Two editions of Fleurs du mal were published in Baudelaire's lifetime — one in 1857 and an expanded edition in 1861. "Scraps" and censored poems were collected in Les Épaves in 1866. After Baudelaire died the following year, a "definitive" edition appeared in 1868.
Fleurs du mal / Flowers of Evil
MP3 Recordings of Baudelaire's Poems
Baudelaire enjoyed reciting poetry. As a youth he was known for declaiming classic French poets and for enthusing over the Romantics. And for many years Baudelaire's own verse was known better for his declamations in cafés than for anything he published, since in fact he published very little poetry until the appearance of Fleurs du mal in 1857.
Many of Baudelaire's friends and contemporaries left descriptions of his reading style.
Ernest Prarod: "J'ai encore dans l'oreille l'accent bas et profond, pénétré, qu'il donnait aux vers de Boileau..." I can still hear the low, deep, penetrating accent he gave to poetry by Boileau...
Jules Buisson: "Il nous les récitait quelquefois inachevées, tantôt chez nous, aux heures avancées de la nuit, avec un grand charme de voix et de diction, tantôt en plein air, en marchant..." He recited his sometimes unfinished poems to us in our homes, late at night, with great charm of voice and diction, or while we were out walking...
Louis Ulbach: "Il commença d'une voix grave, au timbre légèrement vibrant, avec un air ascétique, et il nous récita le poëme..." He began in a serious voice, with a slightly quivering tone, and recited the poem to us...
Jules Levallois: "Il nous récitait d'une voix précieuse, douce, flûtée, onctueuse, et cependant mordante, une énormité quelquonque, le Vin de l'assassin ou la Charogne. Le contraste était réellement saisissant entre la violence des images et la placidité affectée, l'accentuation suave et pointue au débit." It was in a calculated, gentle, musical, sophisticated and yet caustic voice that he recited some masterpiece, the Murderer's Wine or the Carcass. The contrast between his violent images and his affected nonchalance, his suave accentuation, his sharp delivery, was really striking.
Since Baudelaire died in 1867, naturally no one was ever able to record his voice. However, many poets and performers have since given their unique interpretations of his verse, and below you'll find a few samples (all in French) to give you some idea of what Baudelaire's verse can sound like.
Les Fleurs du mal recorded by Eva Le Gallienne & Louis Jourdan (Caedmon Records)
Treize Poèmes et un Conte recorded by Pierre Viala
Miscellaneous Recordings of Les Fleurs du mal