The Pickwick Club discussion

17 views
A Tale of Two Cities > Book III, Chapters 13 - 15

Comments Showing 1-35 of 35 (35 new)    post a comment »
dateDown arrow    newest »

message 1: by Kim (new)

Kim Dear Pickwickians,

Well, we have made it, we've made it all the way to the end, and I am just as sad and depressed as I was the first time I read it. Every single time I read this I try to think of some way to change that last page so some hero rides, walks, swims, I don't care, into the story and saves poor Sydney, and the girl with him for that matter. I HATE this book, I have never made it to the end without having to stop because my tears were making it hard to read. I wonder if that means it is a good book or a bad book? Chapter 13 is titled "Fifty-Two" (I just sighed) because 52 people were going to die that day.

"In the black prison of the Conciergerie, the doomed of the day awaited their fate. They were in number as the weeks of the year. Fifty-two were to roll that afternoon on the life-tide of the city to the boundless everlasting sea. Before their cells were quit of them, new occupants were appointed; before their blood ran into the blood spilled yesterday, the blood that was to mingle with theirs to-morrow was already set apart.
Two score and twelve were told off. From the farmer-general of seventy, whose riches could not buy his life, to the seamstress of twenty, whose poverty and obscurity could not save her. Physical diseases, engendered in the vices and neglects of men, will seize on victims of all degrees; and the frightful moral disorder, born of unspeakable suffering, intolerable oppression, and heartless indifference, smote equally without distinction."


My question now is, why? Why are these people so eager to kill these 52 others and fill the cells up once again? And before this horrible revolution why were people like the Marquis and his awful brother so eager to do things like kidnap a girl, work her husband to death and kill her brother in a duel? Or run over a child with no feeling about it at all, unless feeling annoyed at the time it takes out of his precious day. So I've decided that most of the people in this book I don't understand and I don't like at all. And now we have Charles Darnay waiting in his cell for the big 52 people execution everyone is so excited about, except the 52 people going to it unwillingly. He writes letters to his wife, his father-in-law, and Mr. Lorry, but we're told he didn't even think of Sydney Carton. Sydney Carton who, when there is only one hour until the execution is Darnay's unexpected visitor:

"The door was quickly opened and closed, and there stood before him face to face, quiet, intent upon him, with the light of a smile on his features, and a cautionary finger on his lip, Sydney Carton.
There was something so bright and remarkable in his look, that, for the first moment, the prisoner misdoubted him to be an apparition of his own imagining. But, he spoke, and it was his voice; he took the prisoner’s hand, and it was his real grasp.
“Of all the people upon earth, you least expected to see me?” he said.
“I could not believe it to be you. I can scarcely believe it now. You are not”—the apprehension came suddenly into his mind—“a prisoner?”
“No. I am accidentally possessed of a power over one of the keepers here, and in virtue of it I stand before you. I come from her—your wife, dear Darnay.”
The prisoner wrung his hand.
“I bring you a request from her.”
“What is it?”
“A most earnest, pressing, and emphatic entreaty, addressed to you in the most pathetic tones of the voice so dear to you, that you well remember.”
The prisoner turned his face partly aside.
“You have no time to ask me why I bring it, or what it means; I have no time to tell you. You must comply with it—take off those boots you wear, and draw on these of mine.”


Carton continues to have a confused Darnay switch clothes with him, and when Darnay protests saying that escape is impossible, Carton tells him he didn't ask him to escape, just to change clothes. He then dictates a letter of explanation:

“‘If you remember,’” said Carton, dictating, “‘the words that passed between us, long ago, you will readily comprehend this when you see it. You do remember them, I know. It is not in your nature to forget them.’”
He was drawing his hand from his breast; the prisoner chancing to look up in his hurried wonder as he wrote, the hand stopped, closing upon something.
“Have you written ‘forget them’?” Carton asked.
“I have. Is that a weapon in your hand?”
“No; I am not armed.”
“What is it in your hand?”
“You shall know directly. Write on; there are but a few words more.” He dictated again. “‘I am thankful that the time has come, when I can prove them. That I do so is no subject for regret or grief.’”


While writing this letter Carton comes from behind Darnay and drugs him with whatever it was he had bought at the chemist's shop. He calls to Barsad and tells him to pretend that Darnay is him (Carton), and to say that he passed out, the last interview with the prisoner has overcome him. Soon a jailer comes for Carton and he is put in a large room with the rest of the condemned. "Some of them were standing; some seated. Some were lamenting, and in restless motion; but, these were few. The great majority were silent and still, looking fixedly at the ground."
A young girl, a poor seamstress, she calls herself who was condemned for "plots" and sentenced to death, realizes that Carton is not Darnay:

"As the patient eyes were lifted to his face, he saw a sudden doubt in them, and then astonishment. He pressed the work-worn, hunger-worn young fingers, and touched his lips.
“Are you dying for him?” she whispered.
“And his wife and child. Hush! Yes.”
“O you will let me hold your brave hand, stranger?”
“Hush! Yes, my poor sister; to the last.”


At the barrier, the rest of the family are trying to escape from this horrible place as soon as possible, and are very nervous when their papers are being presented. Dr. Manette is still afflicted, a "helpless, inarticulately murmuring, wandering old man". The others are also identified, Lucie, with her child, Mr. Carton - who is in a swoon, he is not in good health and the trauma of seeing his friend has overcome him, at least that's what Mr. Lorry says. Finally, they are allowed to leave, but it is an uneasy journey. They are in constant fear of being pursued. Towards the evening, Darnay starts to wake up:

"The night comes on dark. He moves more; he is beginning to revive, and to speak intelligibly; he thinks they are still together; he asks him, by his name, what he has in his hand. O pity us, kind Heaven, and help us! Look out, look out, and see if we are pursued.
The wind is rushing after us, and the clouds are flying after us, and the moon is plunging after us, and the whole wild night is in pursuit of us; but, so far, we are pursued by nothing else."


