Dicta on decadence  

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I came too late into a world too old

I like this word decadent; all shimmering and purple and gold.”- Paul Verlaine

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

A collection of decadent dicta sourced here[1]:

“The happiest state will always be that in which depravity of manners and morals is most universal.” – The Marquis de Sade

“What is termed sin is an essential element of progress. Without it the world would stagnate or grow old or become colourless. Through its intensified assertion of individualism it saves us from the commonplace.” – Oscar Wilde

“The style of decadence is nothing else than art at that extreme point of maturity produced by those civilisations which are growing old, their suns low in the sky – a style that is ingenious, complicated, learned, full of shades of meaning and research, always pushing further… taking colours from all palates, notes from all keyboards… obscure phantasies at which the daylight would be amazed.” – Theophile Gautier from preface to the third edition of Les Fleurs du mal

“What is it in absinthe that makes it a separate cult? The effects of its abuse are totally distinct from those of other stimulants. Even in ruin and in degradation it remains a thing apart: its victims wear a ghastly aureole all their own, and in their peculiar hell yet gloat with a sinister perversion of pride that they are not as other men.” – Aleister Crowley

“As a small child, I felt in my heart two contradictory feelings, the horror of life and the ecstasy of life.” – Charles Baudelaire

“I shall not live; I am an odd girl and I shan’t be able to hold on to this life which I don’t know how not to lead and that I can equally no longer endure. Take me, take me anywhere you like; I shan’t bother you. I sleep all day; in the evening you can let me go to the theatre; and at night you can do with me what you will!” – Marie Duplessis, in a letter to Franz Liszt

“From the moment of my birth, the angels of anxiety, worry, and death stood at my side, followed me out when I played, followed me in the sun of springtime and in the glories of summer. They stood at my side in the evening when I closed my eyes, and intimidated me with death, hell, and eternal damnation.” – Edvard Munch

“Hysteria and degeneration have always existed; but they formerly showed themselves sporadically, and had no importance in the life of the whole community. It was only the vast fatigue which was experienced by the generation on which the multitudes of discoveries and innovations burst abruptly, imposing on it organic exigencies greatly surpassing its strength, which created favourable conditions under which these maladies could gain ground enormously, and become a danger to civilization.” – Max Nordau, Degeneration

“We delight in what you call our corruptions of style, and we delight at the same time the refined people of our race and our time. It remains to be seen whether our exception is not an aristocracy, and whether, in the aesthetic order, the majority of suffrages represents anything else than the majority of ignorances…. It is a self-deception not to have the courage of one’s intellectual pleasure. Let us delight, therefore, in our singularities of ideal and of form, even if we must shut ourselves up in a solitude without visitors.” – Paul Bourget

“The following point must be emphasized: the function of the flame which attracts and burns is exercised, in the first half of the century, by the Fatal Man (the Byronic hero), in the second half by the Fatal Woman; the moth destined for sacrifice is in the first case the woman, in the second the man. It is not simply a case of convention and literary fashion: literature, even in its most artificial forms, reflects to some extent aspects of contemporary life. It is curious to follow the parabola of the sexes during the nineteenth century: the obsession for the androgyne type towards the end of the century is a clear indication of a turbid confusion of function and ideal. The male, who at first tends towards sadism, inclines, at the end of the century, towards masochism.” – Mario Praz, from The Romantic Agony, on the shift from sadism to masochism

“Art is the only clean thing on earth, except holiness.” – Joris-Karl Huysmans, tr. via The Symbolist Movement in Literature

While I recognize the necessity for a basis of observed reality… true art lies in a reality that is felt. – Odilon Redon

“Alas, human vices, however horrible one might imagine them to be, contain the proof (were it only in their infinite expansion) of man’s longing for the infinite; but it is a longing that often takes the wrong route. It is my belief that the reason behind all culpable excesses lies in this deprivation of the sense of the infinite.” – Charles Baudelaire

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