There are in fact no masses; there are only ways of seeing people as masses.
More than twenty years ago, American historians first analyzed late nineteenth-century crowd theory in France. They saw this fledgling social science in the light of the memories of the Paris Commune of 1871 and the contentious politics of the 1880s and 1890s. The crowd of these accounts—Gustave LeBon’s Psychology of the Crowd (1895) being the most evocative and the most often cited example—was fickle, impressionable, easily led, prone to violence. It was construed as proletarian and feminine, an embodiment of pressing bourgeois worries: fears of workers and socialists, dissatisfaction with mass democracy, concern for the debilitating effects of alcohol, anxieties about the public roles of women, a conviction that French vitality was slipping away in low birth rates.  The mass press of the turn of the twentieth century, as one would imagine, broadcast the same fears and the same crowds, evident in stories and images of violent strikers, riotous students, and panicked theater crowds. But beside these, there was another crowd that captured the attention of the popular press, a crowd that was far more important to its vision of the world: the crowd of observers brought together in the street by crimes and disasters.
What should we make of these countless crowds preserved in the pages of the Parisian press of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century—crowds at the crime, crowds at the disaster, crowds at the Paris Morgue, crowds at the funeral of the victims, crowds outside the courtroom? There were dense, uncountable crowds, curious crowds, noisy and raucous crowds, silent and dignified crowds. They ran to the site of an explosion, gathered on the boulevard to hear the latest news of a disaster, milled about outside the Palais de Justice, or flocked to the scene of a crime. In the columns of the popular dailies and in the illustrations of the weekend papers, these crowds were a commonplace. Their images reflected a sociological reality, no doubt. People do gather at extraordinary sights, in 2004 as in 1904. But we should not take these press visions of the crowd as incidental or as mere reporting.
I will suggest that the crowd of observers was more than an image in the press. In the formative period of the French mass press, from the early 1860s to 1910, I argue, this crowd—construed as sympathetic, emotional, and generous—was a powerful and emblematic figure that served important functions. It legitimated the attention to grisly sights and causes célèbres, to that prominent and profitable category of news designated in French as faits divers, “this daily bulletin of human miseries, where suicide lies side by side with murder, where traffic accidents fraternize with blazing fires.” But more than this, in the mass press of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, the crowd that gathered at a crime or a catastrophe served as a model for the public itself. It was no less than a means of constructing a new understanding of a public that came together outside the spell of class and politics. In contrast to the reasonable, abstract public of late eighteenth and early nineteenth-century “public opinion,” the mass press nurtured and exploited a new, mass public, one that was defined by sensations, passions, and curiosity: a public as street crowd.
We have already heard tell of this new public in classic critiques of mass culture. Jürgen Habermas cast the rise of the commercial mass press of the late nineteenth century as the decline of the public sphere, where a “culture-debating public” gave way to a “culture-consuming public,” where the rational-critical debate of the bourgeois public sphere gave way to “staged ‘public opinion.'” Habermas followed the interpretive lines of Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno’s diatribe against the “culture industry” in Dialectic of the Enlightenment (1944). The Frankfurt School theorists lamented the commercial concentration of radio and cinema and highlighted the web of ideological interests that lay behind the uniformity of mass-produced, mass-consumed culture. They saw it as a mechanism of social control. In his picture of the late nineteenth-century fall of the bourgeois public sphere, Habermas argued that the new public of the late nineteenth century was no public at all—that is, it had no space for rational-critical discussion. The public of the mass press, for Habermas, was a passive audience, a spectator at a “staged display”—a false public.
Habermas’s picture of the decline of the public sphere has been interrogated and criticized on several fronts, of course. For my purposes here, the analysis of Vanessa Schwartz in Spectacular Realities is especially relevant. The early mass culture of late nineteenth-century Paris, Schwartz argues, was built on the “visual representation of reality as spectacle” expressed in the culture of the Parisian boulevard after Baron Haussmann’s renovations, in the sensational reporting of the mass press of Paris, and in the display of bodies at the Paris Morgue. In the wax displays at the Musée Grevin, in panoramas and in early cinema, this “spectacularized reality” was offered up as visual pleasure for an eager public. And what was this public? Here, Schwartz offers an explanation that is the reverse image of Habermas’s false public. Her crowd is the audience at a spectacle, but it is no passive audience. For Schwartz, the crowd assembled before “the spectacular and sensational urban life promoted on the boulevards and in the mass press” was not a compact of alienated consumers. “[T]he urban mob happily assembled as a new collective in front of the spectacle of the real.” It was a “new crowd,” to be juxtaposed to the dangerous, revolutionary crowds so familiar to French history, a new crowd composed of all classes, of men and women, a new crowd formed by a democratizing commercial culture. Its solidarity—across lines of class and gender—was a real community of interest.
This insistence on authentic communities rising out of the consumption of mass culture has been a common theme in the recent and burgeoning literature on French mass culture more generally. In a wide-ranging study of crime representations in Belle Epoque France, L’encre et le sang, Dominique Kalifa returns often to the idea that press tales of crime served as a mechanism of solidarity in an era of social conflict and fractured identities. Crime representations—and the faits divers more generally—”could … bind together the broken strands of the social fabric.” In a similar vein, Jean-Yves Mollier presents the “media culture that would triumph between 1880 and 1910” as an “antidote to anomie.” Christian Delporte explains the French mass press of the turn of the century in similar terms. The new press of the late nineteenth century addressed the masses, and “the masses recognized themselves in the very production that had been constructed for them.”
Taken together, these studies present us with two visions of the audience of mass culture: the first, a crowd of duped readers, the second, an authentic community rising out of mass culture. The juxtaposition will call to mind fifty years of debates over the repressive or liberatory potential of mass culture. My aim is not to reenact these familiar debates but to view the question through a new optic: to investigate the idea of the public produced in the mass press of the late Second Empire and the early Third Republic in France. I take as my starting point the notion that the “public” is not a simple sociological reality—so many readers picking up a newspaper—but a cultural production. In this, I follow John Hartley’s suggestion that journalism “produces its own consuming subjects—the public, the consumer” and Michael Warner’s insistence that the very idea of a public is “a cultural form, a kind of practical fiction.”
In the analysis that follows, I center my attention on the pictures of the crowd and the public offered up by the mass press in France from the 1860s to about 1910. I ask: How did journalists and illustrators picture the crowd of observers that gathered at a remarkable sight? How did newspapers write their readers? I begin with a close look at two emblematic figures of the individual in the street: the Flâneur—the stroller—and the badaud—the curious observer, the rubberneck, the gawker. The flâneur has had a brilliant career in recent historical and literary scholarship. I argue that the badaud and the crowd that he or she formed a part of were more important to the new mass press of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. Mass culture in France was made, I argue, not through flânerie “for and by the masses” but through the image of the badaud.
What follows is a close reading of literature and press in the French Second Empire and early Third Republic, but the issues in play—the power of news, the making of a mass public—extend far beyond the Hexagon and far beyond this period. In his American Historical Association presidential address of 1999, Robert Darnton called for a “general attack on the problem of how societies made sense of events and transmitted information about them.” Such investigations, in fact, have been going on for some time now. They reveal an understanding of news as not just a realm of political debate but a cultural practice that forms communities and shapes identities. The point is simple but essential. The news report—of child prostitution in 1880s London, of pro-war rallies in Berlin in July of 1914, of mugging in 1970s Britain, to take a few examples—is more than a report, it is an important site for the production, the maintenance, and the revision of a social imaginary. We should not suppose that there is one recipe for the making of a mass public, but crime, catastrophe, and crowds figure largely among the ingredients. Such scenes—centered on the broken bodies of victims or on the collective body of observers—are more than the occasion for cheap thrills, they are the opportunity for conversations about the social body.
Have we seen enough of the Flâneur, the Parisian idler who sampled the sights and sounds of the city as he strolled with no destination in mind? He was a common figure of the nineteenth century, essential to any picture of the streets of Paris. The Flâneur was the man of leisure who went into the street in search of some satisfaction for his overdeveloped sensibilities. He was, by various accounts, a gastronome, a connoisseur, an idler, an artist, and “the one, the true sovereign of Paris.”  If the Flâneur was a familiar character in the nineteenth century, it was Walter Benjamin who made him the object of scholarly interest in the twentieth. For Benjamin, in his critical explorations of Charles Baudelaire’s Paris—explorations that opened up on an analysis of modernity—the Flâneur was a powerful symbol. He was a figure of the modern artist-poet, a figure keenly aware of the bustle of modern life, an amateur detective and investigator of the city, but also a sign of the alienation of the city and of capitalism. For Benjamin, the Flâneur met his destiny in the triumph of consumer capitalism. The shop windows of the new department stores of Paris distracted his vision, turned strolling to window shopping. 
The last twenty years have seen a flood of scholarship centered on the Flâneur. Drawing on Benjamin, historians, urban sociologists, and literary critics have used the Flâneur to explain the tumult of metropolitan life, to trace the class tensions and gender divisions of the nineteenth-century city, to represent alienation and the detached relationship between individuals characteristic of modernity. The Flâneur has served as “the emblematic figure of modernity” and as the symbol of the postmodern spectatorial gaze. The Flâneur, it should be clear, does a lot of explanatory work. One scholar who has mined the vein of Flâneur studies recently noted, “Fânerie has become so common a term to describe urban spectatorship that it has begun to seem hollow.” We would do best to recall the nineteenth-century uses of the Flâneur in order to gain some leverage on its current meanings. We can begin with the example of Baudelaire, an essential stop for Flâneur scholarship since Benjamin.
In “The Painter of Modern Life” (written 1859–1860), Baudelaire described the newpaper illustrator Constantin Guys as the “perfect Flâneur,” one who moved through the crowd like a fish through water. For this Flâneur, it was “an immense joy to set up house in the heart of the multitude, amid the ebb and flow of movement, in the midst of the fugitive and the infinite.” “Rejoicing” in his anonymity, the Flâneur was “an ‘I’ with an insatiable appetite for the ‘non-I.'” His passion was “to become one with the crowd.” This picture of the Flâneur-artist is echoed in the Flâneur-poet of “The Crowds” (first published 1861), the prose poem from Paris Spleen. “The poet enjoys the incomparable privilege of being, as he pleases, himself and others.” In the crowd, he took part in “this universal communion,” “this ineffable orgy,” “this holy prostitution” with pleasures “more vast and more refined” than “the happy of the world” would ever know.
But this vision of communion/sexual union with the “non-I” was no more than a dream, and Baudelaire showed himself waking from his dreams to a mundane, sullied reality. In “Parisian Dream” (1860, a poem dedicated to Guys), the poet recalls his dream of a marvelous city of marble, water, steel, and slate, a “Babel of stairways and arcades/An infinite palace.” But the dream would be broken.
I woke; my mind was bright with flame;
I saw the cheap and sordid hole
I live in, and my cares all came
Burrowing back into my soul. If “The Crowds” described the Flâneur as triumphal hero, Baudelaire’s poetry was more likely to present him as overstrained by the experience of the city. “The Seven Old Men” (1859) opens with a picture of the city and the Flâneur. “Ant-seething city, city full of dreams,/Where ghosts by daylight tug the passer’s sleeve.” Here the poet-Flâneur wanders in “the sad street,” “steeling my nerves to play a hero’s part.” He encounters an old man, “not bent, but broken,” a frightening apparition made more frightening by the fact that he is followed by seven copies of himself. The poet turns his back on this “hellish cortege,” returns home, and shuts his door. In “To a Passerby” (1860), the Flâneur reads “intoxicating sweetness and murderous pleasure” in the eye of a female passerby. It is a street encounter with “fugitive beauty,” but it is momentary and unrequited. There will be no communion here. The “I” will return to his garret with nothing but longing.
