3. Vidocq, Detective
Eugène-François Vidocq (1775–1857)
The emperor Napoleon, several members of his family, and a number of public officeholders of his regime, including Eugène-François Vidocq, the founder of the detective branch of the Paris police, were outlaws turned law enforcers, obsessed with eradicating outlaws. Napoleon’s outlaw career began during his years as a young artillery officer. Of his first eight years in the French army, beginning in the fall of 1785 when he received his commission, he spent three and a half years on duty and four and a half years on leave in his native Corsica, fomenting there, along with other members of his family, intrigues and uprisings against the island’s governors, the representatives of France, in whose army he was ostensibly serving. After these efforts ended in failure and the Bonapartes had to flee Corsica, Napoleon rejoined the French army, where he conducted operations independently of his superior officers, associated with radical revolutionaries such as Robespierre’s younger brother, negotiated a peace treaty in northern Italy without consulting the French government, led a semi-official semi-rogue military expedition to Egypt, and finally overthrew the revolutionary regime known as the Directory in a coup d’état in 1799. From 1799 until he in turn was overthrown in 1814, he was France’s chief executor of the law, and a severe one.
In Le Mémorial de Sainte-Hélène (The St. Helena Memorial, 1823), dictated on the island of his terminal exile, Napoleon presents himself as an outlaw-hero. He had grown up reading Rousseau, the most famous outlaw-hero of the eighteenth century. As a young Corsican patriot, Napoleon’s hero was the leader of the island’s independence movement, Pasquale Paoli, who had asked Rousseau to write a constitution for the aspirant nation. Napoleon eventually turned away from Rousseau, Paoli, and Corsica but continued to set himself in opposition to constituted society in mainland France. In Le Mémorial de Sainte-Hélène, Napoleon justifies his rebellious actions as an army officer on the grounds that his superior officers, the government of Louis XVI, and the Directory were either incompetent or corrupt or both. He supported the Revolution, which he praises as “the true cause of the regeneration of our morals.” As chief of state immediately following the Revolution, his policy was, he declares, to institutionalize the reforms of French society carried out by the revolutionaries. For his progressive efforts he was cast into a distant, lonely, miserable exile by the reactionary kings of Europe, and he compares himself to the peoples oppressed by those same reactionary kings. “What a novel my life has been!” Napoleon exclaimed at one point in his dictation, presumably referring not only to his life as he was describing it but also to his life as he had lived it. He does not say what genre of novel he thought his life most resembled; an apt choice would be “picaresque.”
Portrait of Vidocq. Courtesy of the University of California Libraries. Photograph by Paul LeBar.
The picaresque novel evolved in Spain in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. In the eighteenth century the most distinguished examples of the genre were French and British, although the authors of some of the early ones still made their protagonists Spanish, as in René Le Sage’s Histoire de Gil Blas de Santillane (1715–35). By the time of Daniel Defoe’s The Fortunes and Misfortunes of the Famous Moll Flanders (1722), Pierre de Marivaux’s Le Paysan parvenu (1735), and Tobias Smol-lett’s The Adventures of Roderick Random (1748), the picaro was a native son or daughter of France or Britain. The distinctive characteristics of a picaresque novel are: a picaro, a vagabond rogue who is an outsider in his society, able to survive in it by having few moral restraints and great cunning; his adventures, a loosely connected sequence of episodes related autobiographically; a series of masters, each of whom he is temporarily subject to but eventually outwits; a hostile and unjust society, shown to be so by the predicaments into which it forces him; and a style that features satirical treatment of the social types the picaro encounters, plain language, and realistic details of everyday life. Naturally, definitions of the picaresque vary, and applications of the definitions range from narrow to broad. Broad interpreters have counted, for example, both Diderot’s Neveu de Rameau and Rousseau’s Confessions as picaresque.
Outlaw-hero narratives gained enormous popularity in Europe in the eighteenth century. Broadly construed, a picaro is a kind of outlaw-hero. Picaresque novels were popular, but in terms of sheer numbers, publications about imaginary outlaw-heroes were overwhelmed by publications about real-life outlaw-heroes. Widely celebrated real-life outlaw-heroes included Rob Roy (1671–1734), Louis-Dominique Cartouche (1693–1721), Dick Turpin (1706–39), Louis Mandrin (1725–55), and Schinderhannes (1783–1803). Their exploits were made known, exaggerated, and idealized not only by word of mouth but also through broadsides, ballad sheets, prints, and chapbooks. These popular-culture publications reached a very large audience extending all the way to the boundary of literacy and even beyond, where their pictures and out-loud readings gave them access that high-culture publications did not have. The anonymous pamphlet, Histoire de la vie et du procès du fameux Louis-Dominique Cartouche (History of the Life and Trial of the Famous Louis-Dominique Cartouche), first published in the year of Cartouche’s execution, may have been reproduced over the course of the following century and a half in as many as forty thousand editions and forty million copies. Likewise anonymous, the pam-phlet Histoire de Louis Mandrin depuis sa naissance jusqu’à sa mort (History of Louis Mandrin from His Birth to His Death), likewise first published in the year of Mandrin’s death, was reproduced in somewhat more modest numbers: hundreds of editions and hundreds of thousands of copies. High-culture literature also treated real-life outlaw-heroes. Cartouche became the subject of two contemporary plays, which had successful runs at the Comédie-Française and the Théâtre-Italien, and a contemporary poem published in numerous editions. Mandrin became the subject of a contemporary comic-heroic poem and a contemporary biography, Rob Roy the subject of a famous novel by Sir Walter Scott, and Turpin the subject of a popular mid-nineteenth-century novel. The eighteenth century was a golden age for outlaw-heroes.
What makes an outlaw also a hero? First, an outlaw-hero generally possesses some outstanding personal traits or accomplishments, such as candor, audacity, cunning, strength, horsemanship, or marksmanship, that make him seem heroic if one disregards his criminality. As “Rameau’s nephew” put it: “You spit on a petty thief, but you cannot refuse a kind of respect to a great criminal. His courage astounds you. His outrageousness awes you. People admire consummate examples of anything.” Cartouche had bravery, or more specifically, effrontery; proficiency in sleight-of-hand, specifically in picking pockets and manipulating cards; and great administrative ability, specifically as a leader and organizer of several hun-dred thieves. Mandrin was charming, always in good humor, an entertaining and persuasive speaker, likewise audacious, and—as the leader of a highly mobile band of smugglers—a great tactician and “captain” of “cavalry.” Second, an outlaw-hero generally represents a challenge or a rebuke to a society perceived as unjust. Cartouche was supposed to have stolen an épée from Philippe II d’Orléans, regent of France during the minority of Louis XV, and then returned it to him in pieces with a note calling him “the number-one thief in the kingdom.” Mandrin’s career culminated in the assembling of a small army, perhaps three hundred men, who in addition to their smuggling activities made a series of attacks on the tax farmers of southeastern France, a short-lived rebellion in the 1750s against this notorious system of collecting taxes that may ultimately have contributed to its demise in 1790. These are clues as to why the eighteenth century was a golden age for outlaw-heroes in Europe and particularly in France. In a recent study of the phenomenon of outlaw-heroes, a sociologist has concluded: “When large numbers of people feel that the law and political office are tools in the hands of special interest groups, and these tools are seen as being wielded against the interests of ‘the people,’ then there exists an ideal market for symbols of justice outside the law: Robin Hood criminals.” “Robin Hood criminals,” “social bandits,” “outlaw-heroes”: Whatever their label, their category is the intermediate one between unprincipled thieves and idealistic revolutionaries.
The Rousseau of Les Confessions has perhaps a greater resemblance to a picaro in a picaresque novel than to a social bandit in a chapbook biography; however that may be, he certainly presents himself as an outlaw-hero. He confesses, among other things, that he lied to, stole from, dodged the work of, and eventually ran away from an engraver to whom he was apprenticed; that he blamed a cook for a theft he himself had committed while employed as a secretary in the home of a countess; that he lived for years at the expense of a wealthy divorcée while her fortune dwindled; and that he availed himself of prostitutes while posted at the French embassy in Venice. Yet, in spite of all his sins, indeed because he is candid enough to acknowledge them, he judges himself a superior person: “Here is the sole portrait that exists or probably ever will exist of a man painted exactly according to nature and with complete truth.” In any case, the blame lies not so much with him as with the corrupt state of social relations. The engraver was a brutal tyrant of a master; the countess treated him like a lackey and her domestics conspired against him; the divorcée took a new lover, and it was the latter, together with a speculator, who ate up her fortune; and, “apropos of prostitutes, it’s not in a city such as Venice that one abstains.” Rousseau promises only “my confession, not my justification,” but in fact he delivers both. Whatever his behavior, he declares, his heart was always pure: “I was certain that behind my errors and weaknesses, behind my inability to tolerate any yoke, one would always find a man who was just, good, without bitterness, without hatred, without jealousy, quick to acknowledge his own faults.” 
“Man is born free and everywhere he is in chains,” Rousseau famously proclaimed in 1762 in Du contrat social (On the Social Contract). There and in his earlier Discours sur l’origine et les fondements de l’inégalité parmi les hommes (Discourse on the Origin and Foundations of the Inequality among Men) he denounced the “slavery” of modern European society. The French government banned Du contrat social as soon as it appeared, and Rousseau had to flee the country to avoid arrest. Thus Rousseau both lived in rebellion against eighteenth-century European society, as he later recounted in his Confessions, and also preached against it. He became the best-known outlaw-hero of his century, his name a symbol of revolt.
The first half of Vidocq’s Mémoires, like Rousseau’s Confessions, reads like a picaresque novel. According to his Mémoires, Vidocq as a boy led an extremely disorderly life. He was born in 1775 in Arras, the capital of Artois, a county in the extreme north of France, the son of a baker. While quite young, he ran away from home to join a circus, the director and featured performer of which was the famous magician Nicolas-Philippe Ledru, who called himself “Comus,” after the Roman god of revelry. After a while Vidocq defected to a Polichinelle (Punch and Judy) show and then went to work for an itinerant peddler. Eventually he returned home but could not stay away from fights, taverns, or girls. Not yet sixteen, he and his family agreed that he would try to acquire some discipline in the army.
Vidocq acquired the same sort of discipline in the French army that Napoleon did, and at about the same time. Soldier Vidocq participated in the victorious northern campaign of the French revolutionary forces in the fall of 1792, fighting in the battle at Valmy and perhaps also at Jemmapes. Shortly thereafter he deserted to the Austrian camp, at around the same time as the commanding general, Dumouriez. Unlike Dumouriez, however, Vidocq quickly returned to the French camp. Wounded in battle, he obtained leave to recover in Arras, where he resumed his old civilian pursuits and ended up in jail. By this time the Reign of Terror was under way, making it dangerous to be incarcerated, but thanks to the intercession of a leading revolutionary of Arras—Robespierre’s hometown—Vidocq was released. When the Terror ended, he married the daughter of his protector, but since she proved unfaithful to him, he soon left her. Meanwhile, he enrolled as an officer in a new army unit then being formed and went back to the front. One of his occupations in the army was that of fencing master; he fought many duels and may even have killed a couple of his opponents. In the fall of 1794 he again deserted, or perhaps he was discharged.