I'm not sure if I've mentioned it often enough, I hate this book. At least something good comes out of our next chapter which is titled "The Knitting Done". I wonder what she did with all the things she knitted anyway. Madame Defarge is in council with The Vengeance and Jacques Three. They are leaving her husband out of this little meeting of theirs because he has a soft spot for the doctor and his family. He thinks the rest of the family should be spared, but Madame Defarge wants the entire family executed, the blue eyes and blond hair will look charming when they are executed. Decided between them that no one of Carton's family should be spared, Madame Defarge says she will go to Lucie immediately:

“She will now be at home, awaiting the moment of his death. She will be mourning and grieving. She will be in a state of mind to impeach the justice of the Republic. She will be full of sympathy with its enemies. I will go to her.”
“What an admirable woman; what an adorable woman!” exclaimed Jacques Three, rapturously. “Ah, my cherished!” cried The Vengeance; and embraced her.
“Take you my knitting,” said Madame Defarge, placing it in her lieutenant’s hands, “and have it ready for me in my usual seat. Keep me my usual chair. Go you there, straight, for there will probably be a greater concourse than usual, to-day.”
“I willingly obey the orders of my Chief,” said The Vengeance with alacrity, and kissing her cheek. “You will not be late?”
“I shall be there before the commencement.”


Mourning for a prisoner, the enemy of the revolution, is illegal, that is a stupid law, but it is what is going to get Lucie arrested and condemned. Madame Defare plans to go to Lucie’s apartment to catch her in the illegal act of mourning a prisoner. Evidence of such a crime will strengthen her case against the family. At the apartment, Miss Pross is packing the rest of their belongings planning on meeting Mr. Cruncher at the cathedral and getting out of there. Madame Defarge enters demanding to see Lucie but Miss Pross won't allow her to enter the room. They can't understand each other's language, but they still understand each other. Madame Defarge finally tries to get past Miss Pross, but Miss Pross grabs her and holds her by the waist. The women fight, and Madame Defarge draws a gun. In the struggle, however, Miss Pross shoots her. She realizes that the awful woman is dead and leaves (quickly I would think) and meets Cruncher as planned. They then realize she has gone deaf from the gunshot.

"“Is there any noise in the streets now?” asked Miss Pross again, presently.
Again Mr. Cruncher nodded his head.
“I don’t hear it.”
“Gone deaf in an hour?” said Mr. Cruncher, ruminating, with his mind much disturbed; “wot’s come to her?”
“I feel,” said Miss Pross, “as if there had been a flash and a crash, and that crash was the last thing I should ever hear in this life.”
“Blest if she ain’t in a queer condition!” said Mr. Cruncher, more and more disturbed. “Wot can she have been a takin’, to keep her courage up? Hark! There’s the roll of them dreadful carts! You can hear that, miss?”
“I can hear,” said Miss Pross, seeing that he spoke to her, “nothing. O, my good man, there was first a great crash, and then a great stillness, and that stillness seems to be fixed and unchangeable, never to be broken any more as long as my life lasts.”
“If she don’t hear the roll of those dreadful carts, now very nigh their journey’s end,” said Mr. Cruncher, glancing over his shoulder, “it’s my opinion that indeed she never will hear anything else in this world.”
And indeed she never did."



message 2: by Kim (last edited Oct 15, 2016 05:50PM) (new)

Kim And I've finally come to the most dreaded chapter, the final chapter. I find it odd that every few years I read this book over again, and that at other times while walking past it on the bookshelf, it will catch my eye and I will pick it up and read only the last chapter. And I cry every time, you'd think I'd stop reading it. Here we go. Chapter 15 is titled "The Footsteps Die Out Forever" and begins with this:

"Along the Paris streets, the death-carts rumble, hollow and harsh. Six tumbrils carry the day’s wine to La Guillotine. All the devouring and insatiate Monsters imagined since imagination could record itself, are fused in the one realisation, Guillotine. And yet there is not in France, with its rich variety of soil and climate, a blade, a leaf, a root, a sprig, a peppercorn, which will grow to maturity under conditions more certain than those that have produced this horror. Crush humanity out of shape once more, under similar hammers, and it will twist itself into the same tortured forms. Sow the same seed of rapacious license and oppression over again, and it will surely yield the same fruit according to its kind."

These six tumbrils are rolling along the streets which, to my amazement are filled with people, people who seem to be waiting just to see these tumbrils go by. The only thing worse then seeing this would be to see the actual execution. However, not everyone must not feel the same way for just about everyone showed up to watch this. There is much interest in seeing Darnay (Carton) and he is often pointed out by the guards, but he pays no attention to them and only talks to the girl sitting next to him holding his hand. During all this interest in Carton - well, Darnay they think, called Evremonde by these people, I am confused as to why he is so much more interesting than the others, after all they must all be guilty of something or they wouldn't be cutting the heads off of 52 people. As they arrive at the final place they will ever arrive at, until after they are dead that is, the Vengeance is upset that Madame Defarge hasn't arrived yet. She says it is bad luck for her not to be there and she says she could cry with "vexation and disappointment", although whether she does or not I don't know. Neither do I care, I am now at the part where I am willing to cut the Vengeance's head off.

The tumbrels have arrived and are being emptied, and during the rest of the chapter there is always a count going on in the background, one, two, three, always before the number is called there is a loud crash, I hate these people. Carton continues to talk to the seamstress, keeping her calm by telling her to keep her eyes on him and on nothing else. I can't say much more about this, it's too hard. This is where I thought Dickens would send in one of his many good, kind characters to save the day. It doesn't happen, the number twenty-two is called and the seamstress is gone. Carton is next, they call twenty-three, there was no saving Carton at the end. I wonder what Darnay thought when he woke up. I can't talk about Sydney anymore, so I'll let him finish the story himself:

“I see Barsad, and Cly, Defarge, The Vengeance, the Juryman, the Judge, long ranks of the new oppressors who have risen on the destruction of the old, perishing by this retributive instrument, before it shall cease out of its present use. I see a beautiful city and a brilliant people rising from this abyss, and, in their struggles to be truly free, in their triumphs and defeats, through long years to come, I see the evil of this time and of the previous time of which this is the natural birth, gradually making expiation for itself and wearing out.
“I see the lives for which I lay down my life, peaceful, useful, prosperous and happy, in that England which I shall see no more. I see Her with a child upon her bosom, who bears my name. I see her father, aged and bent, but otherwise restored, and faithful to all men in his healing office, and at peace. I see the good old man, so long their friend, in ten years’ time enriching them with all he has, and passing tranquilly to his reward.
“I see that I hold a sanctuary in their hearts, and in the hearts of their descendants, generations hence. I see her, an old woman, weeping for me on the anniversary of this day. I see her and her husband, their course done, lying side by side in their last earthly bed, and I know that each was not more honoured and held sacred in the other’s soul, than I was in the souls of both.
“I see that child who lay upon her bosom and who bore my name, a man winning his way up in that path of life which once was mine. I see him winning it so well, that my name is made illustrious there by the light of his. I see the blots I threw upon it, faded away. I see him, fore-most of just judges and honoured men, bringing a boy of my name, with a forehead that I know and golden hair, to this place—then fair to look upon, with not a trace of this day’s disfigurement—and I hear him tell the child my story, with a tender and a faltering voice.
“It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known.”


