‘Paul’ (his name is in inverted commas because it’s not his real name) is a minor character on the wrong side. He started life as an informant, a pretty common and mundane occupation in the Paris of Louis XV – (Casanova himself was a spy at different times in his life, both for the French government and Venice). Being reliable and efficient at what he did, which was mostly hanging around coffee houses and high class brothels and writing up reports on those who frequented them (see ‘The Case of the Closely Watched Courtesans’), he came to the notice of Thibaud Bechard, chief villain of our piece, who promoted him to more serious work. For ‘Paul’, spying was only ever a way to earn a bit of extra cash to support his family. He isn’t a bad man, as we can see when he is in the company of his wife and children. He is simply a conduit. ‘Paul’ is like many ordinary people throughout history who have made decisions and trodden upon a path that has lead them to a place where they have become agents that promote the malevolent designs of those who are indeed vicious and corrupt. To a man like Bechard, ‘Paul’ is a non-entity. He is so insignificant, in fact, that Bechard does not even address him by his real name but merely the pseudonym he uses to sign his reports. Those such as ‘Paul’ are not evil in themselves but they enable evil to happen and, frequently, like ‘Paul’, they become ensnared in its consequences.
‘‘The Prologue’, and chapters 1 and 2 of ‘Casanova in Paris: The Shadows of the King’ are now freely available here.
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