Vidocq writes in his Mémoires that he next enlisted in the armée roulante—“the roving army, composed of officers without commissions, not attached to any unit, who, furnished with false papers and false authorizations, imposed themselves easily on the army’s quartermasters, as the military administration was in a state of great disorder.”  Until he joined “the roving army” at the age of nineteen, Vidocq had lived as an adventurer, showing no particular regard for the norms of society, whether in adherence or in opposition to them. Now, however, he began to align himself with the opposition to society. Between the ages of nineteen and thirty-four, he repeatedly fell afoul of the law and found himself frequently in prison. In prison, he was often at sea, on “galleys,” hulks kept in various ports to house convicts while they did forced labor in the harbor. Out of prison, he was often at sea as well, on one warship or another, regular or irregular. On terra firma he was often on the run.
When Vidocq turned against society by joining the roving army in the fall of 1794, he assumed the alias Lieutenant Rousseau. Roving with some of his fellow “officers” toward Brussels, he was billeted, thanks to his “authorizations,” with a baroness. She fell in love with him, he writes, and he lived for some time at her expense. He claims that his conscience finally convinced him to put an end to his parasitism, so he left the baroness, though with his wallet well padded. Several more gallant affairs followed on both sides of the Franco-Belgian border. Eventually, in the fall of 1795, Vidocq again wound up in jail, this time in Lille for fighting a rival for the affections of his latest lover.
Vidocq’s only conviction for a serious crime, complicity in a forgery, resulted from events that took place during his incarceration in Lille. He always contended, at his trial, in his Mémoires, and for the rest of his life, that he was innocent. The forgery had been done in the jail at Lille and consisted of a counterfeit release order for one of the prisoners. Vidocq claimed that the prisoner to be benefited was an impoverished father who had stolen food to feed his family. He also claimed that he had only loaned his cell to the actual forgers so that they could work undisturbed, on exactly what he did not know. Unfortunately for him, it came out in the trial that he had furnished the stamp used to put an official-looking seal on the false document; the stamp was that of a military unit to which Vidocq had belonged. From Douai, the site of the trial, he was sent by way of Bicêtre, a holding jail near Paris, to the galleys at Brest, arriving in January of 1798.
Most of the few firm dates we have in the subsequent decade of Vidocq’s life are the dates of his incarcerations: Recording dates is a function of established society, and established society had little knowledge of Vidocq except when it held him captive. After a short time in Brest, Vidocq escaped disguised as a sailor and eventually made his way back to Arras. En route, he successively impersonated a milk porter, a sailor, and a nun. He found brief employment as a schoolteacher in a village nearby, until “one night, when, driven by classical zeal, I was preparing to give a lesson in a hayloft to a schoolgirl of sixteen, four apprentice brewers from the vicinity seized me.” He prudently left the area, but then imprudently allowed a “recruiter” to get him drunk and press him into the Dutch navy. After leading a successful revolt of pressed sailors, he continued his service on proper terms. Landing at Ostende, annexed to France during the Revolution, his ship was boarded by French gendarmes looking for a mur-derer. Vidocq claimed to be Dutch but had no papers, so the gendarmes took him to Douai where he was identified as an escaped convict. Sent to the galleys again in August of 1799, he went this time to the Mediterranean port of Toulon.
In the early 1800s, Vidocq began to make occasional conciliatory gestures toward society. After a few months in Toulon, he escaped and found his way to Lyon, where he took lodging in a house that turned out to hold some other escapees. When he refused to join them in a burglary, they informed on him and he was arrested. But Vidocq made a deal with the police commissioner of Lyon, leading him to two bands of robbers in exchange for safe conduct to Paris. Free again, Vidocq returned to his home town of Arras. He lived there without being recaptured, initially by spending most of his time in hiding in his mother’s house—his father had recently died—and then by going out disguised as an Austrian soldier. After some close brushes with the Arras police, Vidocq moved with a mistress to Rouen where they opened a mercer’s shop together. She too betrayed him, as did an old acquaintance who recognized him there one day and called the attention of the authorities to him. Once again he landed in jail.
And once again he escaped. In Boulogne a fellow Artesian introduced him to the captain of a corsair and Vidocq joined the crew. When another crew member resembling him died in a raid, Vidocq adopted his identity and his papers. Thus equipped, he joined the regular French navy, which in 1804–5 was massing men and materiel in Boulogne in preparation for an invasion of England, ultimately aborted. After a friend asked Vidocq to join the armée de la lune (army of the moon), an association of brigands, and he refused, the friend denounced him to the police. Transported back to Douai, he learned that his almost-forgotten wife, the daughter of the Arras revolutionary, was divorcing him.
While in jail, Vidocq began his own legal action, drawing up a petition for the commutation of his sentence on the grounds that after his escapes he had taken up legitimate occupations rather than returning to crime. When no action seemed to be forthcoming, he jumped from an unbarred window several stories above the Scarpe River and swam away. This time he traveled disguised as an army captain returning wounded from the Battle of Jena. He settled in Paris and there met Annette, who became his companion for many years and occupied “the first rank in the loves of my life.” They engaged in several small businesses together, eventually buying a tailor’s shop. But again Vidocq’s past caught up with him. He was recognized and blackmailed by some former prison-mates and by his ex-wife’s family, who threatened to report him.
Vidocq himself went to the police in March of 1809, in order to break the cycle of arrest, escape, flight, reestablishment, denunciation, and rearrest, and to reintegrate himself fully into society. As a way of turning to advantage the dangerous criminal contacts he seemed unable to avoid renewing, he offered to serve as an informer in exchange for his liberty. The official to whom he was referred, M. Henry, declined his offer, forcing him to go into hiding again. After extorting clothes and money from his blackmailers, Vidocq moved in with a tanner who turned out to be a counterfeiter as well. The police came, found Vidocq, and returned him to Bicêtre.
Anywhere one might have found four ex-convicts, at least three of them would have heard of me; there was nothing extraordinary about that since the feats of others from the galleys were generally associated with my name. I was the general to whom one accorded the honor of the soldiers’ deeds: not that one spoke of the fortifications I had captured by assault, but there was no jailer whose vigilance I had not eluded, no sort of chain that I had not broken, no wall that I had not pierced.
The thoughtful reader of Vidocq’s Mémoires is frequently led to wonder whether the author has exaggerated the accomplishments of his criminal career. There are several plausible reasons why he might have done so. He might have magnified his misdeeds in order to sharpen the contrast between his errors as a young man and his later achievements as a policeman, so as to make his rehabilitation seem more impressive. Or, he simply may not have entirely reformed his old habits, those of criminals who, “being able to escape the depths of poverty only by taking refuge in the depths of perversity, have been obliged to seek the amelioration of their lot in the real or apparent exaggeration of all the usages of crime. In society at large, notoriety is shunned; in the society of prison inmates, the only shame is in not being notorious.” The late-twentieth-century maxim “there is no such thing as bad publicity” is a refinement of this principle. As those who make outlaws into heroes vaunt the latter’s outstanding abilities without regard for their moral value, the convicts of Vidocq’s day vaunted their own outstanding abilities.
But Vidocq himself only boasts of his skill at certain kinds of misdeeds: fighting with men who have wronged him, assuming false identities, escaping from jail. These were victimless crimes, or, to Vidocq’s way of thinking, not crimes at all, since he was only avenging offenses against himself and since society had no legitimate reason to keep him locked up. Similarly, glorifiers of outlaws generally take care to present their heroes as having committed only certain kinds of crime—justifiable ones.
Probably the most common justification offered is that society gave them no real choice. At the beginning of his criminal phase, following his first escape from the galleys, Vidocq tried to reform: “It did not enter at all into my plans to enroll myself in a band of thieves; although I had been associating with crooks and living by swindles, I felt an unconquerable repugnance to starting a career of crimes, my precocious experience of which had begun to reveal to me the perils.” But he found it impossible to go straight. His conviction for aiding and abetting a forgery had ruined his life, made him an outcast. Criminal society sought him out and upright society refused to accept him. “The persuasion that it would be forbidden to me to become an honest man brought me to the brink of despair.”  In diverse ways, then, Vidocq in his Mémoires seeks to turn his criminal younger self into an appealing character. He exalts his misdeeds; he excuses them as harmless or justifiable; and he extenuates them as having been done against his will, indeed against his strong resistance. Whatever the means, the end is always to make him look more like an outlaw-hero. Society weighed on him as it had on Rousseau, like chains.
In the second half of the eighteenth century there were many in France who wanted to break their chains. Thieves, soldiers of fortune, pirates, smugglers, black marketeers, sharpers, adventurers, rogues, adulterers, pornographers, libelists, clandestine publishers, social critics, prophets, deists, Freemasons, physiocrats, republicans, and other rebels teemed there. In 1789 these rebels broke out in revolution. The French Revolution was the overturning of constituted society, not just by forward-looking idealists but also by reactionaries in the literal sense of the word, by all sorts of people opposed in all sorts of ways to constituted society.
Soon the rebels began to celebrate the triumph of the outlaw-hero. In their most potent symbolic action, the revolutionaries tore down the Bastille, a notorious prison. Then they renamed a domed church that had just been completed in the heart of Paris “the Pantheon” and declared that it would house “the ashes of the great men of the epoch of French liberty”—four people ultimately, including Voltaire, who had spent a year in the Bastille himself, and that famous outlaw-hero Rousseau. The revolutionaries hailed Rousseau in festivals, plays, speeches, songs, poems, pamphlets, engravings, busts, and statues. Even before the Revolution, thousands had made pilgrimages to his tomb at Ermenonville, twenty miles northeast of Paris, and some even to more distant sites mentioned in his books. His outlawed books had proliferated in the old society like weeds. But the Revolution made outlaw-heroes more popular than ever.
When rebels such as Maximilien Robespierre began to reconstitute society, they turned into anti-rebels. Early in the Revolution, Robespierre rebelled against the power of the monarchical government by championing restrictions on its officials and the abolition of the death penalty. Later in the Revolution, he incited the insurrection that overthrew the Paris city government and the monarchy (10 August 1792), argued for proceeding without a trial directly to the execution of the king (21 January 1793), and incited the insurrection that resulted in the arrest and guillotining of twenty-two fellow deputies to the National Convention (2 June 1793). Having at last arrived in power himself, he saw rebels everywhere, denounced them daily, and to detect and deter them unleashed the Reign of Terror.
The former rebel Napoleon, during his fifteen-year reign as first consul and then emperor, was likewise obsessed with rebels. Real rebels did exist. The Vendée, a strongly royalist area, had been in revolt against the Revolution since it began. Napoleon brought the area back under the control of the central government. Several years later a group of royalists conspired to overthrow him and were arrested, tried, and executed. But one of the leaders died mysteriously in prison, and Jean-Victor Moreau, a successful and popular revolutionary general, who was also arrested and against whom there was no substantial evidence, received a senseless sentence of two years in jail, commuted by Napoleon to exile. On the basis of even less evidence, Napoleon had a Bourbon prince, a member of the deposed royal family, kidnapped in Germany, brought back to France, tried in a kangaroo court, and executed. He shut down a large number of newspapers, printing presses, and theaters and imposed a strict censorship on those he allowed to continue in operation. He created the Imperial University, by which public education at all levels throughout France was placed under the control of a grand master and private education discouraged. He purged the Senate and the Legislative Body of opposition and reduced them to rubber stamps.