Baudelaire threw the Flâneur into stark relief against a picture of the urban crowd. In moments of ecstasy, the poet could glimpse individuals, but these were always distanced from him. For all of his talk of the pleasure of crowds, Baudelaire expressed an extreme individualism verging on solipsism. “The true hero,” he wrote in one of the aphorisms from Mon coeur mis à nu, “finds his pleasure in solitude.” Or as Jean-Paul Sartre put it, “The lover of crowds was he who had the greatest fear of crowds.” Baudelaire’s poet-Flâneur was distinctly separate from the crowd he stepped into.
There is no end of testimonials from the Flâneur. But how shall we come to understand the experience of the urban crowd, that faceless mass that the Flâneur defined himself against? Here, the figure of the Flâneur is not so useful. Rather, we should look to another nineteenth-century urban type, the badaud. The word can be translated as gawker; it carried the connotation of idle curiosity, gullibility, simpleminded foolishness and gaping ignorance. The Grand dictionnaire universel (1867) defined him in this way: “The badaud is curious; he is astonished by everything he sees; he believes everything he hears, and he shows his contentment or his surprise by his open, gaping mouth.” If the Flâneur was the model for the Baudelairean poet, the badaud offers a model for the crowd he passed through.
Benjamin himself contrasted the two figures: “In the Flâneur, the joy of watching is triumphant. It can concentrate on observation; the result is the amateur detective. Or it can stagnate in the gaper; then the Flâneur has turned into the badaud.” The Flâneur, then, is a man in the crowd but not of the crowd, and this is true despite Baudelaire’s moments of enthusiasm; indeed, it is especially true of the Flâneur of Baudelaire’s poetry. The Flâneur was a man of leisure; he demanded his elbow room. The badaud was the pedestrian who wedged him or herself (for the badaud’s gender was distinctly less determinate) into the crowd. The Flâneur was the gourmet of the street; the badaud was the gourmand. The Flâneur observed the city with intelligence and distinction; he turned his overdeveloped sensibilities to dwell on mysteries and telling details. The badaud gawked; she sought out a story that would touch her. He was dominated by his curiosity. The 1867 Larousse encyclopedia entry shows the badaud at work.
One is constantly jostled by a crowd of individuals who leave their houses each morning to kill time in city squares, intersections and on the boulevards; they have ten hours to dispose of, and when they return home in the evening, they want to have something to recount: an accident, a poor devil who falls from a bus into the street or faints from hunger, an old dog drowned in the Seine, etc., etc.; and when one of these Tituses of the pavement has seen nothing, observed nothing, he cries: I have lost my day!
This misfortune, we are told, rarely happens. “For when the street has nothing to offer, the badaud can always rely on the Morgue, the Jardin des Plantes, the cemetery at Père Lachaise, and in a last resort, there are the street performers of the Place de la Bastille, or the puppeteers of the Champs-Elysées.” The badaud, like the Flâneur, had a special connection to Paris, and this was an old inheritance. Louis-Sébastien Mercier (in 1782) noted that Parisians were often described as “perfect badauds,” enraptured by any strange sight. An early nineteenth-century observer of the city described badauderie as the one ineffable trait of the Parisian character. “In Paris, everything becomes an event: a train of wood being floated down the river, two coaches running into each other, a man dressed differently from others, an armored car, a dog fight, if they are noticed by two people, there will soon be a thousand, and the crowd will always grow, until some other circumstance, just as remarkable, pulls it away.”
The badaud, it should be clear, offers a much better symbol of the urban masses than the Flâneur. Victor Fournel, in Ce qu’on voit dans les rues de Paris (1867), made the distinction perfectly clear.
The Flâneur must not be confused with the badaud; a nuance should be observed here … The simple Flâneur … is always in full possession of his individuality. By contrast, the individuality of the badaud disappears, absorbed by the outside world, which ravishes him, which moves him to drunkenness and ecstasy. Under the influence of the spectacle that presents itself to him, the badaud becomes an impersonal creature; he is no longer a man, he is the public, he is the crowd. It is no surprise, then, that the Flâneur is usually pictured as the solitary wanderer, while the badaud is one of many. The words themselves reveal the distinction: badaud was much more likely to be used in the plural; the Flâneur was more often a verb than a noun, but it was no more likely to be plural or singular. The badaud came in a group, a gathering, a crowd of badauds.
The Flâneur led a lively existence in nineteenth-century Paris. But beside this figure was the badaud—the rubberneck who gathered in crowds upon the scene of some violence or commotion. Badauderie was understood as a popular practice of the Parisian street and contrasted to the more refined practice of flâneur. For the most part, writers called on badauderie to criticize the slack-jawed and impressionable crowd of the street, to distinguish gaping from intelligent observation. But the lowly badaud was to have a startlingly successful career in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century.
Where the Flâneur was aristocratic, at least in spirit, the badaud was more likely to be associated with workers, artisans, shopkeepers, and sales clerks. Where the Flâneur stood in to explain the alienation of the city, the leering male gaze, and the sexual underside of modern urban life, the badaud revealed a gaze of often morbid curiosity and a lowest-common-denominator culture of the street. Where the Flâneur was detached and blasé, the badaud was emotional and easily riled. Where the Flâneur was male, the badaud was feminized. In literature and in common usage, the Flâneur was preferable to the badaud, preferable to the simpleminded, gullible crowd. But in the chronicles and reports of the late nineteenth and early twentieth-century Parisian press, the badaud and the crowd were elevated. In the newspaper, the coming together of people in the street was presented as a sign of empathy and insight and not as a sign of simplemindedness.
The chronicles and commentaries that filled the pages of the late nineteenth-century Parisian press—the Chroniques, Causeries, Promenades—were presented as strolls through the city of Paris or beyond. The early Le petit journal (avatar of the mass press in France, founded 1863) presented a chronicle under the heading “Promenade à Paris” that told human-interest stories through the metaphor of strolling. It was as if the search for news was simply a matter of flâneur. The chronicler, if ever at a loss for words, had only to walk into the street—through the faubourgs, the quais, the boulevards, by the Palais de Justice, the markets, or the Morgue—to find his day’s story. The “Promenade à Paris” was a “search for fresh news.” One chronicler presented himself in these terms: “I am a Flâneur, and even I am sometimes surprised at the strange sights that seem to rise out of the soil of this Paris that we think we’ve always known.” He explained his logic: “Every street of Paris is a theater with its comedy or its drama.” Here was the lowbrow mirror of the Baudelaire who exclaimed, “What oddities you can find in a big city when you know how to stroll and look.” Here, too, was the Flâneur that Baudelaire presented in “The Crowds” seeking “universal communion,” but with a difference—here, the chronicler/Flâneur realized Baudelaire’s longing to immerse himself in the crowd. In the mass press of the 1860s, as in the press of the turn of the century, the distant, observant Flâneur mingled with the crowd at the scene of some commotion; indeed, he became one with the emotional, overawed badauds who stood on. This was especially clear in the reporting of crime and catastrophe.
There was a reality to the crowds that gathered around scenes of violence and its resolution, a reality that was multiplied by the publicity that the press gave to such stories. The Gazette des tribunaux pondered the movement of people unleashed by the discovery of an entire family murdered in a field at Pantin (September 1869), just outside of Paris, a case that would be remembered as the Troppmann Affair, after Jean-Baptiste Troppmann, the murderer. “It would take a clever statistician to calculate the movements of capital that follow from the movements of the Parisian crowd in regard to an event like that of Pantin.” It spoke of bakers and butchers complaining about the loss of business from the crowds who left the city to visit the crime site. On the other hand, the trains, coaches, and peddlers were doing better than expected. The same sort of crowd, “a mass of curiosity-seekers,” gathered at the area along the Seine in Clichy where the dismembered body of Marie le Manach had been discovered in 1876.Le petit parisien reported some 3,000 visitors a day passed through the Paris Morgue to see her corpse in the days after its discovery. Paul Nourrisson, an avocat at the Cour d’Appel, described the crowds that came together to watch the proceedings of justice for the murder of the young Pierre Grégoire in 1897 by his father. “Last month, the Cour d’Assises was surrounded with that animation that always accompanies a so-called sensational affair. On the Place Dauphine, a dense group stood by, waiting for the trial to let out, with the characteristic tenacity of the Parisian crowd.” The commissaire divisionnaire estimated that nearly 100,000 spectators gathered on the streets of Montmartre for the funeral and burial of Petit Pierre. According to press reports, 50,000 lined the streets for the funeral cortege of “La Petite Marthe” Erbelding, another famous case of a “martyred” child.
These movements of people are unimaginable without the press coverage that dramatized such tales. Nourrisson described the public who followed the case of Petit Pierre as “overexcited by the stories of the crime offered by the press in lavish details.” The crowds gathered at the sites described in newspapers, even when there was nothing there to see. The journalist for Le petit journal noted the gatherings around the Morgue in the days following the discovery of the victims of Troppmann at Pantin. “This morning, the crowd still waited outside the Morgue. I have already said it and I will say it again, the cadavers will not be on view.” He continued, “emotion, still overexcited to the highest degree, pushes the curiosity seekers to the site where the crime was committed, and to the place where the bodies were taken. The field in Pantin and the Morgue are the two endpoints of this sinister and gloomy affair.” But the paper did not lament these crowds or their curiosity. Indeed, it championed their cause.
In fact, the press promised to do the crowd one better, for the press could go where the crowd longed to go but could not enter. In its reporting of the trial of the Armand Affair, in a closed courtroom in Aix (1864), Le petit journal noted that “the curiosity is immense, the Palais de Justice is literally encircled by a dense and boisterous crowd that knows very well that it cannot enter into the chambers.” Despite the fact that there was “nothing romantic nor mysterious” about the affair, the crowd persisted and waited. “To wait for what? For the few words which will be telegraphed more or less faithfully by the privileged few who enter and exit as part of their duties.” The implication was clear: the press would take the reader (wherever he or she might reside) where the crowd longed to go. An example from the 1869 explosion on the Place de la Sorbonne made this logic explicit. “All of Paris rushed to the Place de la Sorbonne. I will reveal the disaster better than the bystanders who gathered were able to see it, as the sidewalks were barred and entry was formally forbidden. I went to visit the site.” The same mechanism was clear with the Troppmann Affair. The crowd could not enter the Morgue to see the victims of Troppmann, for they had been quickly identified. The Gazette des tribunaux would only describe the indescribability of the scene therein. “Those who could enter into this sad place felt a terrible impression. We should not try to describe such a horrible spectacle.” In the hands of the mass press and in popular culture more widely, this silence was only rhetorical. Popular illustrated magazines (and photographs sold in the street) displayed the dead, distorted faces of the victims for the public.Le petit journal detailed the receipt from the Morgue for the bodies, the clothing that they wore, the name of the tailor on the young boys’ jackets. It took the crowd to the field in Pantin and spied on the bodies before they had been discovered: “Cadavers, riddled by knife wounds, twisted by pain, bodies heaped together in a shallow grave covered by a few shovels of earth, an entire family disappeared under the knife of assassins.”
