The police routinely questioned sodomites after arrest but subjected them less frequently to formal interrogation in custody. The succinct remarks at the ends of reports of arrests are much less informative than the transcripts of interrogations, which include both questions and answers and illustrate the dynamics of detection and deception, as in the case outlined in the following paragraphs (AB 10257, ff. 88-103).
On 16 August 1727 Jean Fournier, 31 or so, cook, told a decoy in the Luxembourg that he looked like he was out of work. He brought the man bread, wine, and meat and offered to maintain him like a “femme” [wife/woman], in the passive sexual role. They rendezvoused the next day and the following day. When they left the garden on the 18th Fournier was arrested. When the decoy dictated his report he noted that the cook had already made the same proposals to another young man (named Alexandre) in the Luxembourg and tried to seduce him in a tavern and in his room in the collège de Lisieux.
After spending fifteen months in Bicêtre, Fournier had several positions and addresses in turn. In 1733 a domestic named Flamand petitioned the lieutenant general to arrest Fournier for threatening to get him fired if he did not commit “the sin of bestiality” with him and for procuring “young boys” who lived with him to other “wretches” of his “inclination.”
On 12 May commissaire Divot found Fournier in his room on rue Saint-Jean de l’Epine with a young man who had spent two weeks with him, whom he could not name. This man, Auguste Brassery, 22, unemployed domestic, paid him 35 sous per day for room and board. They shared a bed, as many workingmen did. Divot sent Fournier to the For-l’Evêque and Brassery to the Grand Châtelet and interrogated both of them on the 15th.
He questioned Brassery first, of course, in order to obtain additional information. Asked if Fournier had touched him or proposed anything to him in a way that suggested “impurity,” the young man replied no. Divot told Hérault that Brassery seemed naïve, so he did not push him on this score for fear of enlightening him about something “I presume he knows nothing about.”
Divot did not mince words with Fournier, who flatly denied accusations based on the decoy’s report, Flamand’s petition, and Brassery’s interrogation. As the following exchanges indicate, he not only deflected charges against him but also injected himself into the record.
Asked if he did not frequent the Luxembourg to pick up “young folks,” he replied no and added that he was not handsome enough to be able to pick anyone up.
Asked if he had been arrested on 18 August 1727, he replied yes, because he was suspected of sodomy, “of which crime he has great horror.”
Asked if he had not tried to subject Alexandre to “the satisfaction of his passion,” he replied no, because he had been alerted that the man in question (not the decoy?) was a police agent.
Asked if he had not pressured Flamand to commit sodomy, he replied that the man was free to say what he pleased and, by the way, he was involved in improper relations with the wife of a coachman.
In his report to the lieutenant general Divot declared that Fournier looked like “a complete scoundrel.” The annoyed Hérault commented, “It is not physiognomy that should guide decisions about the inside but of course witnesses.” He signed an order for Fournier’s release on the 27th.
First pages of the interrogations
This case shows that the police not only collected but also digested information and that they did not imprison, let alone prosecute, sodomites without evidence. It also shows that sodomites could be assertive, not simply defensive, under interrogation. All men, of course, did not talk back as Fournier did. Many were just as taciturn in prison after arrest as they were talkative in gardens before arrest. The database will identify all interrogations in all series of documents and allow analysis of patterns and changes in questions and answers.
Working List of Interrogations
|Bibliothèque de l’Arsenal, Archives de la Bastille|
|11722||6-Oct-1783||Joseph Guillaume Pontier, 41, employee of the Farms|
|15-Oct-1783||Louis Nicolas Morlot, 16, domestic|
|Nicolas René Prat, 18 journeyman joiner|
|11723||25-Apr-1784||Frédéric Christophe Cassolet, 27, chessboard vendor|
|Charles Thiriot (Beauregard), 22, hairdresser for women|
|24-May-1784||Joseph Nicolas Clerget, 24, dancer|
|4-Jun-1784||Nicolas Adam, 20, hairdresser for women|
|7-Jun-1784||Jean François Buquet (Chiffon), 27, paper hanger|
|Pierre François Canaple, 39, draftsman|
|8-Jun-1784||Emmanuel Philbert Soyer, 28, wigmaker’s assistant|
|11-Jun-1784||Antoine Garnier, 24, hairdresser for women|
|11724||17-Jul-1784||François Nicolas Noël, 40, inspector of apprentices at the Hôpital de la pitié |
|17-Aug-1784||Robert Thomas François de Saint, 29, journeyman saddler|
|20-Oct-1784||Marc Antoine Jacob, 39, teacher|
|31-Oct-1784||Jean François Levasseur, 26, stationer’s assistant|
|22-Dec-1784||Louis Antoine Levesque, 34, journeyman jeweler|
|Archives Nationales, series Y|
 He did not envision life as a monogamous couple, since he brought a young man, a friend of his, with him on the 18th for them to have a good time with.
 Julien Etienne Divot, commissaire, 1720-30.
 During his interrogation Fournier stated that his lodger paid 18 sous per day for both.
 The decoy could have obtained the information added to his report from Alexandre himself.
 1, rue Lacépède.
Author: Jeffrey Merrick