One other thing, in a few days we will again open a thread for our reflections of the novel as a whole. Which one of us will open it I don't know yet, but don't worry we'll get it done.


message 3: by Hilary (new)

Hilary (agapoyesoun) Thank you so much, Kim, for your detailed description of these chapters. You express the horror with such deep feeling. I'm so sorry that it made you cry. Perhaps this was not wholly negative but a cathartic release. I do hope so.

I just wish to comment in brief. Although I did not wish to reread this, as it had had such a depressing impact on me before, I did, after some encouragement and for that I am glad. I understand, Kim, how you could HATE this novel. That's pretty much how I felt on a first reading. The Guillotine was firmly at the centre of the whole book. I really believed that it had loomed large throughout the book. This time, however, I thought that this story was amazing! I even recommended it to my younger son. And I, surprisingly, miss it, though not I confess, the final chapter!

The chorus that echoed through the final part of the novel: I am the Resurrection and the Life ... triumphed over all of the horror. The poignancy of those words in that context was overwhelming. I can't find the right words to describe it ...


message 4: by Peter (last edited Oct 16, 2016 04:22PM) (new)

Peter Yes. I ageee with both Kim and Hilary. I think this novel has the most powerful ending of all the Dickens novels. I don't think that was an accident either. GE may be a close second, but TTC, with both horror and its hope at the end, with its insistence that all can be right in the world, even when the world is tumbling downhill, gives us faith for the future, that good will triumph over evil. A psychological study of how a happy ending could be linked to Dickens's own personal life around this time is a different study.

I can't remember who said it but someone called Dickens "Mr. Sentimentality." Well, if you can write a novel like TTC who cares what others call you.


message 5: by Peter (last edited Oct 16, 2016 04:25PM) (new)

Peter The enormous clash between the forces of the Defarge's and the aptly named Vengeance with those of the Darnay's, Sydney Carton, and Mr. Lorry is wonderfully staged and highlighted with the battle between Miss. Pross and Madame Defarge.

The power of the imagery and the merging of the symbolism before their battle is perfect in its context. When Miss. Pross sees Madame Defarge in the room we read "[t]he basin fell to the ground broken, and the water flowed to the feet of Madame Defarge. By strange stern ways, and through much staining blood, those feet had come to meet that water." A couple of paragraphs later Miss Pross cautions Madame Defarge that "[y]ou might, from your appearance, be the wife of Lucifer ... nevertheless, you shall not get the better of me. I am an Englishwoman."

The feet of Madame Defarge are indeed stained both with the red wine that foreshadowed the shedding of blood when it spilt outside the wine shop and by all the human blood that has been spilt at the foot of the guillotine. The water that the servant Miss Pross spills mingles with the bloody feet of Madame Defarge and washes them. Madame Defarge is referred to as the "wife of Lucifer." Here, we have a reference to the Bible. Lucifer, is, of course, clear and obvious. Consider as well, however, the reference to water and the washing of feet. The washing of feet was also an act of purification, of cleansing, and was an act that was done more than once in the Bible. A second current that runs through this section is the phrase "I am an Englishwoman." For Dickens's readers, this phrase would indeed be inspiring. It signals that Miss. Pross will prevail. Her victory over Madame Defarge comes at a high cost, however, for the concussive sound of the pistol has rendered her deaf. Thus, while the death of Madame Defarge, the wife of Lucifer, was an act to save the angelic Lucie Manette, there must be a consequence for the taking of a life. The consequence is that Miss. Pross will be deaf forever. Madame Defarge will never be recalled to life; regretfully, Miss Pross's hearing will also never be recalled to life.


message 6: by Linda (new)

Linda | 712 comments Thank you for the courage to write up the summary of the last chapters, Kim. Although I knew that this book did not have a happy ending and tried to brace myself the for it, I was still an emotional wreck reading through to the end. Not only was Sydney Carton's sacrifice heart-wrenching, but the young seamstress riding to her death alongside Carton is what really did me in. I have to admit that I was reading these last few pages quickly just to get it over with.

I did find much satisfaction in Madame Defarge's demise, however, and Vengeance being left waiting for her arrival at the execution. I actually did not expect Miss Pross to make it out alive, or for Miss Pross and Mr. Cruncher to make it out of Paris, so I was happy with that and it felt exhilarating when Miss Pross stood her ground while stating "I am an Englishwoman".

Peter, I always appreciate your analysis of the symbolism within the different scenes.


message 7: by Peter (last edited Oct 16, 2016 07:07PM) (new)

Peter In the last chapter of the novel we find - to my mind at least - why the death of Lucie's first son was dealt with almost dismissively by Dickens. Had Lucie's first son lived, then the final paragraphs of the final chapter would have been diminished.

There is, first, an interesting narrative shift in the last paragraphs of the novel. We move from the third person narrator to the first person voice of Sydney Carton. It is his voice that tells the reader that "I see the lives for which I lay down my life" and then recounts and even projects the lives of Lucie and Charles and their son "who lay upon her bosom and who bore my name, a man winning his way up in that path of life which was once mine ... my name is made illustrious ... I see him, foremost of just judges and honoured men, bringing a boy of my name, with a forehead that I know and golden hair, to this place ... - and I hear him tell the child my story." In these words, we learn that the Darnay's had another son, named him Sydney, and that this son rose to the highest ranks of English justice and position. This Sydney Darnay, in turn, had a son named Sydney who had the features of both the initial Sydney Carton and of the golden haired Lucie, who was so beloved by that young boy's grandfather. This blending of name and physical features brings the novel to the point where they have been metaphorically blended into one person. To have another male son, and an older son at that, would run counter to the prevailing belief in primogeniture that existed at the time of Lucie and Charles's marriage.

