I Promise to Be Good: The Letters of Arthur Rimbaud: 2 and over one million other books are available for Amazon Kindle. Learn more
Buy New
  • List Price: $15.95
  • Save: $1.61 (10%)
FREE Shipping on orders over $35.
Only 3 left in stock (more on the way).
Ships from and sold by Amazon.com.
Gift-wrap available.
Add to Cart
Have one to sell? Sell on Amazon
Flip to back Flip to front
Listen Playing... Paused   You're listening to a sample of the Audible audio edition.
Learn more
See this image

I Promise to Be Good: The Letters of Arthur Rimbaud (Modern Library Classics) Paperback – November 9, 2004

See all 6 formats and editions Hide other formats and editions
Amazon Price New from Used from
"Please retry"
"Please retry"
$7.76 $5.00

Frequently Bought Together

I Promise to Be Good: The Letters of Arthur Rimbaud (Modern Library Classics) + Rimbaud Complete (Modern Library Classics)
Price for both: $28.84

Buy the selected items together

If you buy a new print edition of this book (or purchased one in the past), you can buy the Kindle edition for only $2.99 (Save 75%). Print edition purchase must be sold by Amazon. Learn more.

Hero Quick Promo
Browse in Books with Buzz and explore more details on selected titles, including the current pick, "The Good Girl" by Mary Kubica.

Product Details

  • Series: Modern Library Classics
  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Modern Library; Modern Library Pbk. Ed edition (November 9, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0812970152
  • ISBN-13: 978-0812970159
  • Product Dimensions: 7.9 x 5.1 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,028,019 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The story, of course, is the stuff of legend: after a painful affair with the older, married poet Paul Verlaine, Rimbaud (1854-1891) put poetry behind him at age 21 and became a commercial traveler in Africa and Arabia, returning home to Charlevoix and his family only at the end of his brief life and dying painfully of gangrene complications. Mason, the American translator who last year published Rimbaud's collected poems in English, gives us a Rimbaud that's a far cry from the Dionysian figure who inspired Jim Morrison, Patti Smith and David Wojnarowicz with his call for a slow derangement of the senses. In the 27 letters included here that were written before Rimbaud's departure (the first, from 1870, left in a teacher's mailbox), Mason unveils instead an Apollonian craftsman, one who took infinite pains to achieve perfection of expression and who comes clear in the letters "not with rubbery biographical inventions or facile psychological putty" but as a "clear, deliberate personality." Rimbaud quits France after seeing Verlaine for the last time in 1875 for five years of poorly documented sojourns in Europe and the U.K., for which there are only five letters. From there, the interest level of the 149 epistles that follow plunges way down. Mason's an agile, skillful translator, and he does his best to enliven the long litany of profit and loss in Rimbaud's African commercial adventures, but when he tells us he has excluded 34 letters to Alfred Ilg, a trading colleague of Rimbaud's, on the ground that they're too boring, anyone who has read through this whole volume will not feel it a loss.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.


“Wyatt Mason’s translation of Rimbaud’s letters is a swashbuckler of a book, nothing less than a resurrection of a remarkable life. As such, it is a worthy companion to Mason’s fine translation of the poems. No admirer of Rimbaud will want to be without it.” —Arthur Goldhammer, translator of more than eighty books from the French

“These letters, together with the poems, provide as direct a record as possible of what the archetypal bohemian boy-genius did with his gift. They brim with curiosity, ambition, spite, self-pity, and a giant talent; his art is as impervious to time as that of Catullus or Heine. Thanks to Wyatt Mason’s masterly translations, Rimbaud has, after a century and a half, recovered his gift.” —Askold Melnyczuk, author of What Is Told and Ambassador of the Dead

From the Hardcover edition.

More About the Author

Discover books, learn about writers, read author blogs, and more.

Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
Share your thoughts with other customers

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Christopher Nelson on June 8, 2004
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Rimbaud liked to use the phrase, "above all" in many of his early letters, which according to Wyatt Mason is indicative of his imperious personality. As one reads on, Rimbaud's demands serve a desperate purpose: he wants to improve himself through literature, and get out of town. He demands freedom.
There are some 250 letters collected here, some for the first time in English. Of these, only 30 were written during the time when he was writing poetry. This is all that has been found and collected. Additionally, a few photographs Rimbaud took while in Abyssinia are printed, along with others of Africa, including the slick cover photograph of what appears to be Rimbaud and his co-workers in Aden - never before printed as far as I know. Mason's introduction goes a long way to get to the heart of the real vs. the mythical Rimbaud, and he takes to task previous biographers for simultaneously debunking and promoting the Rimbaud myth. He goes on to compare Rimbaud's letters with those of Van Gogh (I would also include Gauguin, for they all lived & wrote in the same years). The main difference of course being that Van Gogh wrote extensively and confessionally about art and life, while Rimbaud only briefly outlined his thoughts on poetry in the so-called "seer letters". Comparing the relative "salaciousness" and quality of the artist's letters, Mason writes: "There is little of that register in Rimbaud's correspondence. Rather, a sober impatience running from first letter to last. And it is the uniqueness of this tone - a relentless striving - that so informs our understanding of Rimbaud, both as poet and trader.
Read more ›
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By S. Smith on April 20, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
How sad it is that so little is known of Arthur Rimbaud, who is arguably one of the greatest poets to have ever lived. If not for his letters, we would know even less. As it is, these letters give us an autobiographical glimpse into Rimbaud's mind and personality. Wyatt Mason has done a great job here, translating and chronologically organizing this companion piece to his brilliant Rimbaud Complete. I don't know which is more fascinating: That Mason was able to collect so many of Rimbaud's letters, or that the letters still existed after all these years. Clearly his family and acquaintances had an inkling of Rimbaud's importance, and they must have suspected that his artistry would leave an indelible mark on the literary world.

For all its detail, however, the one thing missing from this volume is an appendix of the French text accompanying the English translation - which definitely enhanced Rimbaud Complete. There are a few reproductions of original letters here, as well as some other interesting photographs, but I think the book would have benefited greatly from the same treatment as Wyatt's previous work. I find it odd that he would omit such an important element to this particular publication. A full-scale reproduction of the documents would have been perfect. Barring that, the French text would be most logical. After all, the book is subtitled, The Letters of Arthur Rimbaud. A reader might expect to see more of the letters.
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Connie Reads on March 6, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a well written and interesting book I read a good portion on the first night and continue to appreciate the many cross references and compassion of the author
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
If you want to know what Rimbaud was really like, you need to read this book. His personality, thoughts, passions, and emotions are clearly on display here. This book also contains photos taken by Rimbaud himself, and a brief chronology of his life. Biographies about him contain some facts. But false rumors and the biographer's opinions can fill up most of a book.

In his early letters Rimbaud gives instructions on how to become a seer and a great poet. That is his goal in life. Then his buddy Verlaine shoots him in the wrist and goes to prison for two years. After his buddy's release from prison Rimbaud sees him again, and one of Rimbaud's sisters dies. Rimbaud stops writing poetry because the only thing he wants to do is run away and escape. He has also found a new goal in life--making money!

He travels to many exotic locales and finds work wherever he goes. Helping him is his intellect, his ability to learn new languages and new things quickly, and his "I don't care about anything or anyone" attitude. His letters describe all the places he travels to. But a lot of the letters are about him trying to be a successful businessman while he is out in the middle of nowhere with a bunch of camels. Making money is always on his mind. He encounters many dangerous situations, but he is not courageous or brave. He simply does not care. He suffers a lot, but does very little about it except complain in his letters. Finally he becomes ill and passes away.

It occurred to me that a woman with an identical background to his would not have been able to travel alone to those same places. She would not have been offered the same job opportunities, and she would not have survived. Sadly enough, this would still be true today. Gender really does make a difference.
Read more ›
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again

Customer Images


What Other Items Do Customers Buy After Viewing This Item?