Though you're not likely
to find his name in any mainstream history book, Lacenaire's crimes
and trial were the talk of the times in the mid-1830's. This flashy
criminal (he claimed to be inspired by Vidocq)
"electrified the courtroom with an hour-long improvised speech
that outshone the arguments of all the lawyers." (Wright,
32) He was cool and calm til the very end of his head's bodily acquaintance:
show of bravado, his obvious intelligence, his absolute cynicism combined
to make him seem a unique phenomenon, and to some, a tragic hero.
Literate, articulate, gracious, he was seen as the totally alienated
intellectual who had declared his own personal war to the death on
society." (Wright, 34)
Lacenaire captured all attention,
and seized on the opportunity to write memoirs of his own, modeled after
the tall tales of Vidocq, which were interspersed with poetry and published.
His striking charm is reflected in Hugo's character Montparnasse
of Les Miserables. But was Lacenaire's popularity a passing trend?
On the one hand,
Lacenaire is still a sensational figure, brought to life in
books and films like Crime and Punishment, Les Enfants du Paradis,
and the Hollywood film Lacenaire.
On the other hand,
his actual proficiency at criminal behavior was questionable. All
his crime were ill-planned and poorly executed. Lacenaire never even
temporarily gained from his crimes.