The mass press would go where the crowd longed to go. It would watch as the badaud wished to watch. The signs of this innovation were everywhere: the emphasis on the accounts of bystanders, the journalistic forays to the Morgue or the scene of the accident, the prominence given to the crowd of observers. The crowd milling about at the sensational event was a central figure of press reporting at the same time that it was a metaphor for the press and its audience. News stories were written from the point of view of the crowd. Look, for example, at the reporting of the “Triple Murder of the Impasse Ronsin,” better remembered as the Steinheil Affair (1908). Having described the crime (as recounted by Mme. Steinheil) and the theories of the police, Le petit parisien went on to paint the scene outside the house of crime. By the logic of the mass press, it was a most reasonable progression. A “considerable crowd” of curieux stood by at the police lines. They commented on the comings and goings of magistrates and investigators and ardently debated the various circumstances of the crime. This crowd appeared in the pages of the press as the very image of the newspaper itself—for its discussions mirrored what Le petit parisien had to say about the crime. The crowd was not dumb or gaping. At its center, two workers from a nearby print shop described the movements of three men and a woman who had made an exact study of the neighborhood in the weeks before the murders. They were Benjamin’s amateur detectives, with this twist: they had little else in common with the image of the Flâneur besides their intellectual work of studying details.
It would be easy to multiply examples: a journalist for Le journal described himself mixing into the crowd—a crowd of workers, artisans, clerks—that gathered on the street outside the smoldering ruins of the Bazar de la Charité (1897), listening in on its conversations. In January of 1909, as the guillotine was making a dramatic reappearance (having been out of use by presidential pardon while the debate over capital punishment raged), Le petit parisien reported that the mechanism was being cleaned and tested; a new execution was imminent. A front-page photograph showed a group of curieux watching the toilette of the guillotine. The onlookers and the photograph received no mention in the text, but they signaled the intense attention granted to capital punishment and the guillotine. In the 1900s, Le matin often featured reports of crime at the head of its second page. The photographs that accompanied these stories often told the tale of the crowd on the street. They showed the crowd that gathered outside of the door of the house of crime; they recapitulated the view of the crowd from across a police line; better yet, they went into the very room of crime to show the newspaper audience what the crowd on the street could only imagine.
The newspaper’s promise to go where the crowd longed to go expressed a “reality effect,” to be sure. Here was an unseemly reality, spectacularized, offered in close-up vision.  But there was more than this. To begin with, the emphasis on the vision of the crowd of observers was a legitimization of the subject matter of the mass newspaper. By dwelling on the crowd at a trial, or an execution, or the site of some unfortunate event, the newspaper implied that it was simply giving the people what they wanted. “The crowd attracts a crowd,” or “the crowd follows the crowd,” Le petit journal liked to write, when it considered the public emotions—and by extension, the press reporting—raised by sensational events. 
These rhetorical uses of the crowd—we might think of it as the crowd-in-the-press—was a declaration of the newsworthiness of the badaud’s vision. Timothée Trimm, the star columnist of Le petit journal in the 1860s, wrote that he found his subject matter in curiosity and fear, in “the event in the street that makes you open your window, the drama of the night that makes you lock your door.” He reflected on the longings raised by remarkable events and promised to satisfy them.
When a serious event takes place in Paris, it is as if an electric current runs through the city; within a few minutes, this event is known, amplified, discussed.
An ardent, imperious curiosity acts upon the minds of the public; they want to know, they want to guess, they want to see, they want to touch if it is possible.
Groups form around anyone with news to give; newspapers are avidly read and discussed; public curiosity demands details, more details, always details. For Le petit journal, public curiosity was demanding, but it was natural. The newspaper would provide its proper satisfaction.
The sample issue that preceded Le petit journal’s debut described one part of the newspaper’s mission as the “satisfaction” of curiosity. But how to defend curiosity for the horrible? There was, of course, the danger that such curiosity could become morbid, idle, or cynical. This was a pressing problem that Le petit journal and its followers constantly battled. The paper quite regularly insisted that curiosity for horrible crimes was normal and legitimate. Granted certain provisos, it deserved to be satisfied. Trimm made it plain: “There is no arguing with public curiosity.” While elaborating the sad details of the victims of Troppmann, Thomas Grimm (the pseudonymous collective that took over from Trimm) insisted that the curiosity of his readers was “legitimate.” This was not gawking. As Grimm put it, “It is not a vain curiosity that excites public opinion.” It was curiosity plain and simple, and it deserved to be satisfied.
But the danger of morbid curiosity could not be written off so simply as this. The mass press did more than suggest that it was giving people what they wanted. It figured its public as a street crowd. And it sought to show, time and again, that this crowd of observers was not dull and gawking but intelligent and emotional. Some examples from the illustrated press of the turn of the century make this especially clear.
Take, for example, this 1909 cover illustration from the Supplément illustré du petit journal, showing a train bearing down on an old man and a young woman, the barrier guard at the station. She was another in a long series of heroic victims—victims of duty and victims of devotion—championed by the illustrated press. She ran to save a man who had wandered onto the tracks, but, as the explanation went, “her courage had no recompense.” The two of them were run down and killed by the Côte d’Azur express. The image shows the scene just before the impact. The barrier guard’s mouth and eyes are wide open with terror. The old man is oblivious to his fate. Both of their bodies are precariously off-balance, their legs intertwined as the woman pulls the man backward. They look as if they are about to fall of their own accord. In any case, there is no escape. Both appear frozen by a hypnotic force emanating from the locomotive shrouded in steam, a force delimited by the radial lines of the telegraph and the railway tracks and accentuated by the twin lanterns that look on.
The eyewitnesses to disaster played an important role. In the background of the picture, four observers stand by. Their faces and their dispositions reveal a range of responses to the impending horror, from a gaping terror that mirrors the face of the barrier guard to a hesitant, immobilized fright. One figure has turned away from the sight altogether, to cover her face in her hands. Like a Greek chorus, they offered an interpretation of the horrible events depicted in the foreground. In case we needed to be told, they made it plain that we are faced with the sublime-of-terror. The figures are in the background, but they are not at all incidental, a fact heightened by the composition of the image. On the flat page, they stand directly behind the unfortunate victims in a line from the locomotive lanterns. In the moment recreated by the illustrator, they seem to restrain the central figures against the onrushing train. What should we make of these eyewitnesses? The badaud, as we have seen, was often defined by the open mouth that was a mark of gullible stupefaction. In the pages of the illustrated press, it was more likely to be a mark of horror. It would not be right to construe these bystanders as passive spectators. In the iconography of the illustrated press, they were emotionally involved in the tragedies unfolding before them. They were moved to pity and to horror.
Such images of bystanders were an important motif in the illustrated press; there was a whole language to their responses. Their arms stretched out in self-protection, in a gesture of aid, or in a movement to shield themselves from the horror they attended. Their hands covered their faces in a movement of restraint. Their features revealed horror, concern, pity, disgust, stunned silence, or, in certain cases, curious indifference. A few more examples fill out the picture: A mother faints as her daughter is run down by runaway horses at the Bois de Boulogne; witnesses watch with horror. A theater audience shrinks back from the stage as it watches an actor cut the throat of another. A photographer watches through the bars of the cage as a lion attacks his subject (who wanted to be photographed in the beast’s den). The face of the photographer shows terror; his hand is raised above the camera in a gesture of frightened empathy.
What was the significance of these horrified onlookers? They were prescriptive. They demonstrated the kind of response that such scenes deserved, not from the real eyewitnesses pictured within the paper but from the newspaper’s consumers. Look with horror and pity, they implied, or do not look at all. It was the perfect translation of Le petit journal’s ambitions of the 1860s. In an early column from the paper, Victor C. reported the instructions of Alphonse Millaud, the newspaper’s director in its early years, who chastised him for writing without emotion, as a “cold, unmoved spectator”:
I want to see you palpitate with indignation before the assassin’s steaming knife, to see you take pity upon the fate of the victim, and to hear you demand vengeance for her … Let the fire that ruins peasant or storekeeper, the machine that crushes the unfortunate worker in its treacherous and rigid gears, pull a cry of pity out of you; at the image of the pale suicide, spread out on the tables of the morgue, may your silence be grave and tender. All of these sights were horrible, in their way. And all might invite readers to idle curiosity. But so long as they evoked a response, so long as they moved the journalist, and by implication the reader—to indignation, pity, the demand for vengeance, grave and tender silences—such sights were healthy and moralizing.
The lesson was made clear by counterexample, for the mass press demonstrated the wrong way to look at such violence. Timothée Trimm offered this advice to the poets of the street who would compose their songs on the crimes of the day: “Stay away from these grim subjects, that everyone sings to the same tune, like a funeral hymn, unless you are full of emotion, horror and faith.” A “Suicide extraordinaire” (from 1908) dramatized the point. The illustration showed a young man throwing himself to the lions of a menagerie. A large lion stands on his hind legs embracing the man as his teeth break through the unfortunate’s neck. The observers, in this case, are the other lions of the menagerie. They look on with curiosity or look away with self-possessed indifference. Here, surely, was the wrong way to look on such a calamity. The human parallel was the observer who watched with neither horror nor sympathy. Look to this image from 1897, of what would become the Grégoire Affair. The brutal, fatal beating of young Pierre Grégoire by his father is compounded by the passive disregard of his father’s mistress, whose indifference is accentuated by the agitation of the dog. The explanation of the illustration made it plain: “The beast offered the example of humanity to mankind.” The lesson would be lost on Grégoire and his mistress, but it was there in Le petit journal illustré to be viewed and read.
Altogether, the crowd-in-the-press and the horrified observer responded to the very problem raised by sensational press reporting: morbid curiosity. Newspapers defended the press attention to violence and horror at the same time that they explained the rules for and limits on the observation of such scenes. If they presented countless examples of bad observers, they valorized the crowd as an emotional public. This was their audience, they implied. Not the hooligans that gathered at executions, not the bloodthirsty foreigners eager for a view of blood, no. Their audience was the people, the crowd, the mass; it was easily moved, spontaneous, and generous.
These texts and images reveal the operating principles of the Parisian mass press from its formative age in the 1860s to its great expansion at the turn of the century. This press validated the view of the street crowd, making it a central metaphor for the vision of the mass newspaper. When it dwelled on the horrors of crime and catastrophe, the mass press insisted on the propriety of its vision. It was not idle curiosity that would be served in its pages, not the image of Victor Fournel’s badaud, gaping stupidly at the extraordinary. Rather, the basis for its selection of news and the model for its audience was an empathic observer—a newly valorized badaud.
But there was something more than this to the press tales and images of the crowds that descended on the scene of sensational news events. There was a consistent logic to their gathering, a mechanism of solidarity that seemed to follow right behind death and destruction: a community of horror. This logic was often only implicit, but it was pervasive. Le petit journal, for example, told the story of strangers coming together on the street to exchange news of the murders of Troppmann. This mechanism of solidarity was patently clear in stories of disaster, where groups otherwise opposed would put aside differences in the name of a common humanity. The 1907 mining disasters at Saarbrücken and Liévin bridged national differences. For Le petit parisien: “The human soul, in the presence of such misfortunes, forgets nationalities and thinks only of equality before death.”