Above all, Napoleon had a Ministry of Police, a large department of the government given over to internal security, plus a Gendarmerie and, just for Paris, a Prefecture of Police, a Municipal Guard, a Palace Police, and so on. For extra security, the jurisdictions of these various polices overlapped. The Ministry of Police had in fact been created during the Revolution, when its last annual budget was 1.1 million francs; under Napoleon, its budget began at 1.5 million and climbed over the course of a decade to 2.0 million, not counting secret expenditures. Napoleon inherited, along with the Ministry of Police, its minister, Joseph Fouché. Fouché immediately added three hundred informers for Paris alone to his payroll, and he hired spies in every corner of France to watch for signs of disaffection; using these sources he composed daily bulletins for Napoleon’s perusal. Napoleon and Fouché have been called two of the founders of the modern police state.
The crepuscular Fouché was another rebel turned anti-rebel. Before the Revolution he had been a teacher in Nantes and Arras, where he met Robespierre. During the Revolution he was a moderate deputy in the National Assembly and National Convention until the trial of the king, whom he voted to execute; a radical Jacobin thereafter and one of two men responsible for conducting the Reign of Terror in Lyon, where at least two thousand were executed in five months; and finally a leader, perhaps the leader, of the shadowy group that overthrew Robespierre on the ninth of Thermidor. As minister of police under the Directory, the Consulate, and the Empire, Fouché thwarted numerous groups of rebels, such as the Olympiens, an anti-Bonapartist secret society within the armed forces whose demise Vidocq recounts in his Mémoires. After learn-ing of the society’s existence, Fouché sent a man named Bertrand to infiltrate it. Bertrand was an interrogation specialist whose handiwork was exhibited at the trial of the twelve executed royalist conspirators against Napoleon; one of them appeared in court with his fingers crushed. Vidocq claims to have heard the story of the Olympiens from Bertrand in Boulogne, where he was serving in the navy at that time, but he probably heard it later, when he joined Bertrand at the Prefecture of Police in 1811.
It may be ironic but it also makes perfect sense that successful rebels, who know from their own experience how dangerous such people can be, will, once in power, devote a lot of energy to law and order in general and to preventing in particular the rise of such people as they themselves have been. The first attempt to create a national police force in England was made by Oliver Cromwell. In France, the quarter-century between the outbreak of Revolution and the fall of Napoleon was a period in which many sorts of rebels won victories against lawful society, and after their victories many of the rebels turned into anti-rebels.
They also hired outlaws as law enforcers. The Napoleonic regime hired the outlaw Vidocq as a prison informer, promoted him to undercover police officer, and then put him in charge of a new detective department, the first such department in the history of European policing, all within the space of three years. Vidocq describes the turning point in his life, which took place in 1809, in his Mémoires:
Actually Dubois held the post of prefect in 1809, but Pasquier was prefect in 1811 when Vidocq, after having served in the interval as an informer in the prisons of Bicêtre and La Force, was allowed to escape, so that he could continue his undercover work on the outside.
The more I looked into the souls of criminals, the more they revealed themselves to me, the more I was persuaded to sympathize with the society on which these parasites fed.…Resolved, whatever might come of it, to take my stand against them in the interests of decent people, I wrote to M. Henry to offer him my services again, making no other condition than that I not be sent back to the galleys, and resigning myself to finishing my sentence in any jail he might choose.…M. Henry submitted my offer to the prefect of police, M. Pasquier, who decided that it would be accepted.
Thus, in March 1811, Vidocq secretly joined the Paris police force. He captured several elusive counterfeiters, including the one with whom he had been staying at the time of his own capture two years earlier. He foiled several robbery attempts in flagrante delicto, including one in which he pretended to be shot by police agents swooping in, so as to preserve his undercover status: “Not a single day went by that I did not make the most important discoveries; not a single crime was committed or was soon to be committed of which I did not know all the circumstances; I was everywhere, I knew everything, and the authorities, when I called upon them to intervene, were never misled by my information.” 
Official recognition came quickly to Vidocq. Within a year of his joining the police, the Prefecture created a new unit, the Brigade de Sûreté (Security Brigade), specifically to assist him in his work. Vidocq received the title chef de la Sûreté and offices near those of the Prefecture itself, in the Palais de Justice, at the opposite end of the île de la Cité from Notre Dame cathedral. To start with, the new chef de la Sûreté had only four agents. However, at the end of the Napoleonic Wars in 1814–15, Vidocq recalls in his Mémoires, unemployed former soldiers and prisoners of war began to stream back to a country and a capital already in economic distress, threatening to produce a serious crime wave. In part as a levee against this surge, and in part because the Brigade de Sûreté was taking on tasks formerly done by other units, the Prefecture expanded it. By 1827, when Vidocq resigned, the brigade had twenty-eight agents.
The brigade’s expansion resulted above all from its success. Despite having been promoted to chef de la Sûreté, Vidocq still descended into the streets himself in order to track down and arrest particularly wanted and notorious criminals. “Without wishing to seek glory for what I did, I can say that the boldest were seized by me.” Thus Vidocq alone captured the fugitive younger Delzève, after his tracing of a horse’s nosebag left at the scene of a robbery had already led to the seizure of the elder Delzève and the rest of their gang of thieves. The gang had been pursued since 1810; Vidocq presented Delzève to Henry on 1 January 1813, as a holiday gift. Vidocq had spent a cold New Year’s Eve waiting outside his quarry’s door in a dung heap, keeping warm and hidden until the latter showed himself, whereupon the policeman emerged. He made a similar gift to Pasquier on New Year’s Day 1814, following a long and painstaking search for the escapee Fossard, during which he assumed the disguise of a prison escapee himself, then of a businessman, and finally of a coal dealer. Vidocq’s Mémoires effervesce with anecdotes of such arrests.
In 1823, Vidocq and several of his agents climbed aboard a Lyon-Paris stagecoach that was due to be held up, he had learned, in the Forest of Sénart, a short distance southeast of the capital. When the robbers struck, he and his men burst out of the coach, guns blazing away. The affair gained Vidocq a lot of publicity: Newspapers covered the trial of the robbers, and street hawkers sold prints and broadsides describing the sylvan adventure. Vidocq himself was injured in the arm during the attack, whether by a bullet or by a fall from the coach is not clear.
Vidocq proved as adept at gaining convictions as at finding malefactors and making arrests. He continued to work undercover and sometimes contrived to get involved with a group planning a “job,” which enabled him to be on the scene at the crucial moment to catch the crooks red-handed. It was in this manner that he caught the Corvets, husband and wife: “I quite simply went along with their proposal.” On other occasions it was necessary to get arrested suspects to make damaging admissions. Once he posed as a political prisoner and had himself locked up for a couple of weeks in a cell with a counterfeiter in order to win the latter’s confidence and learn where his machinery was being stored. Another time Vidocq managed, in separate interrogations, to get four thieves to incriminate one another by telling each of them that one of his confederates had already informed on him. In a third instance, Vidocq persuaded the twenty-year-old murderer of a prostitute to confess by telling him that, as a minor, he could only be punished with a short prison term. On the basis of his confession, the murderer received the death sentence.
In order to show the readers of his Mémoires “the importance of the operations of the Brigade de Sûreté,” Vidocq presents a “recapitulation of arrests made during the year 1817”: 15 murderers; 341 thieves; 38 receivers of stolen goods; 14 escaped convicts; 43 parole violators; 46 forgers, swindlers, confidence men; 229 vagabonds and suspicious types expelled from Paris; 46 objects of the prefect’s warrants; 39 searches and seizures of stolen goods; 811 total. In less than seven years, Vidocq estimates, the brigade had arrested more than four thousand lawbreakers and had nearly wiped out whole categories of crime. By the mid-1820s, the brigade was keeping twelve hundred ex-convicts under surveillance and executing four hundred to five hundred warrants annually.
Vidocq was a controversial figure in the Prefecture. Henry, who remained his superior after his promotion to chef de la Sûreté, steadfastly supported him while collecting a box full of complaints against him made by other policemen. Vidocq’s previous career spent on the other side of the law cast a long shadow. He mainly, or perhaps even exclusively, hired ex-convicts to serve in his police unit. Defendants in robbery cases tried several times to implicate him in crimes. In a celebrated instance, four of Vidocq’s own agents, who were taken in the act of committing a theft in 1823, accused him of furnishing both the suggestion and a tool used in the attempt. Nothing was ever proven against him, however. In 1818, Pasquier, by then minister of justice, arranged for Vidocq to receive, as a sign of confidence in him and of his regained state of innocence, a pardon for the Lille forgery conviction. “The court of Douai proclaimed that the rights that had been taken away from me by an error of justice were finally restored to me,” Vidocq writes, mistaking a pardon for a correction.
By the time Vidocq resigned from the police in 1827 he had built up a successful career, a modicum of celebrity, and a fortune of around half a million francs. Although he received bonuses and rewards for bringing particularly important cases to a satisfactory conclusion, his annual salary was only five thousand francs, so it is evident that he had other sources of income. At one point he owned a tavern, and he may also have invested in property. He may have lent money to bad credit risks, and he may also have bought bills of credit for loans that were past due and judged to be uncollectible. For conscripts seeking to avoid military service he arranged to provide substitutes, a legitimate business, although he was accused of acquiring the substitutes at no cost from among his arrestees.
Just as Vidocq’s activities earlier had caused honest society to expel him toward outlaw society, so his activities later caused outlaw society to expel him back in the direction of honest society. As informer, undercover agent, disloyal accomplice, and perhaps provocateur, then as head of police detectives, purveyor of substitute conscripts, and perhaps loan shark, he preyed on outlaw society as he had earlier, while a confessed thief and swindler, preyed on honest society. Born a member of honest society, he became an outlaw, then a member of outlaw society, and eventually an outlaw to outlaw society. At that point, not surprisingly, honest society showed a reluctance to reassimilate him; it received him only provisionally, on the negative principle that “an enemy of my enemy is my friend.” Since he was determined to live by taking advantage of people, better that he take advantage of other malefactors than of honest citizens. Vidocq the detective came into being not as the negation but as the mirror-image of Vidocq the outlaw.
An unusual government provided the mirror. The revolutionary regime headed by the ex-rebel Napoleon, and seconded by other ex-rebels such as Fouché, manifested a singular indifference toward the pasts of talented people offering their services to it. With his criminal history, Vidocq’s chances of becoming a policeman during any other regime would have been slight. He proved to be a good risk for the outlaw regime, however, since he faithfully followed the pattern established by the regime’s leaders: Once in office he became an inveterate enemy of outlaws. “In general, a thief who considers himself reformed is pitiless toward his former colleagues; the more enterprising he used to be among them, the more implacable he is now against them,” Vidocq writes, justifying his own hiring of ex-convicts.
The same government facilitated Vidocq’s career in another way. Napoleon’s dramatic expansion of the police provided employment opportunities for more people and allowed for greater specialization among them than ever before. For the first time the police had a special detective department. “Is it not astonishing,” asked Louis Canler, chef de la Sûreté during the 1850s, “that so many years had passed before the authorities thought of this simple idea, to gather into a single unit a group of individuals solely concerned with tracking crime, foiling thieves, and arresting criminals?”  But ideas, even simple ones, grow out of contexts, and the context necessary to produce this idea did not exist until the Napoleonic regime.
