‘The Arrestation d’Arsène Lupin’ in Arsène Lupin, Gentleman-Cambrioleur, (Arsène Lupin #1) by Maurice Leblanc

1907 edition of Arsène Lupin, cover art by Pierre La Fit The latest title selected for the book club I attend as part of my efforts to learn French, is Arsène Lupin, Gentleman-Cambrioleur, (Arsène Lupin #1).  It’s a collection of short stories featuring a ‘gentleman-thief’ called Arsène Lupin, and the first one is called ‘The Arrestation d’Arsène Lupin’, which is about the arrest of the anti-hero. I’m not keen on crime novels, and the fact that this one is written in French by the French author Maurice Leblanc (1864-1941) makes little difference to me.  The Gutenberg edition that I read features an effusive introduction by Jules Claretie of the Académie Française, in which he compares Lupin to memorable characters of the dubious variety in the fiction of Balzac, Victor Hugo and others I’ve never heard of, but I didn’t find it convincing.  If the first story is anything to go by, this is lightweight entertainment, not even remotely as ingenious as Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes which preceded it by over a decade. (Sherlock Holmes first appeared in print in 1887 with A Study in Scarlet, while Arsène Lupin doesn’t make his first appearance till 1905.) ‘The Arrestation d’Arsène Lupin’ is set aboard a transatlantic cruise ship where the narrator and his fellow-passengers are discombobulated to learn via the miracle of the wireless telegraph that the famous gentleman-thief is on board.  A coincidental thunderstorm cuts the connection so that they only know that he’s aboard, he’s blond, he has an injury to his right arm, and his name begins with the letter R.  And lo! before the storm has a chance to blow away (or the telegraph to be restored) some valuable jewels are stolen. The narrator takes advantage of this situation to arc up his flirtation with a very wealthy young American woman to the role of detective-protector.  Between them they eliminate other passengers with the initial R, and this is not so difficult (a) because Miss Nelly is socially connected to most of them and (b) because they don’t need to bother looking beyond First Class.  The one remaining suspect, the son of a wealthy Bordeaux merchant, is not best pleased to discover that he is the object of suspicion and offers a reward to whoever identifies the real thief and/or the jewels. Nobody is convinced by this. Well, as you can guess from the title of the story, Arsène Lupin is eventually apprehended, and as you can guess from the existence of the rest of the stories in the collection, he lives on to cause mayhem for another day.  The Big Reveal is, IMO, disappointing for its banality, but mine is a minority opinion because these stories were very popular.  Wikipedia has this to say: Clearly created at editorial request under the influence of and in reaction to the wildly successful Sherlock Holmes stories, the roguish and glamorous Lupin was a surprise success and Leblanc’s fame and fortune beckoned. In total, Leblanc went on to write 21 Lupin novels or collections of short stories. The character of Lupin might have been based by Leblanc on French anarchist Marius Jacob, whose trial made headlines in March 1905. It is also possible that Leblanc had also read Octave Mirbeau’s Les 21 jours d’un neurasthénique (1901), which features a gentleman thief named Arthur Lebeau, and he had seen Mirbeau’s comedy Scrupules (1902), whose main character is a gentleman thief. By 1907, Leblanc had graduated to writing full-length Lupin novels, and the reviews and sales were so good that Leblanc effectively dedicated the rest of his career to working on the Lupin stories. Like Conan Doyle, who often appeared embarrassed or hindered by the success of Sherlock Holmes and seemed to regard his success in the field of crime fiction as a detraction from his more “respectable” literary ambitions, Leblanc also appeared to have resented Lupin’s success. Several times, he tried to create other characters, such as private eye Jim Barnett, but he eventually merged them with Lupin. He continued to pen Lupin tales well into the 1930s. Travel is off the menu for a good while yet to come, but for those who might care to add it to their bucket lists, Leblanc’s house in Étretat, is today the museum Le clos Arsène Lupin. Will I read the rest of these stories?  I’d rather not, mais je dois faire mes devoirs! (but I must do my homework). Author: Maurice LeblancTitle: Arsène Lupin, Gentleman-Cambrioleur, (Arsène Lupin #1)Publisher: Project Gutenberg (French version), first serialized in the magazine Je sais tout, 1905.Source: Arsène Lupin, gentleman-cambrioleur by Maurice Leblanc – Free Ebook (gutenberg.org) Image credits:

‘The Arrestation d’Arsène Lupin’ in Arsène Lupin, Gentleman-Cambrioleur, (Arsène Lupin #1) by Maurice Leblanc

1907 edition of Arsène Lupin, cover art by Pierre La Fit

The latest title selected for the book club I attend as part of my efforts to learn French, is Arsène Lupin, Gentleman-Cambrioleur, (Arsène Lupin #1).  It’s a collection of short stories featuring a ‘gentleman-thief’ called Arsène Lupin, and the first one is called ‘The Arrestation d’Arsène Lupin’, which is about the arrest of the anti-hero.

