Books: Notes of a Gutter Rousseau

LES NUITS-DE PARIS by Nicolas-Edme Restif de la Bretonne. 375 pages. Random House. $5.95.

In the 18th century, Paris was the largest city on the Continent. It was also filthy, racked by poverty and raddled by crime. Through the dark jungle of Paris' nights slipped a curious cloaked observer, Nicolas-Edme Restif de la Bretonne. Part journalist, part novelist, part police spy, Restif was described by Havelock Ellis as "a gutter Rousseau." and has become something of a literary cult figure in France today. In Les Nuits de Paris, here translated into English for the first time, Restif created a unique record of...

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