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American Detective Fiction    Prior to July 1891

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  Published in
The Atlantic Monthly, December, 1862.
   
One of My Clients

AFTER a practice in the legal profession of more than twenty years, I am persuaded that a more interesting volume could not be written than the revelations of a lawyer’s office. The plots there discovered before they were matured,—the conspiracies there detected
“Ere they had reached their last fatal periods,”—
The various devices of the Prince of Darkness, —the weapons with which he fought, and those by which he was overcome,—the curious phenomena of intense activity and love of gain,—the arts of the detective, and those by which he was eluded,— and the never-ending and ever-varying surprises and startling incidents,—would present such a panorama of human affairs as would outfly our fancy, and modify our unbelief in that much-abused doctrine of the depravity of our nature.

To illustrate, let me introduce to you “one of my clients,” whom I will call Mr. Sidney, and with whom, perhaps, you may hereafter become better acquainted. His counterpart in personal appearance you may find in the thoroughfare at any hour of the day. There is nothing about him to attract attention.  He is nearly forty-five years of age, and weighs,

    perhaps, two hundred pounds. His face is florid and his hair sandy. His eyes are small, piercing, and gray. His motions are slow, and none are made without a purpose. Intellectually he is above the average, and his perceptive faculties are well developed. The wrinkles in his lips are at right angles with his mouth, and a close observer might detect in his countenance self-reliance and tenacity of will and purpose. But with ordinary faculties much may be accomplished; in this sketch, let us see how much in two particulars.

His first entrance into my office was in the spring of 1853. He handed me a package of papers, saying, if I would name an hour for a professional consultation, he would be punctual. The time was agreed upon and he withdrew. On examination of his papers, I found that his letters of introduction were from several United States senators, judges of Supreme Courts, Cabinet officers, and governors, and one from a presidential candidate in the last election. Those directed specially to me were from a senator and member of Congress, both of whom were lawyers and my personal friends, men in . . .

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