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American Detective Fiction    Prior to July 1891

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  Published in
Harper’s New Monthly Magazine, September 1852.
 
A Reminiscence of a Bow-Street Officer
  even of sciences than there is at present. Still, we did not let all the rogues escape us; and I am given to understand they are not all caught even now. In deprecation of the present fashion of decrying us old fellows who are laid upon the shelf, perhaps I may be allowed to present the reader with a short sample of my own experience, which will show that we did something, at any rate, toward the capture and punishment of offenders.

It is now between thirty and forty years ago that a tradesman, in a large way of business in the city of Bath, inclosed in a very corpulent letter, directed to a wholesale house in London, a heavy sum of money, amounting, if I recollect right, to little short of £2000 in Bank of England notes. The letter, which was posted by the tradesman himself, never reached its destination. No trace of it could be discovered, upon inquiry at the post offices, either in Bath or London; but it was found that before any investigation had been set on foot, some days having unavoidably elapsed ere any suspicion of robbery occurred, the whole of the . . .

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I am an old man now, and though my life has been full of adventures, some of a rather odd, and some of a hazardous description, it is very little that has been said about them. It was not near so much the fashion in my time as it is now to let all the world know how the secret and silent machinery of justice did its business. We, whose function it was to work out the retribution due to crime, kept our own counsel, and made no more revelations than we were obliged to make. We could not afford to do so, in fact. We had not the means and facilities that later times have afforded to our successors. Railways existed only in the brains of projectors and speculators, whom the wise world looked upon as madmen; and the electric telegraph had not even got so far as to be laughed at, which I have observed is generally the first step forward of all great discoveries. So, as I said, we kept our own counsel, and made up, as far as we could, by secrecy, cunning, and stratagem for the want of better tools to work with. Fifty years ago thief-taking had not grown into a science, and there was then much more uncertainty in the practice

   

 

 


 

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