Posted by: annarose12 | September 15, 2010

Early Detectives & Inspector Bucket

While looking at the syllabus and reading Bleak House I was really interested Inspector Bucket and the advent of Detective Fiction.  With the advent of photography inspection and conviction must have completely changed.  Photography revolutionized criminal investigation, and by 1843, less that four years after the invention of the daguerrotype, photography was already being used by the police.  As Walter Benjamin said, “Photography made it possible for the first time to preserve permanent and unmistakable traces of a human being.  The detective story came into being when this most decisive of all conquest of a person’s incognito had been accomplished.”

An Unwilling Subject – Photographing a Prisoner for the Rogues Gallery at Police Headquarters.
Source: Byrnes, Thomas. ” Famous Detectives Thirty Years Experiences and Observations.” Hartford ©1891.

Edgar Allen Poe, Charles Dickens and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, all famous for their mystery novels, wrote on the amazing potential of photography.  In an article published in 1850 Dickens’ wrote, ” Photography is everywhere now.  Our trustiest friends, our most intimate enemies, stare us in the face from collodionised surfaces.  Sharp detectives have photographs of criminals of whom they are in search.”   The Detective was a relatively new law enforcer at this time.  England’s first Detective division was founded in 1842.  When Bleak House was published in 1852 Inspector Bucket became one of the first detectives in English Literature.

Sharp-Eyed Inspector Bucket was based on a real detective, and a friend of Dickens’, Charles Frederick Field.  One of the first detectives recruited, Field took over management of the division in 1846.  During his fourteen year stint as Chief of the Detective Branch, Field would often operate as one of Dickens’ “night-guides”, accompanying the author on his late night walks around London.  Dickens’ would in turn write a number of stories featuring Fields, the most famous of which is Bleak House.  Fields eventually retired in 1852 and following his retirement Fields worked as a private investigator until 1865.  And much like a detective we’ll read about next week Fields was involved in a number of sensational cases and was often at odds with the police force.

Charles Frederick Fields – date unknown.


  1. Sources!

    For Fun Facts on early forensic photography, and imagery within Bleak House: Double Exposures: Arresting Images in “Bleak House” and “The House of the Seven Gables” Ronald R. Thomas, NOVEL: A Forum on Fiction, Vol. 31, No. 1, Thirtieth Anniversary Issue: I (Autumn, 1997), pp. 87-113 (available on JSTOR)

    Some facts about Charles F. Fields and Dickens:

    Some other Great Links:

    Public and Privates Lives within Bleak House:

    Quick Character Biographies (excellent for reference):

    • All we can do is bow and refer as Burgess wrote when reviewing OED.

  2. Very intersting info on Dickens And Charles Frederick Field who became Inspector Bucket in Bleak House. Bleak House was also read by Conan Doyle, who used inspirations from that social detective story in his Holmes tales and also in his historical novel Sir Nigel.

  3. […] as they each get resolved. In fact, one of the plot threads in Bleak House includes one of the first detectives in English literature, Inspector […]

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