Image Consultant for Rimbaud
The poet Rimbaud could have made more progress in life if he had used an image consultant. As it is, he was a poet who gained recognition for his symbolist work. But he was in dire need of help and never found it.
Rimbaud was known for his wild appearance. He rarely shaved. His hair was tousled and unkempt. His eyes were blazing with a feral light. Those who knew him as teachers remarked that he was witty and intelligent, but that he struck them as headed for a collapse of some sort. In short, he was in need of help.
William Cane has written extensively about Rimbaud and has suggested that the young man was unkempt in appearance because he had no solid foundation in his family to support him and provide him with role models for a young man. This is because his father abandoned the family when Rimbaud was six, and Rimbaud’s uncles were dissolute libertines who overindulged in alcohol at every opportunity.
During his youth Rimbaud ran away from home on many occasions. This did not help him. He got wilder and more disheveled in his appearance.
Freud was of the belief that a man’s unconscious is the most important motivation. This notion was rejected by Harry Stack Sullivan, who suggested that interpersonal relationships were the most important factor in motivation for men and women who had reached a normal stage of adulthood. He used the phrase significant other to describe the important relationship in adult life. Sullivan had a significant other, a young boy, one of his students, a youth of fifteen. He lived with him for most of his life, hiding it from public scrutiny by adopting the boy and pretending he was his son. It was Sullivan’s belief that boys experienced significant homosexual attraction to their friends and that this normal latency period had to be experienced to lead to a normal adulthood with a relationship with a significant other of the opposite sex. Sullivan was of the opinion that boys who failed to go through this latency would turn out like he did, that is, homosexual and unable to relate to a significant other of the opposite sex.
Rimbaud had no proper latency in his life. He never went beyond the latency period. That is to say, he never developed normal adult relationships with significant others of the opposite sex. The question raised by his life is whether psychoanalysis could have helped him. The answer, we suggest, is no. Even if Harry Stack Sullivan had been alive at the time that Rimbaud needed his help, no amount of talking or rationalizing with the boy could have helped him.
Rimbaud knew he had problems. But this knowledge did not help him. A poet needs more than self-insight and knowledge of his condition. Most poets are more intuitive and aware of their inner states than the average man. Yet it never helped Rimbaud. True, he did stop writing poetry and tried to get on with his life in his thirties. But he did not succeed. He was dead by 37.
The Death of Rimbaud
The death of Rimbaud was prefigured by his early relationships. His father abandoned him. Then when he ran away from home he met the French poet Paul Verlaine. Those who knew them said Verlaine fell instantly in love with Rimbaud. He then initiated a relationship with Rimbaud despite the fact that he (Verlaine) was involved with a beautiful seventeen-year-old girl; in fact, married to her. The relationship between Rimbaud and Verlaine was what Harry Stack Sullivan calls a latency period relationship. That is to say, it was a homosexual relationship. Indeed, the two poets had a relationship that for all intents and purposes could be called homosexual. They lived together as man and wife, physically as well as mentally. The actual girl to whom Verlaine was married was battered and filed for divorce. Clearly, Verlaine was an abusive man and a violent one. His violence would also touch Rimbaud, as we shall see.
Could an Image Consultant Have Helped Rimbaud?
When their relationship was still in the early stages, Rimbaud decided he had experienced enough abuse from Verlaine. He left, or threatened to leave. Verlaine produced a revolver and fired two shots at Rimbaud, his lover. One of the shots hit Rimbaud in the wrist. He was rushed to the hospital where surgeons removed the bullet from his wrist and prescribed bed rest. He was in bed for weeks. He did not at first press charges against Verlaine. But when he tried to leave again and Verlaine got angry, Rimbaud reported him to the police. Verlaine was sent to prison for two years for attempted murder.
As we have argued, psychotherapy had little to offer Rimbaud. A talking cure could not have supplied the missing father and the normal latency period. Instead, it would only have rehashed problems the boy already knew he had. So would anything have helped him? The answer may surprise you.
An image consultant could have told Rimbaud a few things about his appearance that could have made him feel better about himself. For starters, that hair. It was a tangled mess. He rarely washed it. He rarely cut it. He never combed it. This alone would have made him look a hundred percent better.
There are other things he could have done. He could have changed his clothes more often. He could have gotten new wingtip shoes. He could even have shaved more often. This he did not do.
He died at the age of 37 from leg cancer. But if an image consultant had helped him, would he have lived longer?
It is impossible to answer this question with any degree of certainty. However, it is clear that had he consulted an image consultant he would certainly have felt better about himself. This in and of itself could possibly have enabled him to leave Verlaine earlier and avoid getting shot. That might have led to a new life, one in which he could have pursued his career and not stopped writing poetry. He might have made enough money to afford a good doctor who could have saved him. As it was he was misdiagnosed and so had his leg amputated and that led to his early demise.
Image Consultant Help for Rimbaud
It may seem unusual to suggest that an image consultant could have been of more help to an unfortunate boy than psychoanalysis, but that is precisely what we are suggesting. Had Rimbaud availed himself of some assistance with his image he might have lived to a ripe old age. As it was, he was cut down in his mid thirties.
It is the job of an image consultant to give advice about appearance. It is not our job to save lives. But this example from history demonstrates the potential to do just that. While image consultants did not exist in the time of Rimbaud, there were butlers, dressers, and cosmetologists. Had Rimbaud taken advantages of these services he could have looked better, and that image improvement would certainly have changed his life for the better. Whether it would have saved him and enabled him to live a normal full life is an open question.
If you are an artist, you may be interested to know that some of the most successful musicians, writers, and painters of the modern era have used image consultants, including Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, and painter Jeff Koons, to name but a few. We encourage you to contact us to learn more about our image consulting services for creative people.
(Rimbaud in bed after the bullet was removed from his wrist by surgeons. Notice his unkempt appearance as rendered by the artist Jef Rossman.)