The university proper is a small academic institution. Its animating purpose is to discover things . . . This task was organised as a quest for truth.

(Murphy, 2015)

That was what I planned to do – to hunt the elusive Pink Carnation through the archives of England, to track down any sliver of long-dead gossip that might lead me to what the finest minds in the French government had failed to discover. Of course, that wasn’t how I phrased it when I suggested the idea to my dissertation advisor. I made scholarly noises about filling a gap in the historiography, and the deep sociological significance of spying as a means of asserting manhood, and other silly ideas couched in intellectual unintelligibility. I called it ‘Aristocratic Espionage during the Wars with France: 1789-1815’. Rather a dry title, but somehow I doubt ‘Why I Love Men in Black Masks’ would have made it past my dissertation committee.