Although Vidocq the outlaw had acquired his job as a policeman in an outlaw regime, when the regime of Louis XVIII, which regarded itself as the legitimate one, replaced the Napoleonic regime in 1814, it retained Vidocq. He had been an outlaw, but not a political one. His apolitical stance benefited him at the beginning of the Restoration and then harmed him at the end of it. By 1827, Henry had retired, and others who had supported him were gone as well. In their places were partisans who expected their subordinates to be both royalists and good Catholics. Vidocq, for his part, did not respect their professional abilities. Thanks to his outlaw past, he had a thorough knowledge of criminals, their methods, their milieu, and their mentality, which was essential to his success as a police detective. The lesson of Vidocq was that to duplicate this success one had to acquire that knowledge. It may be ironic but it also makes perfect sense that an accomplished outlaw would have introduced into the police the specialty of detective.
The modern detective had forerunners in the eighteenth-century police. But the specialty did not develop then. For one thing, Vidocq writes:
The police did not imagine what use could be made of thieves, considering them solely as a means of recreation, and only later thought of entrusting to them some of the vigilance that it is necessary to exercise for the common security.
I have read, in memoirs from the reign of Louis XV, that they [thieves] used to be invited to perform at soirées, just as today one invites, for a fee, the famous prestidigitator M. Comte, or some well-known soprano.
Whenever a notable foreigner came to visit the capital, the lieutenant-general immediately put the best thieves on his trail, and promised a respectable reward to the one among them who was sufficiently adroit to steal his watch or some other valuable piece of jewelry. Once the theft had been committed, the lieutenant-general was informed of it, and when the foreigner presented himself to make his complaint, he was stupefied, for no sooner had he described the object than it was returned to him.
The lieutenant-general of police was the eighteenth-century equivalent of the nineteenth-century prefect of police, and the particular one referred to by Vidocq in this passage was M. de Sartine, who held the office under Louis XV. Sartine, incidentally, also held the office of director of the book trade for a time and protected the Encyclopédie during the middle years of its publication. Among the singularities of Sartine, an early-nineteenth-century police archivist and historian informs us, was
In his use of thieves and in his efforts to overawe them, Sartine was a forerunner of Vidocq. But the mentality of his age precluded him from making use of them in an official capacity, as police detectives. Indeed, he could not have imagined having detectives at all, of whatever background.
a special taste for wigs; he possessed a collection that was quite remarkable for its size and variety. He had a wig for every occasion, for every one of his functions, for every ceremony, for visiting people of every sort, for receiving people of every sort; he operated on the principle that “all the world’s a stage, and all men and women merely players”; he understood that his duties would place him on the boards with other players, who for their part would not be lacking in skill and talent, with whom he would have to struggle.…Were he called upon to interrogate a criminal, he shrouded himself in an enormous wig, put on a stern countenance, and made himself up like the judge in a courtroom drama. To the convict he presented the imperturbability, the theatrical sobriety called for by the role he wanted to play. The convict was his public.
The first detective force in Europe may have been London’s Bow Street Runners. In 1749, Henry Fielding, the novelist turned magistrate who heard cases in a courtroom on Bow Street, organized a group of “thief-takers.” It is one of the peculiarities of English history that London had no regular police force until 1829, when Sir Robert Peel’s “bobbies” began making their rounds. Instead, each magistrate had a few unsalaried constables as assistants, conscripted from the citizenry for terms of one year. In addition, private persons had the right to arrest suspected thieves and bring them into court. If a suspect was convicted, the apprehender received a bounty, paid by the government. As a result, some private persons made their livings as thief-takers. Fielding persuaded six men who had been among his constables to continue working for him as thieftakers after their terms of service had expired. He used these Bow Street Runners as plain-clothes investigators. Although it had had some notable successes, his detective force was hardly launched when he died in 1754 at the age of only forty-seven. But his half-brother, John Fielding, succeeded him as Bow Street magistrate, presiding there for twenty-five years, continuing the Runners, and organizing the citywide uniformed Horse Patrol, a predecessor of Peel’s bobbies. With their policy of “quick notice and sudden pursuit,” the Bow Street Runners, working in conjunction with the constables, broke up several gangs of thieves and brought many criminals to justice. The Fieldings boasted that, on learning of a crime, they “would immediately despatch a set of brave fellows in pursuit, who…are always ready to set out to any part of this town or kingdom, on a quarter of an hour’s notice.” Bow Street became known as the place to report crimes, the records of which were catalogued in a central registry and in the mind of John Fielding, who, although having lost his sight in an accident at age nineteen, was supposed to have been able to recognize three thousand recidivists by their voices alone. The Bow Street courtroom, where “blind justice” could be seen in person, attracted throngs of spectators from every class of society.
Despite the many and celebrated successes of Bow Street, the Fieldings failed to establish their detective force on a permanent basis. The Runners existed only intermittently and even then generally numbered no more than six. The British government was unwilling to provide regular funding; its citizens were suspicious of the very idea of police; and both were constitutionally resistant to change. And the irregular system of funding on which the Runners relied, whereby they received their pay from crime victims who enlisted their assistance and from government bounties, encouraged abuses—that is, the provocation of crimes or the framing of innocent people in order to collect rewards.
Jonathan Wild is the most notorious example in eighteenth-century England of a criminal thief-taker. His main business was organizing the sale of stolen goods back to their owners, the proceeds of which he shared with the thieves. Daniel Defoe, in his True and Genuine Account of the Life and Actions of the Late Jonathan Wild (1725), explains how Wild worked both with and against thieves: “And sometimes…he has officiously caused the thief or thieves to be taken with the goods upon them, when he has not been able to bring them to comply, and so has made himself both thief and chapman, as the proverb says; getting a reward for the discovery, and bringing the poor wretch to the gallows too, and this only because he could not make his market of him to his mind.” Wild served as the model for the character Peachum in John Gay’s Beggar’s Opera (1728). In addition to Defoe’s short biography and Gay’s play, a full-scale satirical novel, The Life of Mr. Jonathan Wild the Great (1743) was written by Henry Fielding, who witnessed Wild’s hanging in 1725. None of these works presents Wild in a favorable light. In the case of Fielding, although the picaresque form exerted a strong influence on his composition of both Jonathan Wild the Great and Tom Jones (1749), the novelist was soon to be a magistrate and already incapable of seeing an outlaw as a hero. Still less could he imagine the mirror image of the outlaw-hero, the detective-hero.
Though Fielding had been a rather dissolute young man, frequenting brothels, drinking heavily, and gambling away large sums, he always saw criminal society from the outside. He satirized Prime Minister Robert Walpole in Jonathan Wild the Great, comparing him to that notorious governor of thieves, but Walpole’s government was not constituted of former rebels and was not seen as an outlaw regime. It had no impetus to organize a large and repressive police force. Thus, in spite of Fielding’s initiative in assembling a detective force and his great skill as a novelist, he created neither Scotland Yard nor the detective story, both of which, like the word “detective” itself, had to wait for the nineteenth century to appear.
The emergence of the detective as a specialist within the police and the detective-hero as a distinctive figure in literature took place during a period in which outlaws triumphed over established society, that is, during an age of revolution; for the triumphant outlaws, once in power, became obsessed with ferreting out new outlaws. Thus it was Vidocq who, during his tenure as chef de la Sûreté, established the detective department as an enduring part of Western police forces, and who, in his Mémoires, established the detective-hero as an enduring type in Western literature.
Vidocq’s name had occasionally appeared in newspaper and broadsheet accounts of sensational arrests. But his Mémoires, which came out sequentially in four volumes in 1828–29, soon after his resignation from the police, made him famous. Their splash generated waves of supplements and rebuttals, abridgments and revisions, authorized and pirated editions, almost immediately and for long afterward. Vidocq himself realized a small fortune from their sale, something on the order of twenty thousand to forty thousand francs.
Just as in his life Vidocq made a successful transition from outlaw to policeman and in the process created the métier of detective, so in his Mémoires he made a successful transition from sympathetic outlaw to sympathetic policeman and in the process created the detective-hero. The same advantages served him in both cases: his own thorough knowledge of the criminal milieu and mentality as well as unexpected support from within honest society’s institutions, in the first case the police and in the second the publishing industry. That the police would pay a convict such as Vidocq to be an informer was normal; that they would later hire him as a regular agent, irregular. Similarly, for a publisher to turn a convict such as Vidocq into an outlaw-hero was, as we have seen, common; to contract with him to do it himself and to turn himself into a sympathetic policeman later in the same set of memoirs, novel. But just as his transition from criminal to policeman, however unusual, consisted more of his translation than of his transformation, so the parallel literary transition from outlaw-hero to detective-hero consisted primarily of treating the same material from a different point of view.
Thus it did not take much adventurousness on the part of M. Tenon to continue publishing the volumes of Vidocq’s Mémoires after their story had reached the point of their hero’s conversion, especially when the first two volumes were already selling so well. A contemporary court reporter who wrote a biography of Vidocq called the reception of the latter’s Mémoires “an unprecedented succès de curiosité.” That often judicious observer failed to perceive how deep were the roots of the new growth from which would flower the roman judiciaire (crime novel). The above brief look at the tradition and popularity of the outlaw-hero narrative suggested that its relative popularity in a given society seems to be associated with the relative unpopularity of those in power in that society. Tales of Cartouche and Mandrin flourished in the last century of the Old Regime of the Bourbon kings that ended in the French Revolution. Vidocq’s Mémoires appeared late in the Restoration, the fifteen-year span during which the Bourbons ruled again and which ended in the Revolution of 1830. But during the Restoration, together with the bad old government, there was a new industrial economy. As the pace of both industrialization and immigration into Paris began to accelerate, the new capital seemed to be producing above all unemployment, poverty, and crime. A hero who stood for resistance to the injustices of the powerful was again welcome, and one who stood for resistance to both the criminals above and the criminals below was doubly so.
Crime became the object of increasing fear in the 1820s, 1830s, and 1840s, and also of increasing fascination. These were the decades when the many popular theaters founded since the 1790s began to set their violent melodramas locally rather than in exotic places, and when their own locale began to be known as the Boulevard du Crime. Reassuringly, in melodramas the good guys always won. Likewise, in his Mémoires, detective Vidocq always got his man. These were also the decades when sociological studies and social reform proposals began to focus on the problem of crime. In Les Voleurs, physiologie de leurs moeurs et de leur langage (Thieves, an Anatomy of their Mores and their Language, 1837), Vidocq published a new collection of crime anecdotes from his seemingly inexhaustible supply, this time organized as a systematic, quasi-scholarly treatise on the subculture of criminals, with particular emphasis on the modus operandi of thieves. A perfect record has characterized fictional detectives, and a mastery of methods—of criminal techniques, of disguise, of reasoning from clues, of identification—has characterized both fictional and factual detectives ever since.
Vidocq acquired his mastery of methods with the help of experience gained during his criminal past. Attempting to escape jail, convict Vidocq had taken on whatever identities were plausible and at hand: prison guard, prison doctor, prison inspector. Detective Vidocq assumed the parts of women as well as men, foreigners as well as Frenchmen, older as well as younger people. He impersonated porters, craftsmen, soldiers, businessmen. And, of course, Vidocq continued to play thieves. They had their own styles of dress: earrings, fur hats half brushed flat and half brushed up, and necklaces made from the hair of a lover, for example; and certain groups of thieves had favorite tailors. The success of a disguise depends not only on dress but also on language. Escapee Vidocq’s knowledge of German helped make him a convincing Austrian soldier; detective Vidocq’s knowledge of the signs, verbal and gestural, used by the homosexual underground enabled him to be taken for one himself; and his knowledge of the argot of criminals helped him continue to gain their acceptance. Linguists and criminologists interested in French argot have drawn heavily on Vidocq, particularly on Les Voleurs, whose overall organization is that of a dictionary of argot, into which an anatomy of thieves’ mores and methods is incorporated.
