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Féval, Paul

Entry updated 12 September 2022. Tagged: Author.

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(1816-1887) French lawyer, editor and author, active from the late 1830s until around 1880; father of Paul Féval fils. He first came to prominence as an extremely prolific author of tales written according to the demands of the feuilleton: short chapters inserted at frequent regular intervals, usually daily or weekly, into newspapers, a demanding format successfully exploited by French authors like Alexandre Dumas and Eugene Sue (1804-1857), and by Charles Dickens in the UK. An early example of this work was "Le Loup Blanc" (1843 Le Courier Français; in La Forêt de Rennes; Le loup blanc coll 1851; trans anon as The White Wolf; Or, the Secret Brotherhood: A Romance 1852), which features a proto-Superhero figure, a masked albino fighter for justice. This work – and Les Mystères de London (20 December 1843-12 September 1844; 1844; trans John Stebbing as The Woman of Mystery 1864), which is dominated by an elaborate revenge story – seems to have inspired Dumas into creating the apotheosis of the revenge story in Le Comte de Monte-Christo (28 August 1844-15 January 1846 Journal des Débats; 1844-1845 18vols; trans as The Count of Monte Cristo 1846 3vols) [for bibliographical details and discussion of this novel, see his entry].

In later years, Féval returned to Les Mystères de London, retroactively labelling it as the beginning of the Blackcoats sequence, which had been formally initiated with Les Habits Noirs (12 March-19 July 1863 Le Constitutionnel; 1863; trans Brian Stableford as The Blackcoats: The Parisian Jungle 2008); the sequence ends with Le Bande Cadet (20 October 1874-4 January 1875 L'Evènement; 1875; trans Brian Stableford as The Blackcoats: The Cadet Gang 2010) [for further titles and details of Stableford translations see Checklist below, which also includes retrofitted titles]. In Blackcoats Féval depicts in flamboyant terms an overall pattern of organized criminality that threatens to take over the governments of the West; the series features several intricate conspiracies that justify the apprehensions of the relatively tame government officials and police officers who attempt to fend off disaster, and who pale in comparison with the swashbuckler Villains who dominate the scene in their attempts to become, as members of the Gentlemen of the Night, Secret Masters of the world. There are some hints that the secret master of all secret masters is the Devil Incarnate.

Though the hugeness of his output precludes easy generalizations, the most interesting individual works by Féval are probably his supernatural fictions, some of them tinged with anticipations of sf patternings. Une histoire des revenants (1881 2vols; trans Brian Stableford as Revenants 2006) [for 1852 versions of this text see Checklist below], and La Vampire (possible 1852 magazine publication not found; 1891; trans Brian Stableford as The Vampire Countess 2003), are both Vampire tales strongly influenced by John Polidori's The Vampyre (1819 chap) and its several French sequels and theatrical adaptations. The slightly later La Ville-Vampire (1875; trans Brian Stableford as Vampire City 1999 chap) spoofs the Gothic Edifice [see The Encyclopedia of Fantasy under links below].

"Le Chevalier Ténèbre", a novella assembled in La garde noire; Le Chevalier Ténèbre (April 1860-? La musée des familles; 1862; trans Brian Stableford as Knightshade 1999 chap), is a complexly grotesque set of interwoven tales told within a Club Story frame and strongly influenced, as Stableford suggests in his introduction, by the then-published portions of Jan Potocki's Manuscript Found at Saragossa (1804-1813-1814 plus further volumes). La Fille du Juif Errant (Paris: Victor Palmé, 1878; this version trans Brian Stableford as The Wandering Jew's Daughter 2012) is a Wandering Jew tale in which Immortality curses or is enjoyed not only by the eponymous daughter but by at least one further companion as well.

If there is one characteristic that permeates Féval's work over its wide generic range, it may be a comico-melodramatic skittishness of affect only partially explainable as caused by the demands of the feuilleton format. His variableness is clearly more deeply sourced than that. In any case, he laid the groundwork for a number of genres of popular fiction, while at the same time he mocked these edifices of story half to death. [JC]

Paul-Henri-Corentin Féval

born Rennes, Brittany, France: 29 September 1816

died Paris: 8 March 1887

works (selected)


individual titles

  • La Forêt de Rennes; Le loup blanc (Paris: Boisgard, 1851) [coll: "Le Loup Blanc" first appeared 1843 Le Courier Français: binding unknown/]
  • La soeur des fantômes ["The Sister of Ghosts"] (Paris: Cadot, 1852) [published in three volumes: first appeared 25 May-10 July 1852 Le Pays as "Le livre des mystères" ["The Book of Mysteries"]: binding unknown/]
    • Une histoire des revenants ["A Story of Revenants"] (Paris: Cadot, 1881) [rev of the above: published in two volumes: binding unknown/]
      • Revenants (Encino, California: Hollywood Comics/Black Coat Press, 2006) [trans by Brian Stableford of the above: pb/Arnaud Demaegd]
  • La garde noire; Le Chevalier Ténèbre (Paris: E Dentu, 1862) [coll: "Le Chevalier Ténèbre" first appeared April 1860-? La musée des familles: binding unknown/]
    • Knightshade (Mountain Ash, Wales: Sarob Press, 1999) [chap: trans by Brian Stableford of "Le Chevalier Ténèbre": introduction by Brian Stableford: hb/Douglas Walters]
      • Knightshade (Encino, California: Hollywood Comics/Black Coat Press, 2014) [ebook: introduction by Stableford here expanded: na/Ladrönn]
  • Le Vicomte Paul (Paris: Michael Levy, 1872) [coll: rev vt as title story of this coll: first appeared June 1864 La musée des familles as "Le Juif Errant: Conte pour les Grands Enfants" ["The Wandering Jew: A Fairy Tale for Older Children"]: binding unknown/]
    • La Fille du Juif Errant (Paris: Victor Palmé, 1878) [coll: rev vt as title story of this coll: first appearance of this version November 1877-January 1878 Les Veillées des Chaumières: binding unknown/]
  • La Ville-Vampire (Paris: E Dentu, 1875) [possible untraced serial publication circa1867: binding unknown/]
    • Vampire City (Mountain Ash, Wales: Sarob Press, 1999) [trans by Brian Stableford of the above: introduction by Stableford: hb/Tim Denton]
      • Vampire City (Encino, California: Hollywood Comics/Black Coat Press, 2014) [ebook: introduction by Brian Stableford here expanded: na/Ladrönn]
  • La Vampire (Paris: E Dentu, 1891) [first appeared in Les Drames de la Mort (Paris: Charlieu et Huillery, 1856): binding unknown/]


  • Contes des Bretagne ["Tales of Brittany"] (Paris: Waille, 1844) [coll: binding unknown/]
    • Les dernières fées ["The Last Fairies"] (Paris: Michael Lévy, 1862) [coll: vt of the above: binding unknown/]
  • Les Romans enfantins ["Children's Novels"] (Paris: E Ducrocq, 1862) [coll: binding unknown/]
  • The She-Wolf (Encino, California: Hollywood Comics/Black Coat Press, 2020) [coll: trans by Nina Cooper: pb/Michel Borderie]


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