I believe the first son's death was meant to be a somber interlude for the reading public, to increase the tone of sadness and loss, but it was necessary for the structural integrity of the novel's end where the focus needs to be on the voice of Sydney Carton as it
recounts the future of Sydney Darnay and his son.

The famous lines "It is a far, far better thing ..." give not only a wonderful balanced summary of one man's life but also reminds the reader of an earlier Biblical reference of "I am the resurrection and the life ..." which frames the novel's refrain of being recalled to life.

There is one final point in terms of being recalled to life and that is the fact that Sydney Carton was the 23rd person to be executed on his fateful day. I see this as not an arbitrary number but Dickens once again linking his motif of being recalled to life. The number 23 is also a subtle reference, I believe, to the 23rd Psalm in The Bible. What more forceful and appropriate Psalm to reflect on Sydney Carton's life and death?


message 8: by Kim (new)

Kim Making my way through the many illustrations there are for ATTC, I've discovered that Phiz did not draw any illustration for this last installment. Why he would skip these last chapters I haven't figured out yet, but whatever the reason may be, there are no Phiz illustrations for these chapters. The only thing I have left from Phiz is the title page, and the cover, and I will save those until after the other illustrators and their illustrations for these chapters. So I am moving on to John McLenan.


Book III Chapter 13 - John McLenan



Headnote vignette

John McLenan

Dickens's A Tale of Two Cities, Book III, chapter 13 ("Fifty-two")

Harper's Weekly November 1859

Text Illustrated:

"Charles Darnay, alone in a cell, had sustained himself with no flattering delusion since he came to it from the Tribunal. In every line of the narrative he had heard, he had heard his condemnation. He had fully comprehended that no personal influence could possibly save him, that he was virtually sentenced by the millions, and that units could avail him nothing."

*******************************************************************************************************

Book III Chapter 13 - John McLenan



"Write exactly as I speak"

John McLenan

Dickens's A Tale of Two Cities, Book III, chapter 13 ("Fifty-two")

Harper's Weekly November 1859

Text Illustrated:

"Do I ask you, my dear Darnay, to pass the door? When I ask that, refuse. There are pen and ink and paper on this table. Is your hand steady enough to write?"

"It was when you came in."

"Steady it again, and write what I shall dictate. Quick, friend, quick!"

Pressing his hand to his bewildered head, Darnay sat down at the table. Carton, with his right hand in his breast, stood close beside him.

"Write exactly as I speak."

"To whom do I address it?"

"To no one." Carton still had his hand in his breast.

"Do I date it?"

"No."

The prisoner looked up, at each question. Carton, standing over him with his hand in his breast, looked down.

"`If you remember,'" said Carton, dictating, "`the words that passed between us, long ago, you will readily comprehend this when you see it. You do remember them, I know. It is not in your nature to forget them.'"



message 9: by Kim (last edited Jul 18, 2022 07:59AM) (new)

Kim

"Like the soul of the furious woman whose body lay lifeless on the ground"

John McLenan

Dickens's A Tale of Two Cities, Book III, 14 ("The Knitting Done")

Harper's Weekly November 1859

Text Illustrated:

"Lying hidden in her bosom, was a loaded pistol. Lying hidden at her waist, was a sharpened dagger. Thus accoutred, and walking with the confident tread of such a character, and with the supple freedom of a woman who had habitually walked in her girlhood, bare-foot and bare-legged, on the brown sea-sand, Madame Defarge took her way along the streets. . . .

"We are alone at the top of a high house in a solitary courtyard, we are not likely to be heard, and I pray for bodily strength to keep you here, while every minute you are here is worth a hundred thousand guineas to my darling," said Miss Pross.

Madame Defarge made at the door. Miss Pross, on the instinct of the moment, seized her round the waist in both her arms, and held her tight. It was in vain for Madame Defarge to struggle and to strike; Miss Pross, with the vigorous tenacity of love, always so much stronger than hate, clasped her tight, and even lifted her from the floor in the struggle that they had. The two hands of Madame Defarge buffeted and tore her face; but, Miss Pross, with her head down, held her round the waist, and clung to her with more than the hold of a drowning woman.

Soon, Madame Defarge's hands ceased to strike, and felt at her encircled waist. "It is under my arm," said Miss Pross, in smothered tones, "you shall not draw it. I am stronger than you, I bless Heaven for it. I hold you till one or other of us faints or dies!"

Madame Defarge's hands were at her bosom. Miss Pross looked up, saw what it was, struck at it, struck out a flash and a crash, and stood alone--blinded with smoke.

All this was in a second. As the smoke cleared, leaving an awful stillness, it passed out on the air, like the soul of the furious woman whose body lay lifeless on the ground.

In the first fright and horror of her situation, Miss Pross passed the body as far from it as she could, and ran down the stairs to call for fruitless help. Happily, she bethought herself of the consequences of what she did, in time to check herself and go back. It was dreadful to go in at the door again; but, she did go in, and even went near it, to get the bonnet and other things that she must wear. These she put on, out on the staircase, first shutting and locking the door and taking away the key. She then sat down on the stairs a few moments to breathe and to cry, and then got up and hurried away."



message 10: by Kim (new)

Kim Book III Chapter 15 - John McLenan




Headnote vignette

John McLenan

Dickens's A Tale of Two Cities, Book III, chapter 15

Harper's Weekly November 1859

Text Illustrated:

"The clocks are on the stroke of three, and the furrow ploughed among the populace is turning round, to come on into the place of execution, and end. The ridges thrown to this side and to that, now crumble in and close behind the last plough as it passes on, for all are following to the Guillotine. In front of it, seated in chairs, as in a garden of public diversion, are a number of women, busily knitting. On one of the fore-most chairs, stands The Vengeance, looking about for her friend."

"Therese!" she cries, in her shrill tones. "Who has seen her? Therese Defarge!"

"She never missed before," says a knitting-woman of the sisterhood.

"No; nor will she miss now," cries The Vengeance, petulantly. "Therese."

"Louder," the woman recommends.

Ay! Louder, Vengeance, much louder, and still she will scarcely hear thee. Louder yet, Vengeance, with a little oath or so added, and yet it will hardly bring her. Send other women up and down to seek her, lingering somewhere; and yet, although the messengers have done dread deeds, it is questionable whether of their own wills they will go far enough to find her!

