He was a posthumous child, his father, a banker of Dutch extraction, having been a victim of the Terror. Paul de Kock began life as a banker's clerk. For the most part he resided on the Boulevard St. Martin, and was one of the most inveterate of Parisians.
He began to write for the stage very early, and composed many operatic libretti. His first novel, L'Enfant de ma femme (1811), was published at his own expense. In 1820 he began his long and successful series of novels dealing with Parisian life with Georgette, ou la Nièce du tabellion. His period of greatest and most successful activity was the Restoration and the early days of Louis Philippe. He was relatively less popular in France itself than abroad, where he was considered as the special painter of life in Paris. Major Pendennis' remark that he had read nothing of the novel kind for thirty years except Paul de Kock, who certainly made him laugh, is likely to remain one of the most durable of his testimonials, and may be classed with the legendary question of a foreign sovereign to a Frenchman who was paying his respects, Vous venez de Paris et vous devez savoir des nouvelles. Comment se porte Paul de Kock? The disappearance of the grisette and of the cheap dissipation described by Henri Murger practically made Paul de Kock obsolete. But to the student of manners his portraiture of low and middle class life in the first half of the 19th century at Paris still has its value.
The works of Paul de Kock are very numerous. With the exception of a few not very felicitous excursions into historical romance and some miscellaneous works of which his share in La Grande yule, Paris (1842), is the chief, they are all stories of middle-class Parisian life, of guinguettes and cabarets and equivocal adventures of one sort or another. The most famous are André le Savoyard (1825) and Le Barbier de Paris (1826).