Vidocq vaunted his skill with clues in a variety of vainglories. In one case, at the end of which he persuaded two would-be murderers to confess, he used the scrap of an envelope found at the scene of the crime as a clue to lead him to them. The scrap showed only the left half of the address, but Vidocq reconstructed it with the aid of his knowledge of criminal hangouts. A horse’s nosebag found at the scene of another crime facilitated his capture of the Delzève gang. Tracing it to a cab, he had the driver arrested, and the latter’s information eventually enabled the police to locate the gang. On a third occasion, Vidocq found a bootprint in the mud near where a robbery had been committed and matched it to a boot of his suspect.
Vidocq’s thorough knowledge of the criminal world was as important to his successful use of clues as his ability to reason from them. Several times he was able to determine who had been responsible for a theft immediately upon learning what was stolen and how. A former prison official, by no means an uncritical admirer of Vidocq, told this story:
Two days later, Vidocq arrested Fossard, who had indeed been responsible for the celebrated robbery of the medal room of the Bibliothèque Royale in 1831. Thus, Vidocq knew thieves’ methods, as he demonstrated at length in Les Voleurs, as well as their characteristic costumes and speech.
I remember that, having gone on prison business to the office of M. Lecrosnier, head of the first division at the Prefecture of Police, the very morning of the day on which the theft was committed, I found him and Vidocq busy examining a piece of a panel from a door. The piece, which contained the door’s lock, had been removed by the method known as “theft à la gimlet” and had just been brought from the Bibliothèque Royale. “What beautiful work!” exclaimed Vidocq, rotating the piece of panel, which was as round as a full moon and fringed with a thousand tiny holes artistically cut on the circumference. “What craftsmanship! What perfection! I know of only one artist capable of doing such pretty work; if he weren’t in prison, I’d say it was him!” “Who, then?” asked M. Lecrosnier. “The famous Fossard,” answered Vidocq. “Fossard! But he escaped eight days ago,” replied M. Lecrosnier, “the Prefect just received the news from Brest.” “Then it’s him.”
He also knew the criminals themselves. In 1833 he opened up a private detective agency with the aid of the files that he had gradually assembled while chef de la Sûreté. By 1842 he had accumulated information on “30,000 crooks of all countries.” This was before the invention of photography or any other reliable means of identification. Vidocq’s files marked a first step toward developing a system for the rapid identification and retrieval of information about criminals. Fingerprinting did not become widely used until the first decade of the twentieth century, and its predecessor, anthropometry, had only caught on in the 1880s. Vidocq systematically memorized faces as an indispensable complement to keeping extensive files. Detectives continued this practice at least until the mid-twentieth century, making regular visits to prisons and carefully observing the prisoners as they walked in a circle in the exercise yard, just as Vidocq had done:
Of course, Vidocq had already met many of the convicts at Bicêtre when he had been one of them.
It seemed to me that it would be useful to file away in my memory, as well as possible, the descriptions of all those who had been seized by justice.…Therefore, I asked M. Henry for the authorization to go to Bicêtre with my agents.
The prosecution of Vidocq in 1843 for some of the activities of his private detective agency reaffirmed his status as detective-hero. Dozens of satisfied clients testified in court to the efficacy of his work. Dr. Koreff, a fashionable physician, suspected spy, salon lion, and mesmerist, told how Vidocq had recovered a pet parrot that had flown away from his house. The detective himself testified with perfect poise, even against hostile questioning. The trial was well attended, monitored by major newspapers, and covered extensively by the courtroom press. The spectators greeted Vidocq’s acquittal with wild applause.
Doubtless encouraged by this public show of support, Vidocq mounted an exhibition in London in 1845, which had such success that he repeated it the following year. Favorable reviews appeared in several newspapers, including the Times:
In sum, Vidocq had no sooner retired from the police than his own shadow, projected in the newspapers, in his Mémoires, in translations of them, in stage adaptations of his life, and in his own Les Voleurs, began to overtake and obscure him. The detective-hero was born.
In another room are to be seen the costumes of all the various grades of society in Paris amongst which swindlers, rogues, thieves and plunderers may be suspected to associate, which costumes are understood to be the actual ones worn by M. Vidocq in his professional capacity, and used by him in discovering and arresting the criminals obnoxious to justice. There is also a variety of daggers, sanguinary weapons, knives, and other horrible implements of murder or mutilation, taken from the perpetrators of crime; and in addition, instruments of torture, as they are called, and manacles, or fetters, with which, it is stated, M. Vidocq himself was secured to prevent his own escape from durance, when, during the vicissitudes of his adventurous life, he fell under the displeasure of the French government. But the principal curiosity in the collection will be found to be M. Vidocq himself, whose appearance is very much what might be anticipated by those who have read his memoirs or heard of his exploits.
Vidocq’s celebrity as a sleuth guaranteed that he would be followed. He became the model for a long line of fictional detectives, some of whom eventually passed the original in notoriety. Balzac, a personal friend of Vidocq, put several of his most prominent features into the reappearing character Vautrin, a famous criminal in a few of the earlier novels of La Comédie humaine (1829–48), the chef de la Sûreté at the end of a late one. Émile Gaboriau introduced the police detective of five best-sellers (1866–69), Monsieur Lecoq, as “an old offender, reconciled to the law.” Pierre-Alexis Ponson du Terrail’s Rocambole began his career as a private detective (1866–70) after many novels in which he had been a criminal (1857–65). While still a criminal he had been pursued by Timoléon, whose author described him as “a thief; then the old police employed him as they had employed Vidocq; then they dismissed him because he continued to steal.” Obviously exasperated by this trend, Edward Bulwer-Lytton created M. Favart, “one of the most renowned chiefs of the great Parisian police—a man worthy to be the contemporary of the illustrious Vidocq,” in order to have a counterfeiter see through his disguise and kill him. O. Henry was satisfied merely to ridicule “Tictocq, the great French detective.” 
Literary historians who have studied the detective story credit Vidocq’s Mémoires with having had a decisive influence on the creation of that genre. They define the detective story, or novel—the only difference between the two is length—as a narrative that centers on a mystery, generally surrounding a crime or crimes, that is eventually solved by the reasoning of a detective-hero. Poe, they agree, created the first examples worthy of the name (1841–44). He did not set them in Paris by accident. His hero, C. Auguste Dupin, exhibited an understandable ambivalence toward his predecessor, calling Vidocq “a good guesser and a persevering man. But, without educated thought, he erred continually by the very intensity of his investigations.” The ambivalence of Dupin, or Poe, toward Vidocq was due not only to the fact that the latter had in large part anticipated him, but also to the long-standing French and Anglo-American cultural antipathy to the police; significantly, Dupin was an amateur detective. Vidocq’s success in making himself a hero as a policeman marked only the beginning of a change in attitudes. A continuing if steadily diminishing dislike of the police probably restrained the population of detective-heroes and the popularity of detective stories for some time.
In the meantime—after the languishing of the old picaresque novel with its outlaw-hero, and before the flourishing of the new detective novel with its detective-hero—sprouted the crime novel, often in feuilletons, foliating the naked struggle between criminals and police or just the milieu and mentality of crime. Vidocq’s Mémoires nourished this genre too, providing Eugène Sue, for example, with many ideas for Les Mystères de Paris (The Mysteries of Paris, 1842–43), the enormous success of which prompted Vidocq to respond with his own novel, Les Vrais mystères de Paris (The True Mysteries of Paris, 1845). Balzac effectively defined the crime novel in “La Dernière incarnation de Vautrin” (The Last Incarnation of Vautrin, 1847): “This antagonism between people who seek and avoid each other reciprocally constitutes an immense duel, eminently dramatic, sketched in this study.” 
Vidocq’s Mémoires influenced most directly other policemen, who subsequently wrote theirs. Memoirs were published by Henri-Joseph Gisquet (1840), prefect of police during Vidocq’s second term as chef de la Sû-reté; by Marc Caussidière (1849), another prefect; by Louis Canler (1862), another chef de la Sûreté; and others. Jacques Peuchet, a police archivist, showcased his more active colleagues in a six-volume set of Mémoires tirés des archives de la police de Paris (1838). A former policeman named Louis Guyon, a contemporary of Vidocq, produced rather than memoirs several books criticizing the police, including the Brigade de Sûreté, in the process of which, however, he related many of his own experiences. In fact, Gisquet, Canler, and Peuchet, as well as Guyon, all criticized Vidocq personally, often at some length. But just as significantly, Gisquet, Canler, and Guyon each vaunted his own abilities as a detective.
The Sûreté has been regarded as an essential branch of the police ever since it began with Vidocq (in 1811 or 1812). The Metropolitan Police of London copied the idea thirty years later (in 1842), when it founded its Criminal Investigation Department in Scotland Yard. Vidocq’s private detective agency, the Bureau de Renseignements (Information Office, 1833) has also had many imitators, for example, Allan Pinkerton’s North-Western Police Agency (1850), later called the Pinkerton National Detective Agency.
From the robust trunk of Vidocq, the detective-hero ramified in literature and crime-fighting agencies everywhere; and his outlaw-hero roots continued to grow as well. Balzac, for example, glorified many criminals but no detectives. We learn at the end of “La Dernière incarnation de Vau-trin” that the famous outlaw’s last incarnation will be as chef de la Sûreté, but he is never presented in any of Balzac’s novels in that role. In Père Goriot (1834), when he is discovered under the alias Jacques Collin, he defiantly proclaims: “A convict of the stamp of Collin, yours truly, is less of a coward than other men, and he protests against the profound deceptions of the social contract, as did Rousseau, of whom I am proud to call myself the disciple.” And the celebrated poet-thief Lacenaire, awaiting execution (1836) for committing murder during a robbery, recalled: “For a long time I had been unaware of what it was to be a professional thief. But eventually I happened to read the Mémoires of Vidocq and conceived some idea of that class living in a constant state of war against society.” 
When Vidocq resigned in 1827 he had completed fifteen years as chef de la Sûreté, after which he wavered between outlaw-hero and detective-hero for the rest of his life. In the first half of his Mémoires (1828–29), as the owner of a paper factory that employed ex-convicts (1828–31), and in a social-reform tract (1844) he played the role of outlaw-hero. In the second half of his Mémoires (1828–29), in his short second term as chef de la Sûreté (1832), and in Les Voleurs (1837) he played the role of detective-hero. As the proprietor of a private detective agency harassed by the police (1833–43), he appeared as outlaw-hero and detective-hero at the same time.
