The question of what Les Mystères de Paris looks like from a standard literary-critical point of view need not detain us long, since my main concern here is with what, in the context of its times, it looked like to others (very few of them professional literary critics), and in particular what it looked like as it unfolded from one episode to the next. What follows, therefore, is not an extended interpretation of a completed text but rather a cursory snapshot view of its basic schemas and matrices, the purpose of which is simply to provide some guide-lines in connection with our real object of inquiry: the historical moment and social character of its initial reception. In many respects, the novel is resistant to summary by virtue of the fact that both commercial and literary imperatives made for a protracted, digressive and episodic type of narrative (what Umberto Eco calls its 'sinusoidal' structure). 1 The central plot-line, however, is that of a mystery-of-kinship story whose basic literary shape derives from the mystery-romances of Gothic and melodrama, reinforced by the developing contemporary interest in crime and violence. Les Mystères de Paris is the story of a long-lost daughter (Fleur-de-Marie), who has been abducted from her father by a wicked mother and abandoned in Parisian slumland where, through poverty and misfortune, she becomes a prostitute. The mechanism of the plot is furnished by the fathers quest for the daughter, although, while he encounters Fleur-de-Marie early in the narrative, he does not discover that she is his daughter until near the end (one of the classic recipes of conventional melodrama).