Baudelaire's `Feline': The Lady or the Tiger

In Baudelaire's prose poem, "L'Horloge," "la belle Féline" has traditionally been interpreted as an allusion to an unidentified female, perhaps Jeanne Duval. Based on a contextual approach, however, it may also simply refer to the poet's cat. First, the characteristic theme of duality established by the division of the text into two distinct and contrasting parts is most effective if the "Féline" in part two literally corresponds to the "fort gros chat" of the first. Second, the new interpretation avoids an uncharacteristic semantic ellipsis created by the popular interpretation of "Féline" as a woman and preserves the poem's thematic coherence. Third, the "Pour moi" that begins the second section suggests a logical antecedent to the allusion in question. Finally, the "féline" interpretation may have feminine connotative value as well, with its appositive "la si bien nommée" reinforcing this aspect of the feline genus, thus justifying the change in the variants (1857, 1861 to 1862) from "chat" to "Féline" as an æsthetic, rather than a semantic, alteration. (RLM)

Mitchell, Robert L
Volume 1977-1978 Fall-Winter; 6(1-2): 94-103.