Immediately upon leaving the police in 1827 he became a champion of oppressed ex-convicts. One of the reasons ex-convicts returned to a life of crime after their release from prison was that employers were reluctant to hire them. So in order to give them honest work, Vidocq used part of his fortune to buy a paper and cardboard factory in Saint-Mandé, a suburb of Paris, where he employed them exclusively. Victor Hugo, who also drew heavily on Vidocq in some of his novels, portrayed the difficulty ex-convicts had in reintegrating themselves into honest society in Les Misérables (1862), in which a policeman, Javert, relentlessly pursues the ex-convict hero, Jean Valjean. Javert is introduced as “implacable duty, conceiving the police in the same way the Spartans conceived Sparta, a pitiless watch-dog, a fierce integrity, an informer made of marble, Brutus combined with Vidocq.” Valjean is also drawn after Vidocq in some of his features, including his great physical strength. In the symbolic scene that immediately follows the introduction of Javert, Valjean lifts up by himself an overturned, heavily loaded wagon so that a man trapped underneath can escape. Two decades earlier, immediately after the appearance of Vidocq’s Mémoires, Hugo had dispatched Le Dernier jour d’un condamné (The Last Day of a Condemned Man, 1829), a novel in which he dramatized what he considered the cruelty and inhumanity of capital punishment. Vidocq himself put out a social-reform tract, called Quelques mots sur une question de l’ordre du jour: Réflexions sur les moyens propres à diminuer les crimes et les récidives (A Few Words about a Pressing Matter: Reflections on the Means by Which to Reduce Crime and Recidivism, 1844). Among many other criticisms of the way society treated exconvicts, Vidocq censured the hazardous white-lead industry, one of the few industries that did employ them, many of whom however died of poisoning after only a few years of work there. Unfortunately, Vidocq’s business also had a short life, due at least in part to the prejudice of his neighbors and customers against his employees.
Vidocq returned to his post as chef de la Sûreté for a few months in 1832. The Revolution of 1830 had once again brought about sweeping personnel changes in many branches of administration, including the Pre-fecture of Police. The new prefect, Gisquet, hired Vidocq back as an agent in 1831. After Vidocq arranged a spectacular arrest of eight suspected thieves in a cabaret in March 1832, Gisquet promoted him into his old position. His most striking success in his brief second term consisted in his breaking down barricades and seizing one of the leaders of the Paris insurrection of 5–6 June 1832. Gisquet himself conducted the checkmate of Deschapelles and his republican secret society, whose ill-planned moves on the same occasion represented a less serious threat. Vidocq, for his part in quelling the rebellion, received formal commendations from the inhabitants of the Cité, from Gisquet, from Interior Minister Louis-Adolphe Thiers, and perhaps even from King Louis-Philippe. But his second term ended almost as soon as it began. The trial in the autumn of 1832 of the eight whose arrests had led to his reappointment put him in a bad light. One of his own agents was convicted of complicity in the attempted theft and sentenced to two years in prison; the agent may also have acted as a provocateur. Gisquet forced Vidocq to resign, instituted strict rules regarding the operations of the Brigade de Sûreté, and determined never again to hire ex-convicts as agents. This policy became permanent, thus closing the brief two-decade window of opportunity that had allowed Vidocq to create the profession of police detective. Ironically, Vidocq was permanently shut out of a specialty that had become permanent thanks to his demonstration of its usefulness.
So in 1833 he opened his own detective agency, the Bureau de Renseignements dans l’Intérêt du Commerce (Commercial Information Office), in the galerie Vivienne, just north of the Palais-Royal. At first he simply offered to inform clients whether a prospective trading partner was a legitimate businessman or a swindler. In order to indicate the magnitude of this problem, and thus the potential magnitude of his help, Vidocq in his prospectus estimated at “36 to 40 millions, at the least, the sum that they [swindlers] annually siphon away from honest commerce.” For his part, he was looking for a use to which to apply his vast knowledge of the population of criminal society. A few years later he began to offer his detective skills as well as his knowledge: “I accepted all sorts of surveillance, research, and investigation work, not only in the interests of commerce, but also in the interests of families.” He built up his agency to the point where he had eight thousand clients and twenty employees. Unfortunately for Vidocq, the police regarded it as a kind of unofficial, indeed illegal, rival. They made two major efforts to close it down and ultimately succeeded. Twice, in 1837 and again in 1842, the police seized his files, the heart of his operation, and took him to court. And twice the public acclaimed his acquittal, but the ravagings of his files, the interruptions in his business, the months he spent in jail waiting for his trials to begin, and the cost of mounting his defenses ruined his agency. It is clear from the description of contemporary journalists that if Vidocq suffered a material defeat, he won at the same time a moral and popular victory. He made himself a detective-hero and an outlaw-hero simultaneously.
During the Second Republic (1848–51) Vidocq was reduced to taking jobs as a political spy in Paris and London, where he monitored the activities of various intriguers, including the ambitious Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte, the first Napoleon’s nephew. Louis-Napoleon had spent several years in French prisons following failed coup attempts, but in 1851 he succeeded and named himself Emperor Napoleon III. As he began to create what one historian has called “the police state of Louis-Napoleon,” Vidocq importuned him with letters in which he professed his total commitment to Bonapartism and solicited a government pension. Vidocq died in poverty a few years later.
Americans may be interested in the origins of their own famous police detective agency, the Federal Bureau of Investigation: It was founded in 1908 by the attorney general of the United States, Charles Joseph Bonaparte, second cousin of Napoleon III and great-nephew of Napoleon I.
All translations of quotations from other languages into English are the author’s unless otherwise noted.
1. Frédéric Masson and Guido Biagi, eds., Napoléon inconnu: Papiers inédits (1786–1793), 2 vols. (Paris: Ollendorf, 1895). [BACK]
2. On Paoli’s request for a constitution: Rousseau, Confessions, in Oeuvres complètes, vol. 1, pp. 648–52. See also comte de Las Cases, Le Mémorial de Sainte-Hélène, ed. Marcel Dunan, 2 vols. (Paris: Flammarion, 1951), vol. 1, pp. 111–16 (Napoleon’s scorn for his superior officers); vol. 2, pp. 301–2 (Napoleon’s scorn for Louis XVI); vol. 1, pp. 698–99 (Napoleon’s scorn for the Directory). The source of the “regeneration” quotation: Jean Tulard, Napoléon, ou Le mythe du sauveur (Paris: Fayard, 1977), p. 448. The source of the “novel” quotation: Las Cases, Mémorial de Sainte-Hélène, vol. 1, p. 806. On Napoleon’s claim to be the heir of the Revolution: ibid., passim—e.g., vol. 1, pp. 495–96; vol. 2, pp. 544–46; Jean Tulard, Le Mythe de Napoléon (Paris: Colin, 1971), passim, esp. the chap. entitled “La Création du mythe”; idem, Napoléon, ou Le mythe du sauveur, passim, esp. the chap. entitled “La légende.” [BACK]
3. Pícaro is Spanish for “rogue.” A vestige of the picaresque’s origins appears even in Smollett’s Roderick Random, where the hero’s father is a Scot turned Spanish don. On characteristics of the picaresque novel: William Rose Benét, The Reader’s Encyclopedia (New York: Harper and Row, 1965), p. 785; Northrop Frye, Sheridan Baker, and George Perkins, The Harper Handbook to Literature (New York: Harper and Row, 1985), pp. 347–48; Ulrich Wicks, “Picaresque,” in Dictionary of Literary Themes and Motifs, ed. Jean-Charles Seigeuret, 2 vols. (Westport, Conn.: Greenwood, 1988), vol. 2, pp. 974–83. On Le Neveu de Rameau and Confessions as picaresque: A. R. Strugnell, “Di-derot’s Neveu de Rameau: Portrait of a Rogue in the French Enlightenment,” in Knaves and Swindlers: Essays on the Picaresque Novel in Europe, ed. Christine J. Whitbourn (London: Oxford University Press, 1974), pp. 93–111. [BACK]
4. For examples of how the outlaw-hero was portrayed in the eighteenth-century popular press: Eric Hobsbawm, Bandits (New York: Pantheon, 1981), illustrations 1–10 between pp. 80 and 81, and the illustrations on pp. 57 and 128. On the popularity of the pamphlet Histoire de Cartouche: Barthélemy Maurice, Cartouche, histoire authentique recueillie pour la première fois (Paris: Laisné, 1859), cited in Frantz Funck-Brentano, Les Brigands (Paris: Hachette, 1924), p. 182. On the popularity of the pamphlet Histoire de Mandrin: Frantz Funck-Brentano, Mandrin, capitaine général des contrebandiers de France (Paris: Hachette, 1908), p. 530. This pamphlet, perhaps the most widely disseminated of those on Mandrin, vilified him, but other publications glorified him; ibid., chap. 40, “Remous d’opinion.” On the popularity of plays about Cartouche: Funck-Brentano, Brigands, p. 213. On the treatment of outlaw-heroes in high-culture literature: Marc-Antoine Le Grand, Cartouche; ou, Les voleurs (play, staged 1721); Nicolas Racot de Granval, Le Vice puni; ou, Cartouche (poem, 1723); François-Antoine Chevrier, La Mandrinade, poeme heroi-comique (1758); [Joseph Terrier de Cléron], Abbrégé de la vie de Louis Mandrin, chef des contrebandiers en France (1755); Sir Walter Scott, Rob Roy (novel, 1817); William Harrison Ainsworth, Rookwood (novel about Turpin, 1834). Hobsbawm, Bandits, p. 127, calls the eighteenth century “the golden age of bandit-heroes.” [BACK]
5. The source of the quotation on “Robin Hood criminals”: Paul Kooistra, Criminals as Heroes: Structure, Power, and Identity (Bowling Green, Ohio: Bowling Green State University, 1989), p. 38. See also ibid., chap. 2, “Theories of the Heroic Criminal”; Hobsbawm, Bandits, chap. 1, “What Is Social Banditry?”; Diderot, Neveu de Rameau, in Oeuvres, p. 446; Funck-Brentano, Brigands, pp. 183–85 (character of Cartouche), 232, 234, 240 (character of Mandrin), 201 (Cartouche and Philippe II); idem, Mandrin, pt. 3, “La Carrière de Mandrin” (the six “campaigns” of 1754–55 made by Mandrin’s “army”), pt. 5, “La Fin des fermiers généraux” (their effect on the system of taxfarming). [BACK]
6. The source of the “sole portrait” quotation: Rousseau, Confessions, in Oeuvres complètes, vol. 1, p. 3; he expresses the same idea on p. 516; again and again he emphasizes both his candor and his uniqueness, although not always, as in these two passages, in the same breath. On Rousseau’s meting out of blame: ibid., pp. 31 (engraver), 82–83 (countess), 271, 219–220, 391–92 (divorcée), 316 (prostitutes). The sources of the last two quotations: ibid., pp. 359 (“my confession”), 639 (“behind my errors”). [BACK]
7. A twentieth-century biography of Vidocq is titled Vidocq, Picaroon of Crime; at least that is the title that appears on the book’s cover; see Philip John Stead, Vidocq, A Biography (this is the title as it appears on the title page) (New York: Roy, [1954?]). “Picaroon” is an alternative form of “picaro.” [BACK]
8. [Eugène-François] Vidocq, Mémoires, ed. Jean Burnat (Paris: Les Productions de Paris, 1959; first published in 4 vols. in Paris, 1828–29), pp. 67–78. On “Comus,” see the works cited below, chapter 6, note 30. [BACK]
9. Vidocq, Mémoires, pp. 78–89; Jean Savant, La Vie fabuleuse et authentique de Vidocq (Paris: Seuil, ), chap. 2. [BACK]
10. Vidocq, Mémoires, p. 93. [BACK]
11. Ibid., pp. 93–106. [BACK]
12. Ibid., pp. 106–8, 132–53; [Eugène-François Vidocq], À M. le Président et MM. les Conseilleurs composant la Chambre des appels de police correctionelle de la Cour royale de Paris (Paris: Beaulé, ), p. 4; idem, Le Procès de Vidocq, documents originaux présentés et commentés par Jean Savant (Paris: Club du Meilleur Livre, 1956), p. 26. [BACK]
13. On events in Vidocq’s life, 1798–1809: Vidocq, Mémoires, pp. 153–296. The sources of Vidocq’s quotations: ibid., pp. 177 (“classical zeal”), 277 (“loves of my life”), 296 (“anywhere one might have found four ex-convicts”), 142 (“to escape the depths of poverty”), 166 (“it did not enter at all into my plans”), 279 (“the persuasion that it would be forbidden”). [BACK]
14. The source of the quotation: “Bulletin de l’Assemblée nationale,” Le Moniteur universel, 5 April 1791 (no. 95), p. 390 (décret de l’Assemblée nationale, 4 April 1791). The remains of Mirabeau, Voltaire, and Beaurepaire were placed in the Pantheon in 1791; Le Peletier de Saint-Fargeau, Marat, and Rousseau between 1792 and 1794; Mirabeau’s remains were removed in 1794, Marat’s in 1795, leaving only four “great men of the epoch of French liberty.” Since the Revolution, the remains of several heroes of later periods of French history have been installed in the Pantheon. See Tulard, Fayard, and Fierro, Histoire et dictionnaire de la Révolution, p. 1017.
