Friday, August 10, 2012

Les Memoires du Diable — by Frédéric Soulié


Paris: J. Le Clère, 1876
Frédéric Soulié’s most popular work was ‘Les Mémoires du Diable’ written in 1838, which caused a surge in “satanic fiction” by French feilletonnists. Eugène Sue took Soulié as his model in writing fiction. Bulwer Lytton wrote sensation novelist Mary Braddon a letter describing Soulié’s “blood, corpses, ghastly murders, ghoulishness, revolting details of disease, or torture, or decomposition” and “unusual crimes such as rape, incest, illegal sequestration, treacheries.”

André Maurois wrote
At this point (1839) a new influence began to make itself felt, which was to prepare the way for the serial’ story. For some years, two newspapers, Émile de Girardin’s La Presse and Ledru-Rollin’s Le Siècle, had been making immense efforts to extend their readership. The subscription price was only forty francs a year, and this attracted a flood of readers and a large number of advertisers, but the problem was how to keep the circulation up. The best way was by publishing installments of thrilling fiction. To Be Continued In Our Next (a formula invented in 1829 by de Veron for use in the Revue de Paris) became the mainspring of journalistic enterprise. 
According to them (editors), the real masters of this particular technique were Eugène Sue, Alexandre Dumas, and Frédéric Soulié. “If I were King Louis Philippe, said (Joseph) Méry, I would subsidize Dumas, Eugène Sue, and Soulié, on condition that they kept the Musketeers, the Mysteries of Paris and the Memoirs of the Devil going indefinitely. Revolutions would be a thing of the past. 
– From Three Musketeers; A Study of the Dumas Family, by André Maurois, Translated by Gerard Hopkins. Jonathan Cape, 1957 
Nouveau roman de Frédéric Soulié
dans tous les cabinets de lecture

 by H.E., Paris: J. Rigo Lebref, 1842
* In London (1845) penny publisher Benjamin D. Cousins published Soulié ’s Crime and Vengeance; a Tragedy of Real Life. 

* The only biography in English is Harold March’s Frédéric Soulié, Novelist and Dramatist of the Romantic Period, 1931. Bulwer letters are quoted in Sensational Victorian; the Life and Fiction of Mary Elizabeth Braddon, by Robert Lee Wolff, 1979.     

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