"Bad Fortune!" cries The Vengeance, stamping her foot in the chair, "and here are the tumbrils! And Evremonde will be despatched in a wink, and she not here! See her knitting in my hand, and her empty chair ready for her. I cry with vexation and disappointment!"

As The Vengeance descends from her elevation to do it, the tumbrils begin to discharge their loads. The ministers of Sainte Guillotine are robed and ready. Crash!—A head is held up, and the knitting-women who scarcely lifted their eyes to look at it a moment ago when it could think and speak, count One.

The second tumbril empties and moves on; the third comes up. Crash!—And the knitting-women, never faltering or pausing in their Work, count Two."


*******************************************************************

Book III Chapter 15 - John McLenan



"The two stand in the fast-thinning throng of victims"

John McLenan

Dickens's A Tale of Two Cities, Book III, 15, "The Footsteps Die Out Forever"

Harper's Weekly November 1859

Text Illustrated:

"The supposed Evremonde descends, and the seamstress is lifted out next after him. He has not relinquished her patient hand in getting out, but still holds it as he promised. He gently places her with her back to the crashing engine that constantly whirrs up and falls, and she looks into his face and thanks him.

"But for you, dear stranger, I should not be so composed, for I am naturally a poor little thing, faint of heart; nor should I have been able to raise my thoughts to Him who was put to death, that we might have hope and comfort here to-day. I think you were sent to me by Heaven."

"Or you to me," says Sydney Carton. "Keep your eyes upon me, dear child, and mind no other object."

"I mind nothing while I hold your hand. I shall mind nothing when I let it go, if they are rapid."

"They will be rapid. Fear not!"

The two stand in the fast-thinning throng of victims, but they speak as if they were alone. Eye to eye, voice to voice, hand to hand, heart to heart, these two children of the Universal Mother, else so wide apart and differing, have come together on the dark highway, to repair home together, and to rest in her bosom.

"Brave and generous friend, will you let me ask you one last question? I am very ignorant, and it troubles me—just a little."

"Tell me what it is."

"I have a cousin, an only relative and an orphan, like myself, whom I love very dearly. She is five years younger than I, and she lives in a farmer's house in the south country. Poverty parted us, and she knows nothing of my fate—for I cannot write—and if I could, how should I tell her! It is better as it is."

"Yes, yes: better as it is."

"What I have been thinking as we came along, and what I am still thinking now, as I look into your kind strong face which gives me so much support, is this:—If the Republic really does good to the poor, and they come to be less hungry, and in all ways to suffer less, she may live a long time: she may even live to be old."

"What then, my gentle sister?"

"Do you think:" the uncomplaining eyes in which there is so much endurance, fill with tears, and the lips part a little more and tremble: "that it will seem long to me, while I wait for her in the better land where I trust both you and I will be mercifully sheltered?"

"It cannot be, my child; there is no Time there, and no trouble there."

"You comfort me so much! I am so ignorant. Am I to kiss you now? Is the moment come?"

"Yes."

She kisses his lips; he kisses hers; they solemnly bless each other. The spare hand does not tremble as he releases it; nothing worse than a sweet, bright constancy is in the patient face. She goes next before him—is gone; the knitting-women count Twenty-Two."



message 11: by Kim (new)

Kim Book III Chapter 14 - Fred Barnard



"'You might, from your appearance, be the wife of Lucifer,' said Miss Pross, 'in her breathing. 'Nevrtheless, you shall not get the better of me. I am an Englishwoman.'"

Book III Chapter 14

Fred Barnard

The Household Edition 1870s

Text Illustrated:

"Madame Defarge looked coldly at her, and said, "The wife of Evremonde; where is she?"

It flashed upon Miss Pross's mind that the doors were all standing open, and would suggest the flight. Her first act was to shut them. There were four in the room, and she shut them all. She then placed herself before the door of the chamber which Lucie had occupied.

Madame Defarge's dark eyes followed her through this rapid movement, and rested on her when it was finished. Miss Pross had nothing beautiful about her; years had not tamed the wildness, or softened the grimness, of her appearance; but, she too was a determined woman in her different way, and she measured Madame Defarge with her eyes, every inch.

"You might, from your appearance, be the wife of Lucifer," said Miss Pross, in her breathing. "Nevertheless, you shall not get the better of me. I am an Englishwoman."

Madame Defarge looked at her scornfully, but still with something of Miss Pross's own perception that they two were at bay. She saw a tight, hard, wiry woman before her, as Mr. Lorry had seen in the same figure a woman with a strong hand, in the years gone by. She knew full well that Miss Pross was the family's devoted friend; Miss Pross knew full well that Madame Defarge was the family's malevolent enemy.

"On my way yonder," said Madame Defarge, with a slight movement of her hand towards the fatal spot, "where they reserve my chair and my knitting for me, I am come to make my compliments to her in passing. I wish to see her."

"I know that your intentions are evil," said Miss Pross, "and you may depend upon it, I'll hold my own against them."

Each spoke in her own language; neither understood the other's words; both were very watchful, and intent to deduce from look and manner, what the unintelligible words meant.

"It will do her no good to keep herself concealed from me at this moment," said Madame Defarge. "Good patriots will know what that means. Let me see her. Go tell her that I wish to see her. Do you hear?"

"If those eyes of yours were bed-winches," returned Miss Pross, "and I was an English four-poster, they shouldn't loose a splinter of me. No, you wicked foreign woman; I am your match."


Commentary:

"In Barnard's sequence, Miss Pross is not a wizened little woman who is an anxious mother hen to her "ladybird," Lucie Manette; rather, early in the sequence, in "And smoothing her rich hair with as much pride", he establishes her as a physically formidable woman, although certainly no great beauty. Now, animated by the power love, she confronts the Tigress of Saint Antoine, the predatory Madame Defarge, cunning, powerful, — and in Dickens's text beautiful:

" Madame Defarge looked coldly at her, and she said, "the wife of Evrémonde; where is she?"

It flashed upon Miss Pross's mind that the doors were all standing open, and would suggest the flight. Her first act was to shut them all. She then placed herself before the door of the chamber which Lucie had occupied.

