[Another Crime that Inspired The Count of Monte Cristo]
By Jacques Peuchet
Translated by James Bair
This is another story from the police files which influenced Alexandre Dumas in the writing of The Count of Monte Cristo. I was not able to find a complete English translation so I am contributing this. Suggestions are welcome. According to one source, the original crime took place around the year 1739.
I have left the first couple of pages to give you an idea of its content. Anyone interested in a full copy in PDF format, please go to the English Plus Donation for the Diamond and Vengeance E-Book page and send us a donation. We will e-mail you an e-book of the whole thing. In addition we will include another story from Peuchet which also inspired The Count of Monte Cristo. It is called “The Diamond and the Vengeance.”
Thank you for your interest and consideration. JB
Monsieur de M__, counselor to Parliament from Paris, went one day to speak to the Lieutenant General of Police about a great mystery he found himself in the middle of. The conversation was long and animated. The administrative official took some notes, placed them in a special notebook, and, at the meeting’s end, sent one of his gentlemen assistants to accompany Monsieur de M__ to his carriage, as was customary in those days.
An Odious Plot
Why did Monsieur de M__ appear at the police station? The heart of his household was troubled. Two attempted poisonings had taken place without his being able to figure out who the perpetrator was; as a result, the daring steps the person took made him go to the police for help. In order to understand the case better, it is good to acquaint the reader with the Parliamentary counselor and his family.
He was aged about sixty-five years, a man of longstanding solidity, full of virtue and loyalty. Incorruptible in his austere position, he had great influence in the chambers of Parliament, and people followed his advice to the letter. He had three married sons, and his eldest son was a bishop. His three daughters, like most of their brothers, had entered the state of matrimony. One of the man’s sisters was a wealthy widow of one of the chief justices of the Supreme Court. One of his brothers retired from the army with the grade and pension of a lieutenant colonel and the Cross of St. Louis. This whole family [except for the bishop] lived together in an immense mansion situated on the Rue des Franc-Bourgeois in Marais.[i] The three married sons were all very close to their wives. The eldest and youngest son each had one son. The middle son had nothing but daughters. These lively daughters made it seem to their grandfather that the house was filled with spoiled children.
Although they all lodged under the same roof, the various couples did not eat together at the same table. Even each son-in-law had his own kitchen. But on the Sunday of each week and at other times during the month, the whole family would dine together around their family patriarch without any outside guests. Their mother had been deceased for several years.
An Anonymous Letter
One morning, Monsieur de M__ was in his office. He cast his eyes on a letter that had been placed in front of him, all sealed up. He opened it. The letter said:
Tremble, you wretch! You have ruined me as you manipulated your co-workers according to your own evil thoughts. From this moment on I declare war against you to the death. You and yours will die one by one because my hatred is so great: Your death alone would not satisfy me. You may try to figure out my identity as you think about the many victims of your wicked machinations. You will not be able to figure out who I am.
A Short Biographical Note on Jacques Peuchet
Peuchet (1758-1830) was a prolific writer and researcher. He first became famous for his Encyclopedia of Commerce, an early work of economics that caught the attention of Benjamin Franklin, among others. He served in several different government positions both under Napoleon and under the Bourbons His 5-volume Geography of Commerce caught the attention of Napoleon, and from 1805 on he held fairly high government positions as an archivist. From 1815 until he retired in 1825, he was the archivist for the Chief of Police of Paris. From this position he compiled his Mémoires des Archives de la Police de Paris [Memoirs Taken from the Archives of the Paris Police]. His chapter on Suicide in Volume 4 of the Mémoires were translated with commentary into German by Karl Marx. James Madison noted some of Peuchet’s research in his writing. (How many writers could claim to have influenced both the main framer of the Constitution of the United States and the author of The Communist Manifesto?)
[i] Marais. A quarter of Paris known for its old estates and mansions.
Copyright©2008 James Bair, All rights reserved.