Page 33. " Here’s a portrait of Rimbaud. Rimbaud lived here, it says. And here’s Verlaine….Did he live here too? "

The poets of hell, 17-year-old Arthur Rimbaud met 27-year-old Paul Verlaine in Paris in 1871. Both were volatile, wild souls, seething with passionate intellectual energy.

Arthur Rimbaud
Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike Arthur Rimbaud - Credit: PRA

Verlaine soon fell in love with the cherubic yet noxious Rimbaud and they fled for London. The smoggy, pulsing energy of the British capital electrified the pair, who blazed a lunatic trail through the city, drinking and fighting with terrifying vigour. Following a particularly vicious lover’s tiff, Verlaine shot his lover in the arm and spent the next two years in prison. After release he converted to Catholicism and forsook his torrid earlier life for a steady existence and extensive travel. However, his final years were marred by penury and alcoholism. He died aged 51 in 1896. Rimbaud enlisted in the army and later became an arms dealer in Ethiopia. He died in 1891, aged 37.  Despite their vagabondage, Rimbaud and Verlaine produced violently beautiful Symbolist poetry.

Paul Verlaine
Public DomainPaul Verlaine

Rimbaud’s Illuminations, now a byword for modernist prose, included his deranged masterpiece ‘A Season in Hell’. Verlaine’s prose was mostly written in later life, and his narcotic-fuelled visions of sex, death and the flotsam of humanity made him one of the greatest fin de siècle poets.

Page 34. " the merry-go-rounds at the Lion de Belfort "

This Lion of Belfort, situated in the Place Denfert-Rochereau in Paris, is a facsimile of the vast sandstone lion sculpture in Belfort, north-eastern France, created by Frédéric Bartholdi, sculptor of the Statue of Liberty. The Lion of Belfort commemorates the triumph of the inhabitants of Belfort in the face of a Prussian assault of 1870-71. The resistance was led by Colonel Denfert-Rochereau.


Page 44. " It is very, very rarely, madame, that hair can be successfully dyed blond cendré. "
Ash Blonde 1935
Public DomainAsh Blonde 1935
Jean Harlow
Public DomainJean Harlow
The 1930s was the first true era of the blonde. Previously cast as the Madonna to the brunette’s whore, the spectrum of what blondes represented expanded considerably with the rise of bad girls like Jean Harlow, with her solarised, ultra-platinumed locks, and the Rabelaisian Mae West, with her brassy golden froth of curls.




Blond cendré (ash blonde) was a colour frequently associated with wealthy society ladies, being at once youthful and suitably expensive looking (time and money were required for its care: hair dye was harsh and abrasive in the 1930s). It fails to lift Sasha’s spirits as she hopes, and along with her fur, causes the Gigolo to mistake her for a woman of means.