Thus, Barnard pits against one another two equally matched viragoes, burly, indomitable, and determined. Whereas Dickens describes Madame Defarge as wearing a robe as she makes her way through the streets, Barnard has given pantaloons of the Emilia Bloomer variety, thereby increasing her masculine character. Though slighter and more anxious by nature, Miss Pross as Dickens describes her is formidable in a very different way:

Miss Pross had nothing beautiful about her; years had not tamed the wildness, or softened the grimness, of her appearance; but she, too, was a determined woman in her different way, and she measured Madame Defarge with her eyes, every inch."

John McLenan in the series for the American serialization published in Harper's Weekly chose to focus on the moment in which, the hidden pistol having been discharged, the French woman lies died at the feet of the English woman in "Like the soul of the furious woman whose body lay lifeless on the ground" in the second illustration for 26 November 1859. McLenan's Madame Defarge, a young woman with a beautiful face, lies dead, her pistol still in her grip as a cloud of exploded gunpowder fills the room and the aged, formally dressed Miss Pross holds her hand to her head in token of her sudden deafness. The picture and barley cane-twist chair in the background connect this scene with that in which Doctor Manette returned from his fruitless quest to have his son-in-law released after the trial (the head note to the November 12th installment).

In David O. Selznick's epic 1935 film adaptation, starring Ronald Coleman as Sydney Carton, Edna May Oliver's jingoistic tag line "I am an English woman" sets a triumphant note, and signals her emerging victorious in her wrestling match with the physically powerful Terese Defarge, played with sinister zest by an American actress of Bohemian descent, Blanche Yurka. Throughout this stunning cinematic adaptation, Yurka's Madame Defarge has been more than a match for the evil Marquis St. Evrémonde (Basil Rathbone), but falls, a victim of her own hubris, to the redoubtable English woman (Oliver) in one of those rare moments in cinema that brings down the house. Both Barnard and McLenan realized the emotional impact of the confrontation of these continents of experience, and the palpable triumph of love over hate that the outcome of their struggle for the pistol underscores."


*******************************************************************

Book III Chapter 15 - Fred Barnard



"The Third Tumbrel"

Book III Chapter 15

Fred Barnard

The Household Edition 1870s

Text Illustrated:

"Bad Fortune!" cries The Vengeance, stamping her foot in the chair, "and here are the tumbrils! And Evremonde will be despatched in a wink, and she not here! See her knitting in my hand, and her empty chair ready for her. I cry with vexation and disappointment!"

As The Vengeance descends from her elevation to do it, the tumbrils begin to discharge their loads. The ministers of Sainte Guillotine are robed and ready. Crash!—A head is held up, and the knitting-women who scarcely lifted their eyes to look at it a moment ago when it could think and speak, count One.

The second tumbril empties and moves on; the third comes up. Crash!—And the knitting-women, never faltering or pausing in their Work, count Two.

The supposed Evremonde descends, and the seamstress is lifted out next after him. He has not relinquished her patient hand in getting out, but still holds it as he promised. He gently places her with her back to the crashing engine that constantly whirrs up and falls, and she looks into his face and thanks him.

"But for you, dear stranger, I should not be so composed, for I am naturally a poor little thing, faint of heart; nor should I have been able to raise my thoughts to Him who was put to death, that we might have hope and comfort here to-day. I think you were sent to me by Heaven."

"Or you to me," says Sydney Carton. "Keep your eyes upon me, dear child, and mind no other object."

"I mind nothing while I hold your hand. I shall mind nothing when I let it go, if they are rapid."

"They will be rapid. Fear not!"

The two stand in the fast-thinning throng of victims, but they speak as if they were alone. Eye to eye, voice to voice, hand to hand, heart to heart, these two children of the Universal Mother, else so wide apart and differing, have come together on the dark highway, to repair home together, and to rest in her bosom."


Commentary:

"Sydney Carton's assuming the identity of Charles Darnay in order to save Lucie, her husband, and child requires that he allow himself to be transported to the Guillotine in one of the many tumbrels expropriated by the revolutionary leaders. By coincidence, he shares his final moments with another blameless victim of anti-aristocratic hysteria.

In Book the Third, "The Track of the Storm," Ch. 15, "The Footsteps Die out Forever," Carton, disguised as the last representative of the infamous Evrémondes, calmly, tenderly takes the hand of the little seamstress whom he met in ch. 13 in order to give her courage, even as the blood-thirsty mob around the cart vilifies them, and The Vengeance scrutinizes him. But Barnard does not include the terrible woman, the spy, the robed ministers of Sainte Guillotine, or legion of knitting-women. Barnard focuses on Carton's tranquil reassurance of his timid companion rather than on the machinations of the plot.

John McLenan, the American illustrator for the Harper's serialization of the novel, also focuses on the courage and tenderness of Carton in his final moments in the final Harper's Weekly installment's "The Two Stand in the Fast-thinning Throng of Victims, etc.". In the American illustration, Carton and the seamstress have already alighted from the cart, and stand on the ground, guarded by heavily armed Jacobins. The moment in both Barnard and McLenan is something of an anti-climax since Miss Pross has already thwarted Madame Defarge's plans in "Like the soul of the furious woman whose body lay lifeless on the ground" in the McLenan sequence, and in "You might, from your appearance, be the wife of Lucifer . . ." in Barnard's."



message 12: by Kim (new)

Kim Book III Chapter 13 - A. A. Dixon



Change that coat for this of mine

Book III Chapter 13

A. A. Dixon

Collins Edition

Text Illustrated:

"Of all the people upon earth, you least expected to see me?" he said.

"I could not believe it to be you. I can scarcely believe it now. You are not"—the apprehension came suddenly into his mind—"a prisoner?"

"No. I am accidentally possessed of a power over one of the keepers here, and in virtue of it I stand before you. I come from her—your wife, dear Darnay."

The prisoner wrung his hand.

"I bring you a request from her."

"What is it?"

"A most earnest, pressing, and emphatic entreaty, addressed to you in the most pathetic tones of the voice so dear to you, that you well remember."

The prisoner turned his face partly aside.

"You have no time to ask me why I bring it, or what it means; I have no time to tell you. You must comply with it—take off those boots you wear, and draw on these of mine."