In the universe of press description, all observers, all readers, all Parisians, all human beings of sentiment cried together at the sight of tragedy. “All of Paris is moved … ” went the classic opening to the sensational report—you can fill in the blank: by news of the railway disaster, by the conflagration, by the discovery of bodies, and so on. The implication was obvious: if Paris was moved, the press would follow, and its readers were right to follow after it. Such events, and the responses they elicited, were cast as fundamentally human; they served thus to rally observers and readers to a common humanity. Consider the press accounts of the aftermath of the Bazar de la Charité fire (1897). According to Le petit parisien: “From the top of society to the bottom, all cried with the survivors over the tangled pile of cadavers.” The Supplément illustré du petit journal, a week and a half after the fire, expanded the circle: “A general cry, full of sympathetic pity, burst from every heart, from one end of the world to another.” It asked what remained of the disaster. “Nothing but a bit of ash, but at the same time, perhaps something else. Like a holy and radiant flash of reconciliation between classes in need of affectionate solidarity, of resignation to one’s own pains at the thought of the misfortune of others.” The paper explained the basis of class reconciliation. “Hands reached toward each other, hearts shuddered with the same vibrations, the great misunderstanding is over; through pity, love enters into the soul and we see we are all brothers.” Class misunderstanding was overwhelmed by the solidarity of individuals before a great catastrophe. What must be highlighted here is the mechanism of class reconciliation, for it followed quite directly from the pity felt in the face of the event. Listen again to the Supplément illustré du petit journal: “We all loved each other for a few hours because we cried together: why can we not continue to do so?” To cry together, in the sensationalism of violence, was to love each other.
These meditations on the crowds at the scene of crime or disaster had their parallel in newspapers’ descriptions of their audience. The mass press—from Le petit journal of the 1860s to Le matin, Le petit parisien, and the Supplément illustré du petit journal of the turn of the century—depicted its readership as a crowd that united men and women, artisan and master, peasant and urbanite, bourgeois and worker. It painted the production of the newspaper as a sensational event in and of itself, worthy of the crowd. It applied the solidaristic logic of badauderie to the newspaper as a whole.
This definition of the mass audience was made most explicitly in Le petit journal during the 1860s. From the beginning, it described itself as a newspaper for the common man and the common woman, for those individuals who had been excluded from the world of ideas by the cost of books and newspapers. But this program for a popular press—a newspaper that spoke to the people—merged with a program for a mass press—a newspaper that appealed to all classes of French society. It was a program that laid the foundations for the mass press in France.
Le petit journal often described itself as popular, explaining its mission as taking the newspaper to those who did not have it. One correspondent said that the paper “addressed a large mass of the public that had not read newspapers before.” On the first anniversary of the newspaper, Trimm described the newspaper as “popular by its price, popular by its deep love for all those who labor and produce.” And yet Le petit journal continually subsumed the people and the popular in the mass. Trimm made this clear; he wrote for “the people, by which I understand all classes of society.” The point would be made a hundred times or more. The paper was read by “all classes,” by “all fortunes,” “in thatched-roof cottage and farmhouse, in the chateau and in the bourgeois home, in the village as in the city.” “All classes rubbed shoulders” in reading Le petit journal. This imaginary mingling of classes was systematic and pervasive. Le petit journal’s audience was not the Academy but “the crowd, the mass, the great number of readers.” This preference showed signs of Baudelaire’s meditation on the urban masses but with a positive reevaluation. “The multitude excites the imagination as the sea sustains the swimmer, for the crowd is intelligent, impressionable, spontaneous and generous.” What did the crowd want? Not algebra, not dry debates, not challenging literature. “The mass wants interest, emotion and sincerity in a story.” The crowd, the people, and the mass were one and the same for Le petit journal: the French people of all classes, not le peuple that rose up once in a generation to build barricades and overthrow kings. In the program of the mass press, they would be unified by emotion and sensation, news that shocked and literature that moved them.
There was an important gender element to this project. Le petit journal’s new definition of news—the appeal of “interest, emotion and sincerity”—was understood as peculiarly feminine by its journalists and its critics. The writers for Le petit journal did not shirk from this association; they celebrated it. Trimm wrote: “One cannot believe that ladies are indifferent to the Petit Journal. Their patronage is the most precious of all.” This was more than a ploy to attract new readers. Indeed, women stood for a kind of emotional, empathic reader that was a model for its audience. This was especially true of the reporting of frightful events. In the pages of Le petit journal, women were “curious”; they sought out “terrible emotions”; they were especially attracted to “dark subjects.” “Curiosity” carried the stain of unhealthy attention to crime and catastrophe, but in the pages of Le petit journal (female) curiosity was rendered natural, legitimate, and healthy through the (female) emotions of compassion and sympathy.
In the mass press of the turn of the century, the logic of inclusion—the logic of the mass—played a prominent role. An advertisement for Le matin from 1906 made it plain. “Everyone reads Le Matin,” it declared. Two news vendors offer the newspaper to the passengers on a train as the stationmaster prepares to close the door. The hats told the story: Le matin appealed to all professions, young and old, male and female. An illustration in the Supplément illustré du petit journal from 1909 showed something similar. It pictured the crowd spread out on the grounds of Bois de Boulogne, cheering and admiring the floating masthead of the dirigible airship “Le Petit Journal.” The newspaper, modern aeronautics and the heroism of the ship’s pilot, Comte Henry de la Vaulx, drew the collective acclamation of the crowd. It was, according to the explanation on the inside pages, just another example of Le petit journal’s program to popularize modern technology. In these figurations of the audience, it was as if the mass press recreated the crowd of spectators as a virtual community—the “sublime communion of souls across distance,” as Le petit parisien described the community of newsreaders in 1893—expressed through and lived within the pages and images it broadcast.
In these declarations and images, the mass press appealed to all potential readers. Crossing boundaries of class, education, gender, and geography, the mass press addressed a massive, national audience. This logic of inclusion was at the heart of early mass culture in France. So, too, was the appeal to emotion. Journalists of the day valorized their own efforts as offering items of common interest. Critics of mass culture then and ever since have decried a culture of the lowest common denominator. Common interest or lowest common denominator: the terms have different implications, but they point out the same phenomenon. In fact, it was not just critics who would cast the moves of the mass press as a dumbing down of culture. Polydore Millaud, the banker turned news magnate who founded Le petit journal, expressed his program in a bon mot to one of his competitors: “We must have the courage to be stupid.” To be stupid—that is, to speak of simple things in a simple language—was the way to attract the largest number of readers. But we should not stop here, with the suggestion that badauderie in the press and the logic of inclusion were nothing more than marketing strategies.
There were other readings of the audience of the mass press, and we must take these into account to fathom the meanings of the community of newsreaders. Consider, for example, the satiric illustrated weekly, L’assiette au beurre.  It portrayed the mass press and the reporting of crime as a frightful distraction. In the years 1906–1908, it ran a series of issues criticizing the mass press of Paris for its venality and triviality. An image from 1907 portrayed the press as a lamentable sideshow in a spectacle of sordid curiosity and misplaced interest. This was not the empathic crowd pictured by Le petit journal! In the illustration by Carlègle (Charles Emile Egli), a crowd of men and women, bourgeois and workers, adults and children, converges on the kiosk, grappling for the papers. The kiosk itself seems to have a magnetic attraction; the crowd is transfixed by it and its promises of sensational news. The immediate referent of Carlègle’s illustration was the arrest of Albert Soleilland for the murder of his young neighbor, “Little Marthe” Erbelding in early February 1907. In Carlègle’s illustration, the crowd eyes the newspaper kiosk and the dueling promises offered by the mass press. Le matin promises two rapes; Le journal ups the ante to three. Le matin makes Soleilland the king of the satyrs; Le journal makes him the emperor, adding stereoscopic images and a story of a woman vampire as bonuses. But the focal point of the illustration was the crowd. Like those offered up by the mass press, the crowd was composed of all classes. We can see this by various markers: top hats, bowlers, caps, a cigarette, a cigar, clean-shaven faces, a rough beard, the ponytail of a schoolgirl. But before the shrine of the kiosk, these differences were obscured; the crowd coalesced to form a mass. In the foreground is a pretty young woman, well dressed and carrying a hat box, her eyes fixed on the newspaper she holds before her. Underneath, the caption: “You cannot live by bread alone …” Circuses, too, would be necessary.
A further example from L’assiette au beurre, the cover from a 1906 issue devoted to the faits divers in life and imagination, developed this critique further. In this illustration by Max Radiguet, the top-hatted bourgeois, the worker in cap, blouse, and scarf, the woman with a hat box, and a flock of children are brought together by the sight of blood. They are transfixed by a poster on the kiosk advertising “The Crime of the Rue Chose, in Today’s Journal.” It shows a woman’s half-naked body, blood pooled about her as her hand reaches up in a dying gesture. The criminal’s foot is just visible as he disappears into the distance and the sun comes up over Paris. To the right of the poster is a front page from Le journal and Le matin. One headline is clear: “Sensational Crime.” The other is highlighted in the red of the victim’s blood. Here we can see the mechanism of solidarity once again. The crowd comes together before the remarkable sight, thanks to the press. But in this case, the community of horror has given way to the community of gawking. Here we are back to the badaud described by Victor Fournel. The faces of the kiosk crowd show a gaping, leering fascination. Indeed, the two men at the center of the composition are smiling, their gaze a direct line to the victim’s parted legs. There are no signs of pity or horror in this crowd. On the right, a grinning policeman oversees the crowd with the air of a carnival barker. Radiguet’s point is clear: the sensational crime will help maintain the order that the policeman seeks to preserve. On the left, in a curious balance with the forces of order, the news vendor smiles at the crowd. She is barely visible, obscured by the sensational poster above her and the newspaper she holds before her. At the bottom of the page: “The press is the great educator of the masses!”
It is no coincidence that women played a prominent role in these images. We see the same figure of the woman with a hat box in the foreground of both. She is a curious corollary to the female reader invoked and celebrated—for her sympathy—by the early Le petit journal. Here she is pictured as merely curious, as unemotional. This association of the mass press with female readers was widespread, reaching beyond the reporting of crime. A turn-of-the-century series of postcards of the press presented each of the major Parisian dailies with the portrait of a reader. La lanterne’s essential reader was an artisan, Le figaro’s a round bourgeois; the essential readers of Le petit journal and Le petit parisien were women, the only female readers present. By the same account, critics often used a gendered language to criticize the mass press appeal to emotion and sensation, and lamented the rise of a press of consumption that stood in sharp contrast to the political press of the July Monarchy and Second Republic. The female reader, it is clear, was a powerful figure. She could be invoked to legitimate the badaud’s vision—as compassionate and generous (in Le petit journal’s view)—or to critique the mass press attention to grisly sights as morbid curiosity.
