Six months to save home of French poets Rimbaud and Verlaine
Owner Michael Corby thinks the eccentric pair were 'utter rotters'
08 January, 2021 — By Tom Foot
The property in Royal College Street
THE former home of two 19th century French poets has been taken off the market as a campaign was launched to save it.
The New Journal revealed in November that Arthur Rimbaud and Paul Verlaine’s house at 8 Royal College Street had been put up for sale for £1.75million.The move by owner Michael Corby shocked a charitable foundation that was due to inherit the three-storey Grade-II listed building and maintain it as a public arts venue.
But a group including former councillor Gerry Harrison and historians Joyce Glasser and Diana Foster have negotiated a six-month stay of execution.
As part of their campaign to see it saved from a private sale, they have written to Bob Dylan, who has written lyrics inspired by the pair’s poetry, and say they have also had “encouraging” talks with the French Ambassador with a view to saving the house for public use.
Mr Harrison said: “We are all so relieved that he [the owner] withdrew from the sale. We were running around like headless chickens before Christmas when we heard the news. We’re now really looking for more supporters to set up a proper Camden campaign group to save the building.”
Rimbaud and Verlaine had an intense and violent relationship while living in Royal College Street, Camden Town, in 1873.
The poets have celebrity status in France and have been referred to as “the French Oscar Wildes”. Graham Henderson, from the Rimbaud and Verlaine Foundation, described them as being “like Wordsworth, Keats and Shelley all rolled into one”.
Mr Corby bought the house in 2007 and at that time said he would restore the building and make it a base to promote the poets’ work. But following a personal dispute with the Rimbaud and Verlaine Foundation, he has now decided not to bequeath the house to the charity.
He told the New Journal yesterday (Wednesday) the five-bedroom house was no longer appropriate for him because he was in a wheelchair, adding that “Mr Harrison has set himself a big task”.
He said if the house was sold he would buy a smaller flat leaving a “surplus” to fund wider charitable work, adding that he now considered the two French poets to be “utter rotters”.
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