This article explores the concept of the arlequin, the plate of used food collected piecemeal from the tables of the rich to sell to the poor, as it was popularized by Eugène Sue in 1842 in his blockbuster novel Les Mystères de Paris. I show how this alimentary genre functions in this text not only to reflect a socioeconomic reality of the nineteenth-century politics of eating, but also to introduce a budding aesthetic principle. The harlequin meal, composed of bits and pieces of various origins reassembled as a patchwork whole, inaugurates in Sue’s novel a reappearing pattern that comes to characterize not only food but also bodies, clothing, décor, narrative form, and modes of attention and belief. I argue that the aesthetics of patchwork and collage extend as well to Sue’s self-fashioning as a political and moral opportunist.

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