These depictions of the crowd at the kiosk from L’assiette au beurre form a necessary supplement to the depictions of the crowd in the mass press. The difference between them was but a matter of interpretation. In fact, L’assiette au beurre was beating the mass press with its own stick. Like Le petit parisien, the Supplément illustré du petit journal, and Le matin, L’assiette au beurre depicted the solidarity of the crowd. But in this case, the solidarity was a false and degrading solidarity. It was a community of gawking, a community of distraction that brought the crowd together before the kiosk. There was no pity, no horror, no compassion here. This was another vision of the audience of the mass press and its public. The “education” of the masses was an instruction in debauchery and distraction. The badauds of L’assiette au beurre were marked by their superficiality, their fickleness, and their impressionability.
We are faced, then, with two turn-of-the-twentieth-century visions of the audience of the mass press—the sympathetic badaud in a crowd of common interest and the badaud-gawker in a crowd of common distraction. It would seem that we are back where we began, back to the two visions of the public of mass culture described at the opening of this essay: the authentic community of mass culture (following Schwartz, Kalifa, and others) or the crowd of duped readers (following Habermas and the Frankfurt School). Indeed, this close reading of the French press and its critics suggests that these interpretations of mass culture are as old as the phenomenon they describe. But let us follow the logic of inclusion in the mass press a step further, by placing it more directly into its social context.
We have seen the mass press of Paris blurring and overturning the lines of class. It offered up a solidaristic vision of French society—as Trimm put it, “the people, by which I understand all classes of society.” In the 1860s, this move served a wishful social program that combined a hearty respect for those who work with a systematic rejection of class struggle. Such a social program should be construed as the antidote to the revolutionary tradition of French history. The June Days of 1848—the “ugly revolution,” to take Karl Marx’s term, that revealed the fiction behind the revolutionary collaboration of workers, artisans, and the liberal bourgeoisie—were not distant memories in Second Empire France. But such unhappy thoughts played no role in the text of Le petit journal. What was to be found here, by contrast, was the figurative unity of the nation. Thus Le petit journal both flattered the world of work, in columns devoted to the “little people” and in serial novels, such as Victor Hugo’s Les travailleurs du mer, at the same time that it erased a distinctive working class from the streets of Paris and of France.
The social program of Le petit journal was the journalistic equivalent of Baron Haussmann’s renovations of Paris of the 1850s and 1860s. With the goal of creating a healthy, well-functioning city, Haussmann’s remodeling destroyed 117,000 buildings, pushing the working class to the outskirts of the city (which had been expanded in 1860 to include the former suburbs), recreating Paris as an emphatically bourgeois city. At the center of Paris, the narrow streets and crowded, popular lodgings of the Ile de la Cité were cleared out and replaced by the new police headquarters and the Palais de Justice. Addressing a national audience, Le petit journal emptied class of any contestatory meanings. Indeed, for all of its talk of uniting the classes in readership, Le petit journal would picture its crowd as distinctly well heeled. An 1888 poster for the paper made this plain. In the foreground, a kiosk described the achievements of Le petit journal and its sibling publications. In the center of the frame was the headquarters of Le petit journal on the Rue Lafayette, presented as the architectural equivalent of the newspaper masthead. The newspaper it oversaw was the story of the street, of Paris, of the urban masses. But these were not the dangerous, unwashed masses. The urban crowd that passed before Le petit journal was respectable in all of its guises. Ladies, leisured gentlemen in top hats, coachmen and delivery boys mingled on the street in the space between Le petit journal’s building and the kiosk that advertised its wares.
The mass audience—so eloquently captured by the image of the crowd of sympathetic badauds—was a solution to the revolutionary crowd that haunted nineteenth-century France. Indeed, the revolutionary crowd was the very subtext of the public of the mass press. The revolutionary crowd—whose empathy was directed inward and whose action was directed out—was transformed in the logic of badauderie into a crowd whose empathy was directed outward and whose action was only a matter of emotion. To imagine the crowd of badauds as a crowd of all classes united in sympathy was to imagine a convenient and cost-free solution to the question of class struggle in France.
In the years from 1890 to 1910, the celebration of the unified audience expressed the same logic as the early Le petit journal, but now in a context in which class struggle was a pressing social and political reality. The French Third Republic under Adolphe Thiers had silenced this struggle in the brutal suppression of the Paris Commune of 1871 (some 20,000 Communards killed in the government’s recapture of the city, thousands more sent off to penal colonies). It was to come roaring back in the 1890s, with the rise of socialist parties (taking forty-three seats in the Chamber of 1893), with the expansion of the trade union movement surrounding the newly founded labor exchanges (the Bourses de Travail), with May Day marches (begun in 1890), with the rising tide of strikes that gave meaning to these marches, and with the incidents that thrust the social question into national consciousness, such as the military response at Fourmies (in 1891) that left fourteen marchers dead and spawned a series of anarchist attacks in the city of Paris.
In 1906–1909, the years of L’assiette au beurre’s critique of the mass press, the social conflicts of labor and capital (backed by the state) only intensified, in strikes that brought workers into the streets by the tens and hundreds of thousands. The disaster at Courrières in March of 1906, a mine explosion that killed 1,300 miners, sparked a series of strikes, first among the miners of the Pas-de-Calais, the northern coal mining region of France, and then all across France. The Confédération Généerale du Travail (the CGT, the national confederation of labor unions) backed these strikes and pressed for their extension. In October of 1906, the CGT Congress at Amiens validated revolutionary syndicalism and the general strike as the means of social emancipation. Over the next three years, in the face of the often brutal repression of the government of Georges Clemenceau, the massive strikes continued. Robert Nye has described these years as “another chapter in the grande peur of the French bourgeoisie,” a time of social unrest that helped explain a turn to order on the part of the press and public opinion, a turn reflected in the obsession with dangerous criminals (such as the “apaches” of Paris) and the reinstatement of the death penalty.
The point of these gestures toward social history is simple, perhaps obvious. The social context of the era from 1890 to 1910 reveals a reinvigoration of politics and of social struggles, even as a new mass culture boomed. The revolutionary crowd of the Paris Commune of 1870, aligning worker, artisan, intellectual, and shopkeeper, was not replaced by a herd of docile shoppers. The contentious French of the nineteenth century were not replaced by a gathering of badauds. Rather, it was the mass press that wrote the nation as if it should be so.
I have presented the audience of badauds as a symbolic erasure of class contestation in late nineteenth and early twentieth-century France. This ideological underpinning of the mass audience might seem to bring us back to Habermas, Horkheimer, and Adorno. Mass culture, here—in the images of the Supplément illustré du petit journal, in the critique of L’assiette au beurre—appears as distracting and diversionary. But such an interpretation—cast in negative terms—cannot tell the whole story; it cannot help us to see what was productive and transformative in these developments. Suppose this public was not the idealized public of Habermas’s public sphere of eighteenth-century coffee houses and salons, the question still remains: what kind of public was it? The audience of badauds was an ideological creation, to be sure, but it cannot be reduced to a politics of distraction alone. We will do better, I would suggest, to see the public of mass culture in precisely those terms used to construct it—as an empathic public.
A bit of comparison can shed some light on this new public. In Private Lives and Public Affairs: The Causes Célèbres of Prerevolutionary France, Sarah Maza charts the rise of public opinion in the scandals of prerevolutionary France. Elaborating on Habermas, she explains a shift in the nature and understanding of the public in the 1770s and 1780s. Public life, until then conceived through the metaphor of the theater, came to be portrayed as a courtroom. The public as subject yielded to a public as critical actor.
In the old system, power was acted out before a passive audience; in the new one, it justified itself by appealing—albeit most often rhetorically—to the judgment of a critical, active public. The Old Regime public sphere, that of the court and of high society, was symbolically feminized—it was a realm of display, of the visual, the iconic. The new public sphere was gendered male: it was the domain of the word, of textuality, of rationality. The mass press of Paris signaled a further shift in the conception of the public. In the late nineteenth century, the public as courtroom gave way to a public as street crowd, a public conceived as the emotional spectators that gathered at a remarkable sight, a public of badauds. It was a new public sphere, symbolically feminized, a realm of the iconic, where the public—”intelligent, impressionable, spontaneous and generous”—played the role of the audience.
The logic of this empathic public was set out clearly in the newspaper texts and images of the crowd in the street that gathered at the crime or the catastrophe. Such topics had been mainstays of popular culture long before the advent of the mass newspaper. Here they served the construction of a new understanding of the public, built on the emotional observation of suffering and outrage. At its center was a crime, a catastrophe, a conflagration, an outrage that brought viewers together (at least symbolically) in solidarity. These sights entailed an ethics of observation. Look closely—at the bodies of the victims, the families left behind, the faces of the perpetrators—but not with mere curiosity; look with emotion, horror, and pity. But the empathic public consisted of more than this, for the badaud’s vision was always in need of being completed. The emotional response opened the way to lamentations, investigations, and calls to action. What, then, were the politics of the badaud’s vision? None in particular. It was a tool that was turned to all kinds of uses: to dramatize the evils of public insecurity, to highlight the dangers of factory accidents, to criticize railway safety, to rally the nation before its traitors, and much, much more.
In the pages of the mass press, to be sure, the badaud’s vision was often distracting; it often centered on the deeds of the criminal underclass or the senseless violence of menagerie animals. But it was also turned to work accidents, mine disasters, and abusive parents. When Jean Cruppi (the magistrate and future minister) explained the power of the press in 1897, he used the very terms of badauderie. He acknowledged that the press could be a corrupting influence, but added: “Would you not grant that the considerable development of laws and institutions protecting children is also due in large measure to the press, its daily remarks, the facts it has brought together that inform us, that move us to pity, forcing us to think, to act, to seek out remedies?” And the power of the badaud’s vision reached beyond the mass press reporting of crimes and disaster. Indeed, it seemed to shape the very terms of public debate. Look, for example, to the 1896 Chamber debates over worker insurance legislation. When the socialist Jules Guesde condemned the system of factory inspections set up by the law of 1874, he, too, spoke the language of the badaud. Guesde told the story of a young worker (too young to be legally employed) killed in a gruesome work accident. “Inspection by law,” Guesde declared, “was responsible for this infanticide.” He went on to criticize the bourgeoisie and the government for their impassivity in the face of such an outrage. “You were not moved.” It was the same scene that Théophile Steinlein would capture in L’assiette au beurre in an illustration devoted to the “Catastrophe d’Issy,” an explosion in a gunpowder factory outside of Paris in 1901 that killed seventeen workers. Steinlein’s illustration was a portrait of failed empathy; the top hats are indifferent to all but their financial losses.
Such examples can only begin to suggest the uses to which badauderie could be turned. For my part, I have tried to explain the maneuvers through which the mass press of Paris cultivated a public of empathy. A full picture of this public remains to be drawn. For now, I would simply suggest that the badaud will have a prominent place in it. The figure of the Flâneur captures the experience of the modern city so well—urban alienation, the psychology of distraction provoked by the tumult of urban stimulation, the social and gender configurations of the city in the age of consumer capitalism; as a figure of scholarly analysis, it has proved quite useful. But the figure of the badaud offers us insight on a parallel experience of modernity. In the mass press of Paris, it promised a symbolic solution to the very problems of modernity expressed in the figure of the Flâneur. Where the Flâneur experienced alienation and dislocation, the badaud partook in a community forged in the spectacle of suffering and outrage. The badaud-in-the-press expressed a utopia of the crowd, a vision of the individual-become-collective in the face of human indignity. This badaud was the imaginative glue in the making of a mass audience, a new public, an “imagined community” (to recast the term of Benedict Anderson) not of the nation but of right-feeling people.
