But what was so special about the flâneur that attracted not only poets, but novelists and painters too? A man walking along the street surveying the crowd, always alone, stopping to stroll into an arcade and gaze at the merchandise on show, pausing to observe the hurrying crowds, set apart from them by his sauntering pace, his dandyism...what is so significant?
In The Painter of Modern Life Baudelaire described this new man of the street:
"The crowd is his element, as the air is that of birds and water of fishes. His passion and his profession are to become one flesh with the crowd. For the perfect 'flaneur', for the passionate spectator, it is an immense joy to set up house in the heart of the multitude, amid the ebb and flow of movement, in the midst of the fugitive and the infinite."
He continues in this vein, describing a kind of physical and psychological freedom that was rarely if ever experienced by the women of a great metropolis.
'To be away from home and yet to feel oneself everywhere at home; to see the world, to be at the centre of the world, and yet to remain hidden from the world - such are a few of the slightest pleasures of those independent, passionate, impartial natures which the tongue can but clumsily define"