For a short time in 1873, Number 8 Royal College Street in Camden housed the influential French poets, Paul Verlaine and Arthur Rimbaud. The lovers came to London following their wild hashish and absinthe-fuelled lifestyle in Paris, leaving Verlaine’s wife and infant child behind.
The whirlwind and turbulent nature of their relationship intensified during the few months they spent at the Regency house. One of their many violent altercations involved Verlaine allegedly slapping Rimbaud round the face with a fish. This is one of several amusing anecdotes concerning the couple’s drunken quarrels whilst living in Camden. The scandalous love affair came to an abrupt end in June 1873, when Verlaine was imprisoned for shooting Rimbaud in the hand.
In spite of such episodes, however, they are thought to have written some of their most acclaimed poetry during their time in the house. The Rimbaud and Verlaine foundation is hoping to establish the property as an Anglo-French poetry house, so that it may become “a living centre for the appreciation and promotion of poetry and poetry education”.