The traditional narrative of the development of crime fiction as a literary genre follows a well-trodden, not to say beaten, path from Vidocq through Poe and on to Conan Doyle in what is a retrospective reconstruction of events. Through the lens of the fully fashioned, archetypal detective figure of Sherlock Holmes, it is a relatively easy task to discover similarities in earlier fictional figures associated with crime and to construct an apparently clear and coherent account. But as in crime fiction itself, things are rarely as straightforward as they might superficially appear. The Dupin stories (1841–1845) of Poe and the Memoirs (1828–1829) of Vidocq did not exist in a vacuum, but are the survivors of a mass of literature that, in various shapes and forms, had concerned itself with crime. Criminal narratives have existed throughout history, but, judging by the proliferation of such material, they reached new heights of popularity at the end of the eighteenth and beginning of the nineteenth century. And it was in the popular literature of the first half of the nineteenth century that many of the patterns and themes of the later fully-fledged genre of crime fiction were first articulated.


Nineteenth Century Popular Literature Literary Genre Police Detective Metropolitan Police 
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© Heather Worthington 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Heather Worthington
    • 1
  1. 1.Cardiff UniversityUK

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