François Eugène Vidocq, French forger, thief, and political secret police, was born in Arras July 23, 1775. After a more or less disreputable youth he joined the French army and eventually became lieutenant. He quarreled with an officer and was imprisoned in Lille, and while there forged an order for the release of another prisoner. He was sent to the galleys at Brest for eight months, escaped twice and was recaptured, but the third time was successful. He thereafter lived for some time in a company of thieves and other criminals in Paris. Later he offered himself as a spy to the Paris police. He was accepted in 1809, and had himself imprisoned in Paris to worm his way into the confidence of the prisoners whom he subsequently betrayed. Later he was made chief of the Paris Secret Police, and had under him a body of ex-convicts as assistants. In 1827 he retired and started a paper mill but it was not successful and in 1832 he re-entered the police service. Wishing to get back into the detective service, he engineered a daring burglary and, when the authorities were unable to detect the thieves, he "discovered" them. His machinations having been made public, the authorities were obliged to dismiss him from the service. Afterwards he organized a private detective agency which, on account of irregularity, was finally suppressed. He died in Paris in 1857.
REFERENCES: Charles Ledru, La vie, la mort et les derniers moments de Vidocq, Paris, 1857; Vidocq's own Memoirs (which, in part, may be apocryphal).
Starr's New York Library. No. 10
Dime Library. No. 10