"When good Americans die, they go to Paris." — Oscar Wilde"The Mystery of Marie Roget."
By Edgar Allan Poe.
First appeared in The Ladies' Companion, serialized 1842-43.
Arthur Bartlett Maurice (1873-1946) once took a trip to Paris. Good for him, you might be thinking; but being the litterateur that he was, he toured with an eye to fiction, including works by detective story writers:
Edgar Allan Poe, unless the present Pilgrim be grievously in error, never saw Lutetia; never was nearer to it than in his youthful days in the English school at Stoke-Newington; yet there is a very definite Paris that is the background of "The Purloined Letter," "The Murders in the Rue Morgue," and "The Mystery of Marie Roget."
. . . As everyone knows, "The Mystery of Marie Roget" was based on the murder, in 1842, of Mary Cecilia Rogers, the beautiful cigar girl of the John Anderson shop at the corner of Broadway and Duane Street, New York, whose body was found floating in the Hudson River near what was once known as the Sybil's Cave at Weekhawken. It was the cause célèbre of the time, and Poe, in common with almost everyone else in New York—or rather in the country at large, for Poe was not at the time living in New York—had a theory as to the method and the perpetrators of the crime. So in the story, under pretence of a Parisian grisette [a young working-class Frenchwoman], employed in a perfumery shop in the Palais Royal, the author followed, in minute detail, the essential, while merely paralleling the unessential, facts of the real murder of Mary Rogers. Thus Nassau Street became the Rue Pavée Saint-André; John Anderson, Monsieur Leblanc; the Hudson, the Seine; Weehawken, the Barrière du Roule; and the New York Brother Jonathan, the New York Journal of Commerce, and the Philadelphia Saturday Evening Post, "a weekly paper," respectively, L'Étoile, Le Commerciel, and Le Soleil.
There is not, and it may be said with probable safety, any such street in Paris as the Rue Morgue, the scene of the strange and terrible murders of Madame L'Espanaye and her daughter Camille L'Espanaye. But the apartment was in the Quartier Saint-Roch, that familiar section of the city which lies within the triangle of which the hypotenuse is the Avenue de l'Opéra, and the other two sides the Rue de Rivoli and the Rue de la Paix continued through the Place Vendôme and along the Rue Castiglione. Dr. John Watson first met Sherlock Holmes in a hospital where the latter was engaged in the amiable pastime of beating corpses in order to ascertain how far wounds might be produced after death. The historian of the deeds of Monsieur C. Auguste Dupin, of all the sources from which Conan Doyle drew his investigator of criminal activities one of the most direct, found him in a library in the Rue Montmartre, where the two men had gone in search of the same rare and remarkable volume. As one encounter resulted in Watson and Holmes sharing the now famous apartment in Upper Baker Street, the other led to a common residence in a time-eaten and grotesque mansion tottering to its fall in a retired and desolate portion of the Faubourg Saint-Germain. — Arthur Bartlett Maurice, Chapter XII: "The Paris of Some Americans," pages 179-181, in THE PARIS OF THE NOVELISTS (1919)
Category: Detective fiction