Arthur Rimbaud and Paul Verlaine (pictured)
Arthur Rimbaud's relationship with his fellow poet Paul Verlaine could be accurately described as tempestuous. During the few years the young French lovers spent together at the end of the 19th century, Verlaine left his wife and child; fought viciously with Rimbaud using knives wrapped in towels; and shot him in the arm with a gun intended for Verlaine's own suicide (for which Rimbaud ensured he spent two years in prison). The latter had originally sought out Verlaine to be his mentor; it is hard to imagine two people more ill-suited to one another, nor what Verlaine saw in the unwashed, self-mutilating Rimbaud, whose appearance he described as "the real head of a child, chubby and fresh, on a big, bony, rather clumsy body".
However, alongside their bitter feuds and drunkenness, the pair's turbulent romance also coaxed great poetry from them both, especially when they left France for London in 1873. The two were greatly inspired by the city, and by each other; Verlaine almost finished his Romances sans paroles, while Rimbaud penned his critically acclaimed Illuminations. The two parted when Verlaine was jailed, and only met once more, briefly, after his release. Yet their passion is still remembered.