Jean Nicolas Arthur Rimbaud (English pronunciation: /ræmˈboʊ/ or /ˈræmboʊ/, French pronunciation: ; 20 October 1854 – 10 November 1891) was a French poet. Born in Charleville, Ardennes, he produced his best known works while still in his late teens—Victor Hugo described him at the time as "an infant Shakespeare"—and gave up creative writing altogether before the age of 21. As part of the decadent movement, Rimbaud influenced modern literature, music and art. He was known to have been a libertine and a restless soul, traveling extensively on three continents before his death from cancer less than a month after his 37th birthday.
Arthur Rimbaud was born into the provincial middle class of Charleville (now part of Charleville-Mézières) in the Ardennes département in northeastern France. He was the second child of a career soldier, Frédéric Rimbaud, and his wife Marie-Catherine-Vitalie Cuif. His father, a Burgundian of Provençal extraction, rose from a simple recruit to the rank of captain, and spent the greater part of his army years in foreign service. Captain Rimbaud fought in the conquest of Algeria and was awarded the Légion d'honneur. The Cuif family was a solidly established Ardennais family, but they were plagued by unstable and bohemian characters; two of Arthur Rimbaud's uncles from his mother's side were alcoholics.
Captain Rimbaud and Vitalie married in February 1853; in the following November came the birth of their first child, Jean-Nicolas-Frederick. The next year, on 20 October 1854, Jean-Nicolas-Arthur was born. Three more children, Victorine (who died a month after she was born), Vitalie and Isabelle, followed. Arthur Rimbaud's infancy is said to have been prodigious; a common myth states that soon after his birth he had rolled onto the floor from a cushion where his nurse had put him only to begin crawling toward the door. In a more realistic retelling of his childhood, Mme Rimbaud recalled when after putting her second son in the care of a nurse in Gespunsart, supplying clean linen and a cradle for him, she returned to find the nurse's child sitting in the crib wearing the clothes meant for Arthur. Meanwhile, the dirty and naked child that was her own was happily playing in an old salt chest.