On Rousseaulatry: Joan McDonald, Rousseau and the French Revolution, 1762–1791 (London: University of London, 1965), chap. 12, “The Revolution-ary Cult of Rousseau”; Daniel Mornet, Rousseau (Paris: Hatier, 1950), pt. 4, chap. 4, “L’Influence générale de Rousseau avant la Révolution,” and pp. 88, 105. [BACK]
15. Gérard Walter, Robespierre (Paris: Gallimard, 1946), pp. 99–100 (restrictions on the power of government officials), 110–12 (abolition of the death penalty), 307–15 (insurrection of 10 August 1792), 353–59 (debate on fate of king, executed on 21 January 1793, after a trial did in fact take place, at which Robespierre voted for the death penalty), 369–71 (insurrection of 2 June 1793). See also François Furet and Denis Richet, La Révolution française (Paris: Hachette, 1973), pp. 155 (insurrection of 10 August 1792), 178–80 (debate on execution of king), 199–202 (insurrection of 2 June 1793). Robespierre, of course, was also an admirer of Rousseau; Walter, Robespierre, pp. 22–24, 72, 565–67; McDonald, Rousseau and the French Revolution, p. 171. [BACK]
16. Tulard, Napoléon, ou Le mythe du sauveur, pp. 131–34 (Vendée), 168–70 (royalist conspiracy, Moreau, Bourbon prince), 278–79, 319 (censorship), 317–18 (Imperial University), 164–65 (Senate, Legislative Body). See also these articles in Dictionnaire Napoléon: idem, “Vendée,” pp. 1708–9; idem, “Cadoudal,” p. 322; Jean-Paul Bertaud, “Pichegru,” p. 1329; idem, “Moreau,” pp. 1198–99; idem, “Enghien,” pp. 663–65; Tulard, “Censure,” p. 395; Alfred Fierro-Domenech, “Édition,” pp. 641–43; André Cabanis, “Presse,” pp. 1397–1404; Tulard, “Théâtres,” p. 1634; Jean-Louis Halperin, “Sénat,” pp. 1562–65; idem, “Corps législatif,” pp. 511–14. [BACK]
17. For Ministry of Police figures: Louis Madelin, Fouché, 1759–1820, 2 vols. (Paris: Plon, 1930), vol. 1, pp. 481–82, 287. On Fouché’s bulletins: Ernest d’Hauterive, ed., La Police secrète du premier Empire: Bulletins quotidiens adressés par Fouché à l’Empereur, 5 vols. (vols. 1–3: Paris: Perrin, 1908–22; vols. 4, 5: Paris: Clavreuil, 1963–64). On the First Empire as the prototype police state: Peter de Polnay, Napoleon’s Police (London: Allen, 1970), pp. 1, 40; Brian Chapman, Police State (New York: Praeger, 1970), pp. 27–33. The most balanced and knowledgeable historian of the First Empire refers to “le caractère policier pris peu à peu par le régime”; Tulard, Napoléon, ou Le mythe du sauveur, p. 320. [BACK]
18. On the events of Fouché’s life: Madelin, Fouché, vol. 1, pp. 13–20 (teacher in Arras), 15–17 (acquaintance with Robespierre), 41–54 (moderate deputy), 54 (vote for king’s execution), 54–144 (radical Jacobin), 119–44 (Reign of Terror in Lyon), 148 (at least two thousand executed), 144–80 (leader of overthrow of Robespierre). On the Olympiens and Bertrand: Vidocq, Mémoires, pp. 260–67; Ch[arles] Nodier, Souvenirs, épisodes et portraits pour servir à l’histoire de la Révolution et de l’Empire, 2 vols. (Brussels: Hauman, 1831), vol. 2, pp. 38–40; Jean Tulard, “Bertrand,” in Dictionnaire Napoléon, p. 207. [BACK]
19. Patrick Pringle, Hue and Cry: The Story of Henry and John Fielding and Their Bow Street Runners ([New York:] Morrow, ), p. 16. [BACK]
20. Vidocq, Mémoires, pp. 299–300; Savant, Vie fabuleuse et authentique, pp. 156–60; Jean Tulard, “Dubois” and “Pasquier,” in Dictionnaire Napoléon, pp. 620 and 1312, respectively. [BACK]
21. Vidocq, Mémoires, p. 320. [BACK]
22. For information on Vidocq’s police career: ibid., pp. 308–61 (Vidocq’s quotation is on p. 361). [BACK]
23. [Eugène-François] Vidocq, Les Voleurs; histoires de voleurs et autres criminels, portraits de voleurs, les spécialités des voleurs, le langage de voleurs, ed. Jean Savant (Paris: Éditions de Paris, 1957; first published 1837), pt. 1, chap. 14, “L’Affaire de la forêt de Sénart”; [Louis-François L’Héritier de l’Ain], Supplément aux Mémoires de Vidocq, 2 vols. (Paris: Marchands de Nouveautés, 1831), vol. 2, chap. 14, “Les Bandits,” chap. 15, “L’Attaque,” chap. 16, “L’Enterrement”; Le Moniteur universel, 16–21 March 1824, pp. 301–22, passim; Froment [pseud. of Louis Guyon], La Police dévoilée, depuis la restauration, 3 vols. (Paris: Lemonnier, 1829), vol. 1, chap. entitled “La Forêt de Sénart”; Stead, Vidocq, A Biography, pp. 96–99. A contemporary popular engraving entitled “Vidocq arrète des brigands qui attaquaient la diligence, dans la forêt de Sénart” is reproduced in Vidocq, Procès de Vidocq, between pp. 32 and 33. [BACK]
24. On the Corvet case: Vidocq, Mémoires, pp. 376–79. On the counterfeiter case: idem, Voleurs, 1957 ed., pt. 1, chap. 1, “L’Affaire Marie”; L’Héritier de l’Ain, Supplément aux Mémoires de Vidocq, vol. 2, chap. 1, “Le Prévenu,” chap. 2, “L’Intimité,” chap. 3, “La Trahison.” On the four thieves case: Vidocq, Mémoires, pp. 422–33. On the twenty-year-old murderer case: idem, Voleurs, 1957 ed., pt. 1, chap. 3, “L’Assassinat de la Belle Normande”; L’Héritier de l’Ain, Supplément aux Mémoires de Vidocq, vol. 1, chap. 17, “La Minorité.” [BACK]
25. Vidocq, Mémoires, pp. 356–57, 439, 361. [BACK]
26. On complaints and accusations against Vidocq: Vidocq, Mémoires, pp. 369–84; Barthélemy Maurice, Vidocq, vie et aventures (Paris: Laisné, 1858), p. 70. The source of Vidocq’s quotation: Vidocq, Mémoires, p. 366. Concerning the pardon: Maurice, Vidocq, vie et aventures, p. 139; Stead, Vidocq, A Biography, pp. 87–88. It was not until 1828 that the court of Douai publicly confirmed the pardon that Vidocq had received ten years earlier. [BACK]
27. Maurice, Vidocq, vie et aventures, pp. 76–78; Stead, Vidocq, A Biography, pp. 117–20; [Louis] Guyon, Biographie des commissaires de police et des officiers de paix de la ville de Paris (Paris: Goullet, 1826), pp. 234–37. [BACK]
28. Vidocq, Mémoires, p. 382. [BACK]
29. Louis Canler, Mémoires de Canler, 2 vols. (Paris: Roy, 1882), vol. 1, p. 185. [BACK]
30. Maurice, Vidocq, vie et aventures, pp. 140, 158; Canler, Mémoires, vol. 1, pp. 43–44, chap. 14, “La Congrégation à la préfecture de police”; Froment, Police dévoilée, vol. 1, “Essai historique”; Anon., Le Livre noir de MM. Delavau et Franchet, 4 vols. (Paris: Moutardier, 1829), vol. 1, pp. 3–4 and n; J[acques] Peuchet, Mémoires tirés des archives de la police de Paris, 6 vols. (Paris: Levavasseur, 1838), vol. 5, pp. 308–11. [BACK]
31. Vidocq, Mémoires, pp. 369, 368. [BACK]
32. The source of the quotation: Peuchet, Mémoires tirés des archives, vol. 2, pp. 362–63. For information on Sartine: Joseph Le Gras, Diderot et l’Encyclopédie (Paris: Malfère, 1942), pp. 137–38, 147, 159–60; Philip John Stead, The Police of Paris (London: Staples, 1957), pp. 56–57. Sartine, like many other police officials, did hire ex-convicts as informers; Léon Ameline, Ce qu’il faut connaître de la police et de ses mystéres (Paris: Boivin, 1926), p. 51. [BACK]
33. The source of the quotation: Battestin, Henry Fielding, p. 579. See also Jürgen Thorwald, The Century of the Detective, trans. Richard and Clara Winston (New York: Harcourt, Brace and World, 1965), pp. 37–38; Pringle, Hue and Cry, passim, esp. p. 115; Gilbert Armitage, The History of the Bow Street Runners, 1729–1829 (London: Wishart, ), intro. and chaps. 1, 2, 3; Battestin, Henry Fielding, pp. 499–502, 577–80; [Alexander] R[onald] Leslie-Melville, The Life and Work of Sir John Fielding (London: Lincoln Williams, ), passim. [BACK]
34. Armitage, History of the Runners, pp. 258, 263, 266; Pringle, Hue and Cry, pp. 13–15, 129, 209. [BACK]
35. The source of the quotation: Daniel Defoe, The True and Genuine Account of the Life and Action of the Late Jonathan Wild, included in the Penguin edition of Henry Fielding, Jonathan Wild (Harmondsworth, Eng.: Penguin, 1982), pp. 234–35. On Wild as a model for Peachum: William Henry Irving, John Gay, Favorite of the Wits (New York: Russell and Russell, 1962), p. 203; Pringle, Hue and Cry, p. 29. On Fielding at Wild’s hanging: Battestin, Henry Fielding, p. 46. On the influence of the picaresque form on Fielding: Frye, Baker, and Perkins, Harper Handbook to Literature, p. 348; Benét, Reader’s Encyclopedia, pp. 785–86. The source of the idea that the detective-hero began as the mirror image of the outlaw-hero: Frank Wadleigh Chandler, The Literature of Roguery, 2 vols. (New York: Franklin, 1958; reprint of 1st ed., 1907), vol. 2, p. 524. [BACK]
36. On Fielding as a dissolute young man: Battestin, Henry Fielding, pp. 145–48. On Jonathan Wild the Great as a satire of Walpole: ibid., pp. 280–81, 372–73; Pringle, Hue and Cry, p. 29. The first occurrence in print of the word “detective” was in 1843, according to the Oxford English Dictionary. [BACK]
37. Vidocq, Procès de Vidocq, pp. 64–65; Maurice, Vidocq, vie et aventures, p. 141. [BACK]
38. Vidocq’s Mémoires were put into final form by professional writers, vol. 1 by Émile Morice, and vols. 2, 3, and 4 by Louis-François L’Héritier de l’Ain; Joseph-Marie Quérard, Les Supercheries littéraires dévoilées, 3 vols. (Paris: Daffis, 1869–70), vol. 3, p. 945. [BACK]