I would like to thank Raymond Grew, Laura Lee Downs, Dror Wahrman, Ross Chambers, Dominick LaCapra, Neil Hertz, Geoff Eley, Josephine Shaya, Katharine Norris, Jeff Roche, as well as the editors and anonymous readers of the American Historical Review for their invaluable suggestions. I am also grateful to Michael Wilson, Vanessa Schwartz, Lisa Tiersten, Joshua Cole, and audiences at the Centre for Social History at the University of Warwick and the 1998 and 2001 annual conferences of the Society for French Historical Studies for their insightful comments on early versions of this work. I owe a special thanks to Jean-Yves Mollier and Dominique Kalifa for their advice and their assistance in Paris. For their generous support of this research and writing, I am indebted to the Society for the Humanities at Cornell University, the College of Wooster (and the Ralston Endowment for Faculty Development in particular), and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
Gregory Shaya is an assistant professor of history at the College of Wooster, where he has taught since 2001. He received his PhD from the University of Michigan, under the direction of Laura Lee Downs and Raymond Grew. This article is part of a book-length study of sensationalism and the mass press of Paris in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. His current research project examines the publicity of execution in France.
1.� Raymond Williams, Culture and Society, 1780–1950 (New York, 1958), 300.
2.� Robert A. Nye, The Origins of Crowd Psychology: Gustave LeBon and the Crisis of Mass Democracy in the Third Republic (Beverly Hills, Calif., 1975); Susanna Barrows, Distorting Mirrors: Visions of the Crowd in Late Nineteenth-Century France (New Haven, Conn., 1981); and Serge Moscovici, L’âge des foules: Un traité historique de psychologie des masses (Paris, 1981). See also Jaap van Ginneken, Crowds, Psychology, and Politics, 1871–1899 (Cambridge, 1992); and Naomi Schor, Zola’s Crowds (Baltimore, 1978).
3.�Le petit journal, October 13, 1866. “Faits divers” has both the particular meaning, rooted in nineteenth-century journalism, of “news items” (evident in a literal translation of the term) and a more general meaning, readily apparent in the late nineteenth century and today, denoting curious, violent, or shocking news. For my purposes here, I speak simply of news of crime and catastrophe.
4.� Jürgen Habermas, The Structural Transformation of the Bourgeois Public Sphere, Thomas Burger, trans. (1962; Cambridge, Mass., 1989), 159–75, 181–201, esp. 194–95. He described it as the “refeudalization” of the public sphere. “The world fashioned by the mass media is a public sphere in appearance only” (171).
5.� Max Horkheimer and Theodor W. Adorno, “The Culture Industry,” Dialectic of Enlightenment, John Cumming, trans. (1944; New York, 1972), 120–67.
6.� Habermas, Structural Transformation of the Bourgeois Public Sphere, 206.
7.� Habermas has been more influential for his celebration of the rise of an idealized public sphere of rational-political debate in the eighteenth century than for his lamentation of its late nineteenth-century demise. But his interpretation of the fall of the public recapitulates and resonates with a long and continuing tradition of reading mass culture as an instrument of domination. I present it here as a point of orientation, although, as will be clear, I do not dismiss this critical view out of hand. Craig Calhoun, in the introduction to the volume he edited on Habermas and the Public Sphere (Cambridge, Mass., 1992), succinctly explains a central difficulty of Habermas’s historical portrait: “Habermas tends to judge the eighteenth century by Locke and Kant … and the twentieth century by the typical suburban television viewer … his treatment of the earlier period doesn’t look at ‘penny dreadfuls,’ lurid crime and scandal sheets, and other less than altogether rational-critical branches of the press or at the demagoguery of traveling orators, and glances only in passing at the relationship of crowds to political discourse. The result is perhaps an overestimation of the degeneration of the public sphere” (33). For critical views on the decline of the public sphere, see the essays in the same volume by Nancy Fraser, Michael Schudson, Geoff Eley, and Michael Warner. See also Bruce Robbins, ed., The Phantom Public Sphere (Minneapolis, 1993); Oskar Negt and Alexander Kluge, Public Sphere and Experience (Minneapolis, 1993); and Michael Warner, Publics and Counterpublics (New York, 2002).
8.� Vanessa R. Schwartz, Spectacular Realities: Early Mass Culture in Fin-de-Siècle France (Berkeley, Calif., 1998).
9.� Schwartz, Spectacular Realities, 6.
10.� Schwartz, Spectacular Realities, 16, 44.
11.� Schwartz, Spectacular Realities, 202.
12.� Schwartz strikingly conveys the fin-de-siècle commercialization of the real. But her explanation for the meanings of this new form of spectatorship is less than satisfying. It is not at all clear in what sense the consumers of this new culture were “able to be part of the spectacle and yet command it at the same time” (Spectacular Realities, 10). Nor is it clear whether this “new crowd” was a new form of sociability or the figurative construction of mass culture itself. The diversity of crowds seems a matter of ideology, not simple reporting. What is refreshing in Schwartz’s account is the rejection of the bad old view of mass culture. Not satisfied with the long-running dump on mass culture as the worst that’s been thought and said (to invert Matthew Arnold) and a distraction from more pressing political concerns, Schwartz invites historians to a thoughtful examination of the forms of commodified spectatorship that flourished in France at the end of the nineteenth century. But we might ponder the meanings of her portrait of the audience of mass culture. It is here, I will suggest, that understanding the associations of the badaud will help us.
13.� French historians have been somewhat slow to approach mass culture as such. Whereas they have supplied many of the methods and concepts for the study of early modern popular culture, they have come only recently to serious engagement with the history of mass culture. But they have come to it with determination. One sign of this has been the growing number of works on media history. For an orientation to these issues, see Christophe Prochasson, “De la culture des foules à la culture des masses,” in André Burguière and Jacques Revel, eds., Histoire de la France: Choix culturels et mémoire (1991; Paris, 2000), 181–232. See also Pascal Griset, Les révolutions de la communication, XIXe–XXe siècle (Paris, 1991); Jean-Noël Jeanneney, Une histoire des médias, des origines à nos jours (Paris, 1996); Fréderic Barbier and Catherine Bertho-Lavenir, Histoire des médias de Diderot à Internet (Paris, 1996); Marc Martin, Médias et journalistes de la République (Paris, 1997); Christian Delporte, “Presse et culture de masse en France (1880–1914),” Revue historique, no. 605 (January/March 1998): 93–121; Jean-Yves Mollier, La lecture et ses publics à l’époque contemporaine: Essais d’histoire culturelle (Paris, 2001), Dominique Kalifa, La culture de masse en France, Vol. 1: 1860–1930 (Paris, 2001); Jean-Pierre Rioux and Jean-François Sirinelli, eds., La culture de masse en France de la Belle Epoque à aujourd’hui (Paris, 2002); Christian Delporte, Histoire des médias en France de la Grande Guerre à nos jours (Paris, 2003).
14.� Dominique Kalifa, L’encre et le sang: Récits de crimes et sociétéà la Belle Epoque (Paris, 1995), 283. Kalifa quickly puts aside the notion that this mass culture of crime created a mass of duped readers. On the contrary: these tales of crime—in the press, in popular literature, in early cinema—formed a “common discourse” (283); “recalling readers to their community, to its norms and values,” tales of crime built “real … cohesion” (284). Emile Durkheim is a more important reference here than Habermas. Kalifa, it must be said, is also attuned to the ways in which the turn-of-the-twentieth-century culture of crime could be taken up by the mass press to exploit public insecurities—broadcasting fears of an urban criminal class or mobilizing opinion in favor of the death penalty.
15.� Jean-Yves Mollier, “Le parfum de la Belle Epoque,” in Rioux and Sirinelli, La culture de masse en France, 73, 114. Driven by the commercialization of everyday life, with millions of readers reading the same reports of a new mass press, this new culture, Mollier argues, served to integrate the isolated individual into French society and the French nation (114). It was no less than “a silent cultural revolution.” This new mass culture was a “steamroller” crushing and smoothing the particularities of French culture (112 and following).
16.� Christian Delporte, “Presse et culture de masse en France (1880–1914),” Revue historique, no. 605 (January/March 1998): 120. Delporte presents the French press in the years between 1880 and World War I—that is, after the press law of 1881, which eliminated restrictions on the freedom of the press—as the vanguard of an emergent mass culture in France. He points to the faits divers as one of the pillars of a new formula of news.
17.� I go on to suggest that this debate is as old as mass culture itself. For some markers of the scholarly debate, see Bernard Rosenberg and David Manning White, Mass Culture: The Popular Arts in America (Glencoe, Ill., 1956); Frederic Jameson, “Reification and Utopia in Mass Culture,” Social Text 1 (1979): 94–190; Stuart Hall, “Notes on Deconstructing the ‘Popular,'” in Raphael Samuel, ed., People’s History and Socialist Theory (London, 1981); Chandra Mukerji and Michael Schudson, eds., Rethinking Popular Culture: Contemporary Perspectives in Cultural Studies (Berkeley, Calif., 1991); James Naremore and Patrick Brantlinger, eds., Modernity and Mass Culture (Bloomington, Ind., 1991); Lawrence W. Levine, “The Folklore of Industrial Society: Popular Culture and Its Audiences,” AHR 97 (December 1992): 1369–99; and the responses in the same issue of Robin D. G. Kelley, Natalie Zemon Davis, and T. J. Jackson Lears; and John Hartley, Popular Reality: Journalism, Modernity, Popular Culture (New York, 1996).
18.� Hartley, Popular Reality, 47. Hartley’s study is idiosyncratic, exuberant, and thought-provoking. With forays into the pamphlet literature of the French Revolution, late twentieth-century tabloids, war photojournalism, and much more, Hartley explains popular media as a sense-making system that has little in common with an idealized rational-critical public sphere. See also John Hartley, The Politics of Pictures: The Creation of the Public in the Age of Popular Media (New York, 1992).
19.� Michael Warner, Publics and Counterpublics (New York, 2002), 8. He adds, and I follow him here as well, “a kind of fiction that has taken on life, and very potent life at that.” Warner is also helpful in explaining the appeal of disaster. “Disaster is popular,” he argues, speaking of American mass media in the 1970s and 1980s, “because it is a way of making mass subjectivity available, and it tells us something about the desirability of that mass subject” (177).
20.� This has commonly been described as the golden age of the press in French, from the founding of Le petit journal, the pioneer of a new popular press, in 1863, to the 1881 press law that removed most legal restrictions on newspapers, to the development of weekly illustrated supplements like the Supplément illustré du petit journal and the Supplément illustré du petit parisien, in 1890, and through the expansion of circulations at the turn of the century. In 1860, all French dailies combined sold 150,000 papers in a day. By 1870, the circulation of the Paris daily press alone would reach 1 million; by 1880, 2 million; by 1910, 5 million. By 1914, the French press had a total circulation of 9,500,000. In 1887, Le petit journal claimed a circulation of 950,000 newspapers, “the highest circulation of all the newspapers of the world.” In 1914, Le petit parisien sold 1.5 million copies a day. It advertised “the highest newspaper circulation in the world.” The illustrated supplements of the two papers had circulations around 1 million through the 1890s. See Pierre Albert and Pierre Guiral in Claude Bellanger, ed., Histoire générale de la presse française, 5 vols. (Paris, 1969–76), vol. 2: 258–60, 311, vol. 3: 682; and Michael Palmer, Des petits journaux aux grandes agences (Paris, 1983), 320–42.
