For such a prolific writer who produced several popular and rather scandalous titles, it seems surprising that Jean-Pierre Cuisin (1777–1845) has virtually disappeared from sight. The Biblioteque Nationale de France holds nearly fifty books by him, including the 1814 proto-detective tale Le numéro 113, ou les catastrophes du jeu (Number 113, or The Disasters of the Gaming Table), the 1821 Les duels, suicides et amours du Bois de Boulogne (Duels, Suicides and Love Affairs of the Bois de Boulogne), and his best-selling La vie de garçon dans les hôtels garnis de la capitale (A Young Man’s Experiences in the Grand Hotels of the Capital City), first published in 1820, with a second edition three years later. His oeuvre also included an intersex narrative, Clémentine orphéline et androgyne, ou les caprices de la nature et de la fortune (Clementine the Androgynous Orphan, or the Vagaries of Nature and Fortune) of 1820, and an early science fiction fantasy, Les lunes poétiques des deux-mondes (The Poetic Moons of Two Worlds) of 1836. An author well worth further study.

Yet apart from this edition of La vie de garçon, none of Cuisin’s work has seen the light of day for more than a century, which is a pity, as his descriptions of Paris establishments including the Hôtel garni de l’Infidélité, the Hôtel de la Petite-Vertu, the Grand Bazar de Vénus, and the Petite Société bourgeoise de la Volupté are all as fascinating and salacious as they sound. Cuisin was originally a soldier who retired early, and following the success of Le numéro 113 earned his living entirely from his writing, leaving him plenty of opportunity to explore the pleasures of the big city; hence the autobiographical nature of much of La vie de garçon.

Sylvain Sauvage’s deceptively simple woodcuts are the perfect foil to Cuisin’s text. They demonstrate that he was very comfortable with simple designs, the chapter tailpiece images especially capturing the varied character of the female denizens of the Parisian demi-monde.

La vie de garçon dans les hôtels garnis de la capitale was published by Jean Fort, in a limited numbered edition of 1,200 copies.