Victorian Popular Fictions 1.2 article 7

“I was again passing along Leicester Square … with all my eyes about me”: 

Mapping Popular “Police Memoir” Detective Fiction

 Samuel Saunders

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 This article explores the use of the police officer in both periodical journalism and cheap, mass-produced “police memoir” fiction from the mid-nineteenth century. It highlights how police officers were inserted into writing that was concerned with urban growth and urban criminality and argues that they helped journalists, authors and readers to map, experience, understand and criticise the growth of the metropolis. The police officer was originally seen to be a protective figure for journalists delving into spaces deemed criminal, and writing about crime for readers’ interest. Across the early-to-mid nineteenth century, social exploration articles appeared frequently in periodicals. The authors were reliant on the police for access to a multitude of criminal spaces that emerged as the city grew. Thus, the police officer’s rise was connected to the city, and the police themselves formed a part of the urban environment, with the power to observe, explore and influence it. The presence of the police officer in journalism led to developments in other kinds of writing, including fiction. The power of the police to reveal hidden or latent criminality in the urban space was actively used in a variety of ways to create new, cheap and popular forms of fiction.


 police memoir; detective; Victorian; city; crime; policing; journalism; periodicals; fiction; mapping.

Date of Acceptance: 23 December 2019

Date of Publication: 31 December 2019

Double Blind Peer Reviewed

Recommended Citation:

Saunders, Samuel. 2019. “‘I was again passing along Leicester Square … with all my eyes about me’: Mapping Popular “Police Memoir” Detective Fiction.” Victorian Popular Fictions, 1.2: 100-109. ISSN: 2632-4253 (online).  DOI:

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