39. The source of the quotation: Maurice, Vidocq, vie et aventures, p. 141. On the fears of the new Paris: Chevalier, Laboring Classes and Dangerous Classes, bk. 2, intro., “The Contemporary Diagnosis.” [BACK]
40. On the Boulevard du Crime: [François-] Victor Fournel, Le Vieux Paris: Fêtes, jeux et spectacles (Paris: Valtat, 1979; reprint of Tours ed., 1887), pp. 147–48; Robert Baldick, La Vie de Frédérick Lemaître: Le lion du boulevard, trans. Roger Lhombreaud (Paris: Denoël, 1961), pp. 39–41. On the new criminology of the first half of the nineteenth century: Chevalier, Laboring Classes and Dangerous Classes, bk. 1, chap. 5, “The Social Literature.” On Vidocq’s contribution: E F[rançois] Vidocq, Les Voleurs, physiologie de leurs moeurs et de leur langage (Paris: Author, 1837). The method used by detectives has traditionally been referred to as “deduction,” perhaps most famously by Sherlock Holmes. Some have argued that it is rather “induction”; Régis Messac, Le “Detective novel” et l’influence de la pensée scientifique (Paris: Champion, 1929), pp. 33–38. A historian has proposed that it represents a third paradigm of reasoning, which he refers to as the “evidential paradigm” or “firâsa”; Carlo Ginzburg, “Clues: Roots of an Evidential Paradigm,” in Clues, Myths, and the Historical Method, trans. John and Anne Tedeschi (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1989), pp. 96–125. [BACK]
41. Vidocq, Mémoires, pp. 528 (thieves’ styles), 220 (Vidocq’s German), 459–60 (homosexuals’ signs). For books drawing on Vidocq’s knowledge of argot: Francisque Michel, Études de philologie comparée sur l’argot (Paris: Firmin Didot, 1856), intro.; Louis-Mathurin Moreau-Christophe, Le Monde des coquins, 2 vols. (Paris: Dentu, 1863–65), vol. 1, pp. 211–25; Albert Barrère, Argot and Slang: A New French and English Dictionary (London: Bell, 1911), passim; L. Sainéan, Les Sources de l’argot ancien, 2 vols. (Paris: Champion, 1912), vol. 2, pp. 4–12, 104–8. [BACK]
42. Vidocq, Mémoires, pp. 481–87 (envelope), 331 (nosebag), 416–22 (bootprint). [BACK]
43. The source of the quotation: Moreau-Christophe, Monde des coquins, vol. 2, pp. 44–45; see also Jean Savant, “Le Vol du Cabinet des médailles,” Historia, no. 79 (June 1953): 619–26. [BACK]
44. The source of the quotation (“it would be useful to file away in my memory”): Vidocq, Mémoires, p. 405. Vidocq, À M. le Président, p. 10 (“30,000 crooks”); Thorwald, Century of the Detective, pp. 4–8 (Vidocq’s files), chap. 1, “The Ineradicable Mark” (anthropometry and fingerprinting); idem, La Grande aventure de la criminologie, trans. J. M. Ursyn (Paris: Michel, 1967; French ed. of Century of the Detective), plate facing p. 16 (detectives observing prisoners in exercise yard). Louis Daguerre took the first photographs in 1839. [BACK]
45. On Vidocq’s trial of 1843: Vidocq, À M. le Président; Vidocq, Procès de Vidocq, pts. 3, 4; Eugène Roch, “Procès de Vidocq,” L’Observateur des tribunaux 11 (1843): 209–344; Maurice (also a court reporter), Vidocq, vie et aventures, pp. 225–85; Le Moniteur universel, 6 May 1843, p. 1000, and 23 July 1843, p. 1922. On Dr. Koreff: Marietta Martin, Un Aventurier intellectuel sous la Restauration et la Monarchie de juillet: Le docteur Koreff (1783–1851) (Paris: Champion, 1925). [BACK]
46. The source of the quotation: Times (London), 9 June 1845, p. 6. For contemporary translations of Vidocq’s Mémoires: Eugène-François Vidocq, Memoirs of Vidocq, 4 vols., trans. uncredited (London, 1828–29; vols. 1 and 2 published by Hunt and Clarke, vols. 3 and 4 by Whittaker, Treacher, and Arnot); idem, Aus dem Leben und den Memoiren eines ehemaligen Galeerensclaven…, 8 vols. in 2, trans. uncredited (Stuttgart: n.p., 1829); idem, Anteckningar af Vidocq, chef för säkerhets-polisen i Paris till år 1827…, 2 vols., trans. uncredited (Stockholm: Carlson, 1829–30). For stage adaptations: Douglas William Jerrold, Vidocq, The French Police Spy, first performed at the Surrey Theatre, London, 1829; Honoré de Balzac, Vautrin, first performed at the Théâtre Porte-Saint-Martin, Paris, 1840. [BACK]
47. On Balzac’s friendship with Vidocq: Léon Gozlan, Balzac in Slippers, trans. Hughes, Hughes, Boyd, and O’Neill (New York: McBride, 1929), pt. 5. Balzac’s character Vautrin has a large role in three novels: Père Goriot (1834), Les Illusions perdues (1837–43), and Splendeurs et misères des courtisanes (1838–47); pt. 4 of the last named is entitled “La Dernière incarnation de Vautrin,” at the end of which he becomes chef de la Sûreté. The source of Gaboriau’s quotation: Émile Gaboriau, The Widow Lerouge (New York: Scribner, 1900; first published as L’Affaire Lerouge in Paris, 1866), p. 10. The source of Ponson du Terrail’s quotation: Pierre-Alexis Ponson du Terrail, La Résurrection de Rocambole (1866), quoted in Messac, Le “Detective novel,” bk. 5, chap. 5, “Les Exploits de Rocambole,” p. 487. The source of Bulwer Lytton’s quotation: Edward Bulwer Lytton, Night and Morning (New York: Cassell, n.d.; first published 1845), p. 196. On O. Henry’s character Tictocq: O. Henry [pseud. of William Sydney Porter], “Tictocq, the Great French Detective in Austin” and “Tracked to Doom, or The Mystery of the Rue de Peychaud,” in Collected Stories of O. Henry, ed. Paul J. Horowitz (New York: Avenel, 1979), pp. 1–5 and 5–8, respectively. These two stories were first published in Rolling Stone, 1894 and 1895. [BACK]
48. On Vidocq’s influence on the detective story: Messac, Le “Detective novel,” passim; A. E. Murch, The Development of the Detective Novel (Port Washington, N.Y.: Kennikat, 1968), pp. 41–48; Julian Symons, Bloody Murder: From the Detective Story to the Crime Novel, a History (London: Faber and Faber, 1972), pp. 29–30. On the definition of the detective story: Messac, Le “Detective novel,” pp. 9–12; the definition of Murch, Development of the Detective Novel, p. 11, follows closely that of Messac. On Poe’s primacy: Messac, Le “Detective novel,” pp. 376–77; Murch, Development of the Detective Novel, pp. 66–67; Symons, Bloody Murder, pp. 33–34. For Poe’s character Dupin on Vidocq: Edgar Allen Poe, “The Murders in the Rue Morgue” (1841), in Poetry and Tales (New York: Library of America, 1984), p. 412. On the influence of antipathy toward the police on the detective story: Messac, Le “Detective novel,” pp. 410–11; Murch, Development of the Detective Novel, esp. pp. 19–20, 64–66, chap. 5. [BACK]
49. Messac, Le “Detective novel,” pp. 399–406; Balzac, “La Dernière incarnation de Vautrin,” pt. 4 of Splendeurs et misères des courtisanes, in Comédie humaine, vol. 5, pp. 1046–47. [BACK]
50. Gisquet, Mémoires, vol. 2, pp. 103–12; Canler, Mémoires, vol. 1, chap. 26 and others; Peuchet, Mémoires tirés des archives, vol. 4, pp. 292–93; Froment, Police dévoilée, pp. 355–57 and elsewhere; Guyon, Biographie des commissaires de police, pp. 227–38. [BACK]
51. On the founding of Scotland Yard: Thorwald, Century of the Detective, pp. 38–39. On the founding of the North-Western Police Agency: James D. Horan, The Pinkertons: The Detective Dynasty That Made History (New York: Crown, 1967), pp. 25–27. [BACK]
52. For observations on Balzac: Messac, Le “Detective novel,” pp. 409–11, 297; Murch, Development of the Detective Novel, p. 52. The sources of the quotations: Balzac, Père Goriot, in Comédie humaine, vol. 2, p. 1016; Pierre-François Lacenaire, Mémoires, in Mémoires et autres écrits, ed. Jacques Simonelli (Paris: Corti, 1991), p. 104. [BACK]
53. On Hugo’s debt to Vidocq: Messac, Le “Detective novel,” pp. 287–92 (Dernier jour), 453–56 (Les Misérables); Victor Hugo, Les Misérables, pt. 1, bk. 5, chap. 5 (description of Javert), pt. 1, bk. 5, chap. 6 (Valjean’s lifting up of the overturned wagon). [BACK]
54. [Eugène-François] Vidocq, Quelques mots sur une question à l’ordre du jour (Paris: Author, 1844); idem, À M. le Président, p. 7; Maurice, Vidocq, vie et aventures, pp. 162–66. [BACK]
55. David H. Pinkney, The French Revolution of 1830 (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1972), chap. 9. [BACK]
56. Gazette des tribunaux 7, nos. 2225–26 (30 September–2 October 1832): 1181–86; Eugène Roch, “Procès de Vidocq,” L’Observateur des tribunaux 11 (1843): 338–40; Gisquet, Mémoires, vol. 2, pp. 103–12, 239–41, 249–55; Can-ler, Mémoires, vol. 1, pp. 194–99; Maurice, Vidocq, vie et aventures, pp. 176–200; Moreau-Christophe, Monde des coquins, vol. 2, pp. 203–4. On Deschapelles and the insurrection of June 1832, see this volume, chapter 1, p. 40. [BACK]
57. No. 13, galerie Vivienne; Hillairet, Dictionnaire historique, vol. 2, p. 654. [BACK]
58. The source of the quotations: Vidocq, À M. le Président, pp. 8, 11. This pamphlet contains reproductions of the texts of the Bureau’s first prospectus, printed in 1833, and of its compte rendu of 1835. See note 45 in this chapter for the sources of information in this paragraph. [BACK]
59. Maurice, Vidocq, vie et aventures, pp. 291–98; Stead, Vidocq, A Biography, pp. 228–50; Howard C. Payne, The Police State of Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte, 1851–1860 (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1966). [BACK]