I’m not keen on crime novels, and the fact that this one is written in French by the French author Maurice Leblanc (1864-1941) makes little difference to me.  The Gutenberg edition that I read features an effusive introduction by Jules Claretie of the Académie Française, in which he compares Lupin to memorable characters of the dubious variety in the fiction of Balzac, Victor Hugo and others I’ve never heard of, but I didn’t find it convincing.  If the first story is anything to go by, this is lightweight entertainment, not even remotely as ingenious as Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes which preceded it by over a decade.

(Sherlock Holmes first appeared in print in 1887 with A Study in Scarlet, while Arsène Lupin doesn’t make his first appearance till 1905.)

‘The Arrestation d’Arsène Lupin’ is set aboard a transatlantic cruise ship where the narrator and his fellow-passengers are discombobulated to learn via the miracle of the wireless telegraph that the famous gentleman-thief is on board.  A coincidental thunderstorm cuts the connection so that they only know that he’s aboard, he’s blond, he has an injury to his right arm, and his name begins with the letter R.  And lo! before the storm has a chance to blow away (or the telegraph to be restored) some valuable jewels are stolen.

The narrator takes advantage of this situation to arc up his flirtation with a very wealthy young American woman to the role of detective-protector.  Between them they eliminate other passengers with the initial R, and this is not so difficult (a) because Miss Nelly is socially connected to most of them and (b) because they don’t need to bother looking beyond First Class.  The one remaining suspect, the son of a wealthy Bordeaux merchant, is not best pleased to discover that he is the object of suspicion and offers a reward to whoever identifies the real thief and/or the jewels. Nobody is convinced by this.

Well, as you can guess from the title of the story, Arsène Lupin is eventually apprehended, and as you can guess from the existence of the rest of the stories in the collection, he lives on to cause mayhem for another day.  The Big Reveal is, IMO, disappointing for its banality, but mine is a minority opinion because these stories were very popular.  Wikipedia has this to say:

Clearly created at editorial request under the influence of and in reaction to the wildly successful Sherlock Holmes stories, the roguish and glamorous Lupin was a surprise success and Leblanc’s fame and fortune beckoned. In total, Leblanc went on to write 21 Lupin novels or collections of short stories.

The character of Lupin might have been based by Leblanc on French anarchist Marius Jacob, whose trial made headlines in March 1905. It is also possible that Leblanc had also read Octave Mirbeau’s Les 21 jours d’un neurasthénique (1901), which features a gentleman thief named Arthur Lebeau, and he had seen Mirbeau’s comedy Scrupules (1902), whose main character is a gentleman thief.

By 1907, Leblanc had graduated to writing full-length Lupin novels, and the reviews and sales were so good that Leblanc effectively dedicated the rest of his career to working on the Lupin stories. Like Conan Doyle, who often appeared embarrassed or hindered by the success of Sherlock Holmes and seemed to regard his success in the field of crime fiction as a detraction from his more “respectable” literary ambitions, Leblanc also appeared to have resented Lupin’s success. Several times, he tried to create other characters, such as private eye Jim Barnett, but he eventually merged them with Lupin. He continued to pen Lupin tales well into the 1930s.

Travel is off the menu for a good while yet to come, but for those who might care to add it to their bucket lists, Leblanc’s house in Étretat, is today the museum Le clos Arsène Lupin.

Will I read the rest of these stories?  I’d rather not, mais je dois faire mes devoirs! (but I must do my homework).

Author: Maurice Leblanc
Title: Arsène Lupin, Gentleman-Cambrioleur, (Arsène Lupin #1)
Publisher: Project Gutenberg (French version), first serialized in the magazine Je sais tout, 1905.
Source: Arsène Lupin, gentleman-cambrioleur by Maurice Leblanc – Free Ebook (gutenberg.org)

Image credits: