The Museum of Crime


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Yesterday I visited a most unusual museum — the archives of the Quartier Latin Police Station (4 rue de Montagne Sainte-Genevieve.) I must tell you that the arrest and prison records make a fascinating read. Let me give you at least one, “Entered 17 May 1717

Released 14 April 1718

Accused of making rhymes insulting Monsieur Regent and Madame Duchess de Berry, as well as of saying that since it was impossible to avenge himself otherwise, he would not spare Duke of Orleans in satirical writing, for His Royal Highness had sent him into exile for having written that that Messalina daughter of His is a whore.”

I guess now I have to reveal the name of the prisoner, it’s François Marie Arouet de Voltaire.

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About versaillesgossip, before and after Francis Ponge

The author of the blogs Versailles Gossip and Before and After Francis Ponge, Vadim Bystritski lives and teaches in Brest France. The the three main themes of his literary endeavours are humor, the French Prose Poetry, the French XVII and XVIII Century Art and History. His writings and occasionally art has been published in a number of ezines (Eratio, Out of Nothing, Scars TV, etc). He also contributes to Pinterest where he comments on the artifiacts from the Louvre and other collections. Some of his shorter texts are in Spanish, Russian and French.
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4 Responses to The Museum of Crime

  1. anton erecinski says:

    Wonderful, that you found this very moving document. The text is well known but being able to look at the original is just great. At the time the Duchesse de Berry had retired to La Muette waiting for the term of a clandestine pregnancy and she exceptionally came back to Paris to receive the Czar Peter the Great who visited her Luxembourg Palace. The “shameful” condition of the young widow was a public secret> Voltaire was very well informed of the advanced state of pregnancy of the Regent’s daughter which is why he made that insulting comment about her being a wanton>> The sexual rapacity of the yound princess was indeed just as notorious as her taste for strong drink and her voracious appetite… Berry finally gave birth in July 1717 and although kept secret her childbirth became known in Paris, inspiring numerous satirical songs, sometimes quite spicy>. Public rumor attributed this illegimate offspring to her father the Regent…. But since the Duchess was one of the lead protagonists at her father’s orgies and also organized orgies of her own in the Luxembourg she probably didn’t quite know herself the identity of the progenitor…. Anyway, great you found this beautiful document, very interesting for Voltaire’s biographers and also for anyone interested in the very short but fascinating life of the Madame de Berry, the so-called French Messalina<<< fascinating if only because of her very short and intense voluptuous life,,…

    • Oh yes, the intention is to draw attention to the God-forgotten museum. I think the ambiance is there — I tried not to exaggerate; so, there are no images of swaggering cops and hand-cuffed hookers strutting their stuff; but I manipulated my reader the best I could with the fact that we are actually on the floor with all the police archives, and Marie-Antoinette’s or Voltaire’s records are not treated any differently — just another page in that big brown-leather-bound book.

  2. anton erecinski says:

    Police records always make great sources ofr historians, at least if they’re properly conserved ! And it’s great you publish about this “god-forsaken” archive and show the document itself !
    If I remember correctly the police report leading to Voltaire’s arrest contained some more “slanderous” comments by him on the Regent’s daughter. Is there any more on this affair in these Voltaire’s records ? AE

  3. I am not sure if I will ever go back. I already went twice; but the bold gentleman whose picture I have posted is very cordial and pulls out those records and leafs through the old pages with pleasure. In general at the small museums I have never been refused anything. People gladly make appointments and work with you, if they see that you know what you want.

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