Time Essay: The Fascination of Decadence

I like the word decadent. All shimmering with purple and gold. It throws out the brilliance of flames and the gleam of precious stones. It is made up of carnal spirit and unhappy flesh and of all the violent splendors of the Lower Empire: it conjures up the paint of courtesans, the sports of the circus, the breath of the tamers of animals, the bounding of wild beasts, the collapse among the flames of races exhausted by the power of feeling, to the invading sound of enemy trumpets. —Paul Verlaine, circa 1886

It was partly the spectacle of...

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