Eugène Sue Analysis


(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

Eugène Sue’s most famous novels, Les Mystères de Paris (1842-1843; The Mysteries of Paris, 1843-1846), was the first novel to present a realistic portrait of the criminal underworld of Paris. Modeled on members of a Parisian criminal gang on trial for murder, Sue’s characters spoke the slang and displayed the callous attitudes of hardened criminals. Criminal activity was linked to social and economic conditions; Sue argued that many virtuous people became criminals as a result of their unfortunate circumstances. Sue also portrayed crime in more conventional terms, however, because some of his characters were morally vicious while the most virtuous could never be tempted into crime, no matter how desperate their circumstances. Sue’s hero, Prince Rodolphe of Gerolstein, displayed characteristics common to latter-day detective heroes. Standing out in sharp contrast to his setting, he roamed the streets of Paris seeking to alleviate the misery that might cause the virtuous poor to fall.

Eugène Sue Bibliography

(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

Cambiaire, Celestine Pierre. “Poe and Gaston Leroux and Eugène Sue.” In The Influence of Edgar Allan Poe in France. Reprint. New York: Haskell House, 1970. Discusses the reaction to Poe of Sue and Leroux and the influence the American author had on their work.

Chevasco, Berry Palmer. Mysterymania: The Reception of Eugène Sue in Britain, 1838-1860. New York: P. Lang, 2003. Important study of the reaction of Victorian England to Sue’s mystery and, by extension, the effects of Sue’s writing on the development of Victorian crime fiction.

Eco, Umberto. “Rhetoric and Ideology in Sue’s Les Mystères de Paris.” In The Role of the Reader: Explorations in the Semiotics of Texts. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1984. One of the most famous practitioners of semiotics (the study of signs) applies his distinctive brand of literary analysis to Sue’s crime fiction.

Martí-Lopez, Elisa. Borrowed Words: Translation, Imitation, and the Making of the Nineteenth-Century Novel in Spain. Lewisburg, Pa.: Bucknell University Press, 2002. Traces the influence—and imitation—of Sue’s The Mysteries of Paris in nineteenth century Spain.

Morain, Alfred. The Underworld of Paris: Secrets of the Sûreté. New York: E. P. Dutton, 1931. Nonfictional study of crime and criminals in Paris; useful background for understanding the reality that Sue fictionalized in The Mysteries of Paris.

Pickup, Ian. “Eugène Sue.” In Nineteenth Century French Fiction Writers: Romanticism and Realism, 1800-1860, edited by Catharine Savage Brosman. Vol. 119 in Dictionary of Literary Biography. Detroit: Gale Research, 1992. Places Sue’s distinctive realism in relation to that of other nineteenth century French realist authors, as well as to the Romanticism against which they were rebelling.

Prendergast, Christopher. For the People by the People? Eugène Sue’s “Les Mystères de Paris”: A Hypothesis in the Sociology of Literature. Oxford, England: European Humanities Research Centre, 2003. Combines a sociological approach to literature with a close, textual reading of Sue’s novel.