For the history of the French press in this period, see Bellanger, Histoire générale de la presse française; Palmer, Des petits journaux; Thomas Ferenczi, L’invention du journalisme en France: Naissance de la presse moderne à la fin du XIXe siècle (Paris, 1993); Christian Delporte, Histoire du journalisme et des journalistes en France (Paris, 1995); Martin, Médias et journalistes de la République; Dean de la Motte and Jeannene M. Przyblyski, Making the News: Modernity and the Mass Press in Nineteenth-Century France (Amherst, Mass., 1999); and Patrick Eveno, L’argent de la presse française des années 1820 à nos jours (Paris, 2003).
For crime and disaster in the French press, see the very wide-ranging literature on crime and the faits divers. In addition to the works of Kalifa and Schwartz mentioned above, see Roland Barthes, “Structure du fait divers,” in Essais critiques (Paris, 1964); Georges Auclair, Le mana quotidien: Structures et fonctions de la chronique des faits divers (1970; Paris, 1982); Le fait divers: Musée national des arts et traditions populaires, 19 novembre 1982–18 avril 1983 (Paris, 1982); Michelle Perrot, “Faits divers et histoire du XIXe siècle,” Annales: E.S.C. 38 (1983): 911–19; Robert A. Nye, Crime, Madness, and Politics in Modern France: The Medical Concept of National Decline (Princeton, N.J., 1984); Jean-Claude Baillon, ed., Faits divers: Annales des passions excessives (1988; Paris, 1993); Edward Berenson, The Trial of Madame Caillaux (Berkeley, Calif., 1992), esp. chap. 6; Marie-Christine Leps, Apprehending the Criminal: The Production of Deviance in Nineteenth-Century Discourse (Durham, N.C., 1992): 578–603; David H. Walker, Outrage and Insight: Modern French Writers and the “Faits Divers” (Oxford, 1995); Ann-Louise Shapiro, Breaking the Codes: Female Criminality in Fin-de-Siècle Paris (Stanford, Calif., 1996), esp. chap. 1; Thomas Cragin, “Cultural Continuity in Modern France: The Representation of Crime in the Popular Press of Nineteenth-Century Paris” (PhD dissertation, Indiana University, 1996); Anne-Claude Ambroise-Rendu, “Les faits divers dans la presse franaise de la fin du XIXe siècle” (thése, Université de Paris I, 1997); Annick Dubied and Marc Lits, Le fait divers (Paris, 1999); Robin Walz, Pulp Surrealism: Insolent Popular Culture in Early Twentieth-Century Paris (Berkeley, Calif., 2000); and Marine M’Sili, Le fait divers en République: Histoire sociale de 1870 à nos jours (Paris, 2000).
21.� Schwartz, Spectacular Realities, 9.
22.� Robert Darnton, “An Early Information Society: News and the Media in Eighteenth-Century Paris,” AHR 105 (February 2000): 1.
23.� See Michael Schudson, “News, Public, Nation,” AHR 107 (April 2002): 481–95.
24.� Judith Walkowitz, City of Dreadful Delight: Narratives of Sexual Danger in Late-Victorian London (Chicago, 1992); Jeffrey Verhey, The Spirit of 1914: Militarism, Myth and Mobilization in Germany (New York, 2000); Stuart Hall, et al., Policing the Crisis: Mugging, the State and Law and Order (New York, 1978).
25.� Bazin, quoted in Grand dictionnaire universel du XIXème siècle, s.v. “flâneur” (1872).
26.� Walter Benjamin, Charles Baudelaire: A Lyric Poet in the Era of High Capitalism, Harry Zohn, trans. (London, 1983), 54.
27.� Susan Buck-Morss, The Dialectics of Seeing: Walter Benjamin and the Arcades Project (Cambridge, Mass., 1989), 185–87, 304–07, devotes close attention to Benjamin’s Flâneur; Janet Wolff, “The Invisible Flâneuse: Women and the Literature of Modernity,” in Theory, Culture and Society 2 (1985): 37–48, argued that the Flâneur was male and, by necessity, that this kind of idling was unavailable to women; the essays in Leo Charney and Vanessa Schwartz, eds., Cinema and the Invention of Modern Life (Berkeley, Calif., 1995), return to the Flâneur as to a touchstone. See also the essays in Keith Tester, ed., The Flâneur (London, 1994); Priscilla Parkhurst Ferguson, “The Flâneur: The City and Its Discontents,” in Paris as Revolution: Writing the Nineteenth-Century City (Berkeley, 1994); Christopher Prendergast, Paris and the Nineteenth Century (Oxford, 1992); Susan Buck-Morss, “The Flâneur, the Sandwichman and the Whore: The Politics of Loitering,” New German Critique 39 (1986): 99–140; Richard D. E. Burton, “The Unseen Seer or Proteus in the City,” French Studies 42 (1988); and Mike Featherstone, “The Flâneur, the City and Virtual Public Life,” Urban Studies 35 (1998): 909–25.
28.� Charney and Schwartz, Cinema and the Invention of Modern Life, 5. Priscilla Ferguson describes the Flâneur as “an emblematic representative of modernity and personification of contemporary urbanity”; “The Flâneur on and off the Streets of Paris,” in Tester, The Flâneur, 22.
29.� Anne Friedberg, Windowshopping: Cinema and the Postmodern (Berkeley, Calif., 1993).
30.� All of these interpretations are made possible (and to some degree, too, they are undermined) by the multiplication of meanings inherent in the word. Indeed, the nineteenth century itself clung to no strict definitions of the term. For Benjamin, the department store was the death of the Flâneur. Anne Friedberg, by contrast, Windowshopping, sees it as the transcendence of flâneur. By some accounts the Flâneur is passionate and sensitive, by others he is distracted and insensitive. Baudelaire presented the Flâneur as the “man of the crowd,” an equation Benjamin would reject. All these possibilities are evident in the multiple ways in which nineteenth-century writers used the term. For the historical specificity of the Flâneur, see Ferguson, “Flâneur on and off the Streets of Paris.”
31.� Vanessa R. Schwartz, “Walter Benjamin for Historians,” AHR 106 (December 2001): 1732. She goes on to argue for the continuing relevance of the term to describe “a historically specific mode of experiencing the spectacle of the city in which the viewer assumes the position of being able to observe, command, and participate in this spectacle all at the same time” (1733).
32.� Charles Baudelaire, The Painter of Modern Life and Other Essays, Jonathan Mayne, ed. and trans. (New York, 1986), 9. The essay was written in 1859–1860 and published in Le figaro, November 26, 28, and December 3, 1863. Baudelaire’s Flâneur was not so self-assured. It is hard, in fact, not to read the essay as ironic, or as the work of fantasy. The modernity of “The Painter of Modern Life” was no more than a fashion show, a military parade, a convoy of fine carriages and proud horses. It seems to fly in the face of the jarring urban experience fathomed in Baudelaire’s poetry. Why would Baudelaire choose to champion Guys and his watercolors of bourgeois life? There is no evidence here of the Baudelaire that Benjamin described as a “secret agent—an agent of the secret discontent of his class with its own rule” (Charles Baudelaire, 104n).
33.� “Les foules,” Petits poëmes en prose, Jacques Crépet, ed. (Paris, 1926), 33 and following.
34.� “Rêve parisien,” Les fleurs du mal, Jacques Crépet, ed. (Paris, 1930), 176–78. The translation of this stanza is by Edna St. Vincent Millay, in Flowers of Evil, Marthiel and Jackson Mathews, eds. (New York, 1955), 7. “En rouvrant mes yeux pleins de flamme/J’ai vu l’horreur de mon taudis,/Et senti, rentrant dans mon âme,/La pointe des soucis maudits …”
35.� “Les sept vieillards,” Les fleurs du mal, 153–55, trans. by Roy Campbell, in Flowers of Evil, 83, 85.
36.� “à une passante,” Les fleurs du mal, 161.
37.� “Mon coeur mis à nu,” Juvenilia, oeuvres posthumes, reliquiae, vol. 2, Jacques Crépet and Claude Pichois, eds. (Paris, 1952), 92.
38.� Quoted in Prendergast, Paris and the Nineteenth Century, 142.
39.�Grand dictionnaire universel du XIXème siècle, s.v. “badaud” (1867).
40.� The line between them, however, could be blurry. “The badaud,” wrote Boitard, “is simply the caricature of the Flâneur.” Grand dictionnaire universel, s.v. “badaud.” Victor Fournel compared the two, even as he would distinguish them two pages later. “Quelle bonne et douce chose que la flânerie, et comme le métier de badaud est plein de charmes et séductions.” Fournel, Ce qu’on voit dans les rues de Paris (1855; Paris, 1867), 261.
41.� Benjamin, Charles Baudelaire, 62.
42.� Compare Benjamin, Charles Baudelaire, 54.
43.�Grand dictionnaire universel du XIXème siècle, s.v. “badaud” (1867).
44.� Louis-Sébastien Mercier, Tableau de Paris (Amsterdam, 1782), vol. 1: 74 and following. Voltaire made the same point in the Dictionnaire philosophique (Amsterdam, 1764), s.v. “badaud.”
45.� V.-J. Etienne de Jouy, L’hermite de la Chaussée d’Antin, ou observations sur les moeurs et les usages parisiens au commencement du XIXe siècle, vol. 1 (1815; Paris, 1997), 140. The point was debatable. Boitard: “C’est fort injustement que l’on accuse le Parisien de badauderie, car personne n’est moins badaud que lui.” Quoted in the Grand dictionnaire universel du XIXème siècle, s.v. “badaud” (1867). He blamed the reputation on the many foreigners in Paris.
46.� Fournel, Ce qu’on voit dans les rues de Paris, 263. Benjamin quotes this passage in a footnote, Charles Baudelaire, 69n.
47.� A word frequency search of the main FRANTEXT database shows, for 1750–1980: “badaud”: 48 occurrences; “badauds”: 185; “flâneur”: 42; “flâneurs”: 53. FRANTEXT database at the ARTFL Project, http://www.lib.uchicago.edu/efts/ARTFL/databases/TLF/ (February 16, 2003).
48.�Le petit journal, March 13, 1863.
49.�Le petit journal, September 21, 1866.
50.� “Mademoiselle Bistouri,” Petits poëmes en prose, 163.
51.�Gazette des tribunaux, October 15, 1869. This was after Troppmann had been caught and imprisoned.
52.�Le petit parisien, November 22, 1876. It would come to be known as the Billoir Affair, after Marie le Manach’s lover and murderer, Joseph Billoir. For more, see Allan Mitchell, “The Paris Morgue as a Social Institution in the Nineteenth Century,” Francia 4 (1976): 581–96; and Schwartz, Spectacular Realities, 72–76.
53.�Le petit parisien, November 13, 1876.
54.� Paul Nourrisson, “La question des enfants martyrs et la protection des femmes à Londres,” Le correspondant 187 (June 25, 1897): 1021.