There was a chair against the wall of the cell, behind the prisoner. Carton, pressing forward, had already, with the speed of lightning, got him down into it, and stood over him, barefoot.

"Draw on these boots of mine. Put your hands to them; put your will to them. Quick!"

"Carton, there is no escaping from this place; it never can be done. You will only die with me. It is madness."

"It would be madness if I asked you to escape; but do I? When I ask you to pass out at that door, tell me it is madness and remain here. Change that cravat for this of mine, that coat for this of mine. While you do it, let me take this ribbon from your hair, and shake out your hair like this of mine!"


*********************************************************************************************************************************

Book III Chapter 15 - A. A. Dixon



To the guillotine, all aristocrats!

A. A. Dixon

Book III Chapter 15

Collins Edition 1905

Text Illustrated:

"On the steps of a church, awaiting the coming-up of the tumbrils, stands the Spy and prison-sheep. He looks into the first of them: not there. He looks into the second: not there. He already asks himself, "Has he sacrificed me?" when his face clears, as he looks into the third.

"Which is Evremonde?" says a man behind him.

"That. At the back there."

"With his hand in the girl's?"

"Yes."

The man cries, "Down, Evremonde! To the Guillotine all aristocrats! Down, Evremonde!"

"Hush, hush!" the Spy entreats him, timidly.

"And why not, citizen?"

"He is going to pay the forfeit: it will be paid in five minutes more. Let him be at peace."

But the man continuing to exclaim, "Down, Evremonde!" the face of Evremonde is for a moment turned towards him. Evremonde then sees the Spy, and looks attentively at him, and goes his way."



message 13: by Kim (last edited Jul 18, 2022 08:23AM) (new)

Kim

"Sydney Carton and the Little Seamstress"

Book III Chapter 13

Harry Furniss

Charles Dickens Library Edition

Text Illustrated:

"Citizen Evrémonde," she said, touching him with her cold hand. "I am a poor little seamstress, who was with you in La Force."

"He murmured for answer: "True. I forget what you were accused of?"

""Plots. Though the just Heaven knows that I am innocent of any. Is it likely? Who would think of plotting with a poor little weak creature like me?"

"The forlorn smile with which she said it, so touched him, that tears started from his eyes.

""I am not afraid to die, Citizen Evrémonde, but I have done nothing. I am not unwilling to die, if the Republic which is to do so much good to us poor, will profit by my death; but I do not know how that can be, Citizen Evrémonde. Such a poor weak little creature!"

"As the last thing on earth that his heart was to warm and soften to, it warmed and softened to this pitiable girl.

""I heard you were released, Citizen Evrémonde. I hoped it was true?"

""It was. But, I was again taken and condemned."

""If I may ride with you, Citizen Evrémonde, will you let me hold your hand? I am not afraid, but I am little and weak, and it will give me more courage."

"As the patient eyes were lifted to his face, he saw a sudden doubt in them, and then astonishment. He pressed the work-worn, hunger-worn young fingers, and touched his lips."


Commentary:

The extensive caption which J. A. Hammerton has provided points towards Carton's first crucial test in his impersonation of Darnay since the seamstress had become acquainted with "Citizen Evrémonde" during his extended incarceration in La Force. Carton carries off his substitution coolly by prompting the young woman to describe the grounds upon which she was arrested, thereby deflecting conversation from himself. She represents a very real source of suspense since she and Darnay could well have been in close association over fourteen months in La Force. That the date is now November 1793 suggests that Carton will shortly become one of the more than two thousand eight-hundred victims of the Reign of Terror executed at the Place de la Concorde between January 1793 and 3 May 1795 (Sanders 164). In the space of just these few lines of dialogue, Dickens uses the birth-name of Charles Darnay some five times — as if through this repetition and Carton's reaction to it he may let his mask slip. The climax of the dialogue, not in Hammerton's caption for the illustration, is the seamstress's revealing that she, simple as she is, has penetrated the disguise:

"Are you dying for him?" she whispered.

"And his wife and child. Hush! Yes."

"O you will let me hold your brave hand, stranger?"

"Hush! Yes, my poor sister; to the last."


To heighten the suspense, Furniss has placed four armed guards in the darkened communal cell so that, were they not whispering at this point, the conversation between Carton and the seamstress would almost certainly be overheard. In the murky darkness of this general holding cell it is not easy initially for the reader to pick out Carton, but he must be the man to the extreme left, identifiable by the young woman with whom he is in close conversation and by the fact that he — unlike the other male aristocrats in the cell — is not wearing a white-powdered wig (Carton has exchanged a black hair-ribbon with Darnay earlier, and now wears his "Brutus" hairstyle tied back to emphasize his likeness to Darnay).

Since the reader examines the picture proleptically, undoubtedly he or she would revert to it, so that it serves as a suitable complement to the letterpress. The lithograph conveys effectively the atmosphere of despair that grips the prisoners, among whom one is momentarily in the light at the back, apparently waving to somebody. Furniss has not shown all fifty-two people in today's batch consigned to the guillotine, but has selected nine whose postures betoken their emotional responses to the situation. The bayonets glinting in the darkness reveal the presence of five uniformed guards, implying that escape is unlikely. The chiaroscuro is intensified by the presence of just one source of light, which filters through the darkness, highlighting the wigs of the male prisoners and thereby emphasizing their difference from Carton, who, despite the fact that his is the largest figure in the composition, remains muffled in the darkness, his face not detectable in any detail. The picture is rendered more interesting by virtue of the extreme depth of field, by which Furniss positions the reader even further inside the condemned cell and away from the light.

