to imagine the state of mind of senior police officers masterminding the operation not so long ago of tricking women political activists into having relationships and children – simply to gain information about their groups.

Not only are the stories tragic but the clandestine operations led to the break-up of the marriages of many of the officers themselves. Their ex-wives are now going public with their tales of deception.

And while this sordid operation is exposed, layer by layer at the inquiry, a new sinister Covert Human Intelligence Sources (Criminal Conduct) Bill is being promoted by the government.

Where is the opposition? Caroline Lucas MP is almost a lone voice – Labour has been whipped to abstain. Sir Keir Starmer, think again. The inquiry underlines what happen when you give police odious powers.

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