55.�L’univers illustré, January 23, 1897, 59 and following. See the illustration by G. Redon, “L’enfant martyr de la rue Vanea: Les funérailles” (57), for a view of the crowd. Le matin, January 20, 1897, counted “more than 20,000 people.”
56.�Le matin, February 15, 1907. See the front page for a photograph of the crowd in the streets.
57.� Nourrisson, “La question des enfants martyrs.” The interplay of newspaper and crowd is also clear in the example of the visitors to the Morgue and to Clichy in the case of the “femme coupée en morceaux” (1876). At least one newspaper provided a map of the site of the discovery, with notations marking where different parts of her body had been found. Le petit parisien, November 16, 1876.
58.�Le petit journal, September 24, 1869.
59.�Le petit journal, March 17, 1864.
60.� Xavier Brau, “La vérité sur la catastrophe de la place de la Sorbonne” [Paris, 1869], in Charles Simond, La vie parisienne à travers le XIXe siècle, vol. 3 (Paris, 1900), 693.
61.� The official function of the Morgue was the identification of the dead. Once identified, a body would no longer be displayed.
62.�Gazette des tribunaux, September 22, 1869. It added, “nous nous bornons à dire que jamais hécatombe ne fut faite d’une main plus terrible et plus assuée: Pas un coup qui n’ait porté.”
63.�Presse illustré, October 2, 1869, portrait of Madame Kinck and five of her children, “Photographie des 6 victimes de Pantin.” On the other side was an illustration of the field in Pantin where the bodies were discovered. A later edition of the same photograph included M. Kinck, the father, who had been killed and buried elsewhere. Bibliothèque Historique de la Ville de Paris, Actualités 152, Troppmann.
64.�Le petit journal, September 23, 24, 1869.
65.�Le petit parisien, June 3, 1908.
66.�Le journal, May 9, 1897.
67.�Le petit parisien, January 16, 1909.
68.� For the crowd outside the house of crime, see “Un crime à Grenelle,” Le matin, January 7, 1906. The badaud’s view of the house of crime: “Une libraire assassinée,” Le matin, February 4, 1906. The view of the room of crime: “Cabaretière assassinée,” Le matin, January 6, 1906.
69.� How large was the place of such subjects in the press? Henri de Noussanne explored the question in 1902. On average, faits divers (crimes, accidents, and scandals) accounted for 8.80 percent of the total lines of Parisian newspapers. Together, they slightly exceeded the coverage granted to foreign news (8.35 percent) and domestic politics (7.15 percent), following advertisements (23.90 percent), domestic news (13.15 percent), and “frivolous” (inutile) literature (9.95 percent). Noussanne, “Que vaut la presse quotidienne française?” Revue hebdomadaire (1902): 1–26. The categories are those of Noussanne. The other entries from his Paris averages: politique extérieure: 1.80 percent; oeuvres morales: 2.65 percent; sciences: 1.80 percent; voyages-explorations: 0.80 percent; littérature utile: 3.90 percent; arts: 4.50 percent; spectacles: 6.45 percent; sports: 3.20 percent; réclames et annonces déguisées: 3.60 percent (4). These can only be a rough guide. It seems likely, for example, that Noussanne included the Chronique judiciaire under informations intérieures. How else does Le temps only have forty lines devoted to crime? There were, of course, large differences. The informational newspapers had a great deal more coverage of faits divers than the more respectable, political press. Le petit parisien devoted 23.99 percent of its space to faits divers vs. 2.45 percent in the staid Le temps. But this simple opposition overshadows a more uneven terrain. La lanterne, which gave 21.03 percent of its coverage to crime, accidents, and scandals, Le gaulois (16.63 percent), and Le figaro (14.10 percent) were all in the same range as Le petit journal (17.09 percent). And all of these vastly exceeded the attention to faits divers in Le journal (6.98 percent) and Le matin (7.11 percent). “What is the value of the French daily press?” Noussanne asked. These kinds of numbers led him straight to his answer: not great. “Subjects are treated and developed in such proportions that are not determined by care of national interests, nor the sentiment of the educational mission of the press, nor even the respect of simple good sense” (8).
70.� See, for one example, Le petit journal, August 26, 1866. In speaking of executions: “La foule accourt où va la foule.”
71.�Le petit journal, September 9, 1864. He added anecdotes, stories of celebrities, and the recent work of artists.
72.�Le petit journal, September 23, 1869.
73.� Sample issue of Le petit journal, [February 23, 1863].
74.� Regarding an assassination attempt on the Russian emperor. Le petit journal, June 21, 1867.
75.�Le petit journal, September 23, 1869. Trimm had said the very same of the public attention to the Armand Affair. “This fascination … is not a vain or lazy curiosity. It is not the brutal desire to observe the moral agony of the defendant.” Le petit journal, March 19, 1864.
76.�Supplément illustré du petit journal, June 19, 1898, “Terrible accident au bois de Boulogne,” illustration by F. Méaulle. Supplément illustré du petit journal, October 23, 1910, “Un acteur égorgé en scène,” artist unknown. Supplément illustré du petit journal, September 29, 1895, “Dévoré par un lion,” illustration by Henri Meyer. For the precise meaning of the outstretched arm, compare Supplément illustré du petit journal, June 1, 1902, “La France vient au secours de la Martinique,” after the volcanic explosion from a few days before. Marianne, the tricolor beside her, stretches out her arm with her fingers wide apart, toward a burning Martinique across the sea.
77.�Le petit journal, February 26, 1863. This is from the end of the first month of publication of the paper.
78.�Le petit journal, June 12, 1864.
79.�Supplément illustré du petit journal, September 27, 1908.
80.�Le petit parisien, January 30, 1907.
81.� Likewise, there were “these lamentable catastrophes that will move an entire city.” Le petit journal, August 21, 1867. Trimm gave as examples a fire, a flood, an earthquake, the collapse of a building, a maritime disaster.
82.�Le petit parisien, May 8, 1897.
83.�Supplément illustré du petit journal, May 16, 1897, my emphasis.
84.� Founded in 1863 as a non-political newspaper, Le petit journal was exempt from the 5-centimes tax on newspapers of opinion. After 1870, of course, the press could and did speak freely of politics. All through the 1870s and 1880s, Le petit journal would come to throw its lot in with the republican parties; it would celebrate the “little people” in more particular forms. Emile Zola, for example, who wrote for the newspaper early in his career, remarked: “Le Petit Journal flattered the people, personified by concierges, workers, the little people.” Quoted in Henri Mitterand, Zola journaliste (Paris, 1962), 26. At the end of the century, under the direction of Ernest Judet, the paper would take up the cause of the army and the nation against Dreyfus and Zola. In the early twentieth century, it was still pictured in the hands of coachmen and concierges but now as a reactionary rag. See, for example, Jules Grandjouan, “Concierges,” L’assiette au beurre, January 28, 1905. The inclusive spirit of its beginnings was carried on by Le matin (founded 1884), a newspaper that represented the triumph of information over politics. Unlike nearly every other daily in France, Le matin had no political position of its own. It had a front-page editorial column that rotated among various political viewpoints. Here was another version of the logic of the mass. Conservative, socialist, radical, and monarchist could all read Le matin.
85.�Le petit journal, September 13, 1869, “La boite aux lettres du petit journal.”
86.�Le petit journal, January 31, 1864.
87.�Le petit journal, March 29, 1864
88.�Le petit journal, January 27, 31, May 22, 1864, September 13, 1869.
89.�Le petit journal, January 1, 1865.
90.�Le petit journal, October 15, 1864. Trimm would also write of “cette foule immense qui se nomme le peuple.” Le petit journal, June 23, 1864.
91.�Le petit journal, March 29, 1866; Trimm introducing Victor Hugo’s Travailleurs de la mer in Le soleil.
92.�Le petit journal, September 26, 1864.
93.�Le petit journal, September 18, 1864, March 15, 1863, May 9, 1864.
94.� “To read one’s newspaper is to live the universal life, the life of the whole capital, of all the town, of all France, the life of all nations … It is thus that in a great country like France, the same thought, at one and the same time, animates the whole population … It is the newspaper which establishes this sublime communion of souls across distances.” Le petit parisien, October 13, 1893, quoted in Theodore Zeldin, France, 1848–1945: Taste and Corruption (1977; Oxford, 1980), 181.
95.� René Mazedier, Histoire de la presse parisienne (Paris, 1945), 139.
96.� For background on the journal, its illustrators, and its subject matter, see Elisabeth and Michel Dixmier, L’assiette au beurre: Revue satirique illustré, 1901–1912 (Paris, 1974).
97.�Dictionnaire de Paris (Paris, 1964), 290 and following.
98.� On feminine mass culture, see Andreas Huyssen, “Mass Culture as Woman: Modernism’s Other,” in After the Great Divide (Bloomington, Ind., 1986).
99.� Together with a flower market and an extension to the Hôtel-Dieu hospital. See David P. Jordan, Transforming Paris: The Life and Labors of Baron Haussmann (New York, 1995).
100.� Each day, 950,000 copies of Le petit journal sold, “the highest circulation of all the newspapers of the world”; 200,000 copies of the Supplément littéraire du petit journal sold every Friday, “the most widely read literary newspaper of the entire world”; 200,000 copies of Le journal illustré, “the most widely read and widely viewed of illustrated newspapers.”
101.� Maurice Agulhon, The French Republic, 1879–1992 (Oxford, 1993), 493; and Charles Sowerwine, France since 1870 (New York, 2001), 86 and following. The year 1906 also saw the appearance of Georges Sorel’s Reflections on Violence, heralding the mythic power of the general strike.
102.� Nye, Crime, Madness, and Politics in Modern France, 180. See, more generally, the chapter, “The Politics of Social Defense: Violent Crime, ‘Apaches,’ and the Press at the Turn of the Century,” 171–226.
103.� Sarah Maza, Private Lives and Public Affairs: The Causes Célèbres of Prerevolutionary France (Berkeley, Calif., 1993), 314.
104.� Trimm, Le petit journal, October 15, 1864.
105.� Especially true of the illustrated supplements of Le petit journal and Le petit parisien.
106.� “Les responsabilités de la presse contemporaine,” Revue politique et littéraire 8 (December 26, 1897): 802. Indeed, the press accounts of youth crime and of youthful victims of crime, the many “martyred children,” coincided with a wide expansion of the role of government in watching over children’s well-being. The most far-reaching legislation was the law of July 24, 1889, which set out the situations where police or medical authorities could step in, in the interest of the child, to strip parents of their rights. It was extended by the law of 1898. For a closer look at the legislation on the protection of children, see Sylvia Schafer, Children in Moral Danger and the Problem of Government in Third Republic France (Princeton, N.J., 1997).
107.� Jules Guesde, Des lois protectrices de travail: Ce qu’elles sonts, ce qu’elles devraient être; Discours à la Chambre des Députés (séances des 15, 22, et 24 juin 1896) (Lille, 1896), 35–37, 36, 27.
108.� The debates over the protection of work would lead to the Law on the Responsibility of Work Accidents of April 9, 1898. It was a profound innovation, even if it built on earlier laws. The most far-reaching of a spate of factory laws in the 1890s governing the conditions of work, it introduced the concept of professional risk to French labor law. See François Ewald, L’état providence (Paris, 1986).
By: GREGORY SHAYA