Books: Prince of Poets

VERLAINE: FOOL OF GOD (394 pp.)—Lawrence and Elisabefh Hanson—Random House ($5).

Poet Paul Verlaine was the youngest of four children—the three others, stillborn, were kept pickled in bottles by their doting mother. This might have dispirited Paul; instead, he grew to manhood with a sunny nature and an easy-breezy charm. Far from being rebellious, he always obeyed instantly—particularly when ordered by his instincts. At about 16 he discovered brothels, and thought them so sensible and wonderful that he never wearied of visiting them. Soon afterwards he discovered alcohol, took to it with the same enthusiasm. By the time he settled into his...

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