The revolver, owned by Paul Verlaine, was used to try to kill his lover, the poet Arthur Rimbaud. It was offered at Christie’s ‘Exceptional Sale’ yesterday, carrying an estimate of €50,000-70,000.
Verlaine had bought the 7mm six-shooter on the morning of 10 July 1873 from a gunsmith in Brussels. That afternoon he attempted to murder the 18-year-old Rimbaud to end their two-year affair.
The 29-year-old writer and poet had abandoned his young wife and child to be with Rimbaud but their relationship had become increasingly turbulent.
The pair had been in London and had embarked on an opium and absinthe-fuelled period that would inspire Rimbaud’s Une Saison en Enfer (A Season in Hell). When Verlaine fled to Belgium, Rimbaud followed him and, during an impassioned argument, Verlaine then shot at Rimbaud twice, shouting “here’s for you, since you are leaving!”.
One bullet hit his wrist, the other hit the wall.
Verlaine was later arrested and sentenced to two years in jail. In prison, he wrote 32 poems that would later appear in some of his best-known collections: Sagesse, Jadis et Naguère and Invectives.
The gun was seized by the police and given back to the original gunsmith for a ballistic report. It is marked with serial no.14096, which matched Verlaine’s name in the gunsmith’s registry book.
The gunsmith’s business closed in 1981 and the gun was being sold by a private owner.