A mere "bit part" in the novel, the seamstress was a named part in the Victorian stage adaptations, a fact that suggests she actually played a significant role in these final scenes:

The Only Way was produced at the Lyceum on February 16th, 1899, and the occasion launched [the lead actor] Martin-Harvey as one of the great actor-managers of his day. It was a drama, vital and moving, and his sensitive portrayal of Sydney Carton a creation of romance outstanding in the theatre. . . . . Included in the supporting cast that memorable first night at the Lyceum were Herbert Sleath as Charles Darnay, Holbrook Blinn as Ernest Defarge, Grace Warner as Lucie Manette and the veteran actress, Alice Marriott, a one-time Hamlet, as The Vengeance. Nina de Silva played Mimi, so the anonymous seamstress of the novel was called, and played the part during every one of the ten revivals in the town [i. e., the West End of London], the last being at the Savoy Theatre, November 7th, 1930. [Morley, 39]

Malcolm Morley's analysis reveals that the celebrated stage adaptation emphasized certain characters that today's novel reader would classify as minor, including The Vengeance and the seamstress, diametrical opposites caught up in the tide of Revolution. Almost certainly Furniss would have attended at least one performance of The Only Way prior to his work on the Charles Dickens Library Edition, and therefore may have been influenced by the play in his characterizations of The Vegeance, who appears in a number of his historical "dark" plates, and the seamstress, to whom he has given prominence in this final dark plate.


message 14: by Kim (last edited Jul 18, 2022 08:26AM) (new)

Kim

"Struggle between Miss Pross and Madame Defarge"

Book III Chapter 14

Harry Furniss

Charles Dickens Library Edition 1910

The commentary for this illustration is so long it will probably take me more than one - or two - posts to get it all. So here it begins:

Commentary:

Whereas Dickens's original illustrator, Hablot Knight Browne, probably in conjunction with the author in order not to telegraph the dramatic conclusion to the reader of the monthly parts in advance of that reader's encountering the passage in the accompanying text, avoided the scenes in which Sydney Carton meets his death on the scaffold disguised as Charles Darnay and Miss Pross's love for Lucie proves stronger than Madame Defarge's hatred of the Evrémondes, Harry Furniss has depicted both highly dramatic scenes — even if he has made Carton on the Scaffold the volume's frontispiece.

Although the murky "dark plate" of Carton and the innocent victim of an arbitrary judgment awaiting transportation in the Conciergerie, Sydney Carton and the little Seamstress makes little impression initially, the wrestling match between the two determined viragoes suitably pits the avenging against the protective angel, although the picture is situated after the outcome of this life-and-death grappling in the letterpress. Good as the illustration is in its depiction of these female (but not feminine) Titans, it cannot match the sentimental force of Dickens's description of this mortal combat, and the effectiveness of the dialogue:

"Nevertheless, you shall not get the better of me. I am an Englishwoman."

Each spoke in her own language; neither understood the other's words; both were very watchful, and intent to deduce from look and manner, what the unintelligible words meant.

Set in the deserted rooms of Tellson's Paris headquarters, this is the climactic scene in many of the film adaptations, as it pits the supremely cunning and physically powerful Térèse Defarge, married as much to the bitterness at having lost her entirely family as to Ernest Defarge — and mother only to her lifelong grudge against the destroyers of her family — against the stolid Miss Pross, resolute protector of her "Ladybird." In the 1935 David O. Selznick film, Madame Defarge, the ardent but somewhat hag like sans culotte played with passionate and menacing conviction by forty-eight-year-old Blanche Yurka, has heretofore been unstoppable, but in Miss Pross (played in that same film by fifty-two-year-old Edna May Oliver), whom Dickens establishes as an avowed monarchist and stalwart Briton, the vengeful spirit of Revolution has met her match. Viewed even seventy-five years later, this scene (at least in their minds) brings viewers to their feet, cheering for the victory that ensures the escape of the Darnays. The Furniss illustration effectively realizes the mighty conjunction of these binary opposites in a Dickensian clash of the Titans........


message 15: by Kim (last edited Jul 18, 2022 08:32AM) (new)

Kim .....Already in The Perils of Certain English Prisoners in the extra-Christmas Number of Household Words for 1857 we have seen a virulent strain of xenophobia and racism, Dickens's extreme response to the Sepoy Mutiny, but these biases manifest themselves here quite differently as Miss Pross and her Satanic opposite are not entirely uni-dimensional characters whom we have heretofore detested or approved of, Madame Defarge having on her side a compelling argument for the destruction of the aristocracy that does not equate with the low, villainous Christian George King's unmitigated perfidy in the Collins-Dickens novella of 1857. Each of these female antagonists in the 1859 serial is, in fact, what Lisa Robson has termed "a feminine aberration" in that Miss Pross is a peculiar combination of subservience (to her scapegrace brother Solomon as well as to her employer, Lucie) and aggression, while Madame Defarge is a married woman without children who runs a business, consorts with and even directs the men of the Jacquerie, and is consumed by a most unfeminine blood lust. Although both give "faithful service" to their convictions, in this ultimate scene there is never a moment in which the reader identifies here with the blood-thirsty Frenchwoman against the innocent Briton, previously not much more than a crotchety "stereotypical Victorian old maid", despite her red hair, who has already stridently broadcast her pride in being a British subject, even in the midst of the Reign of Terror, when such protestations might result in arbitrary arrest:

"For gracious sake, don't talk about Liberty; we have quite enough of that," said Miss Pross.

"Hush, dear! Again?" Lucie remonstrated.

"Well, my sweet," said Miss Pross, nodding her head emphatically, "the short and the long of it is, that I am a subject of His Most Gracious Majesty King George the Third;" Miss Pross curtseyed at the name; and as such, my maxim is, Confound their politics, Frustrate their knavish tricks, On him our hopes we fix, God save the King!" [a now little-sung verse from the 1745 version of "God Save the King!"]


Indeed, Catherine Waters' interpretation emphasizes Dickens's investing Miss Pross with the national attributes of the English as she closes in mortal combat with her Gallic opposite, but her wiry strength and characterization as a decidedly English grotesque also make her a fit opponent for Madame Defarge. While Madame Defarge represents a repudiation of the ideals Miss Pross so vigilantly protects in the person of her 'Ladybird', it is primarily the national differences between the two women that determine their fateful encounter. As the two of them are set face to face in the narrative, other categories of difference — gender, generational and class difference — are ostensibly overridden by the opposition of nationalities. What distinguishes the struggle between Madame Defarge and Miss Pross is not its commonly proclaimed thematic function as a 'contest between the forces of hatred and love', but its characterization as a confrontation between France and England.

Intuitively, Furniss apprehends and communicates this "national difference" in Miss Pross's stubborn defiance of the female Lucifer as this crusty, old maid in a proper eighteenth-century English spinster's cap stares down her muscular adversary in the Phrygian cap, the outward and visible sign of her rebellious spirit. Perhaps to exonerate her of the charge of manslaughter, Furniss has Miss Pross in a defensive posture as Madame Defarge swings wide and lunges forward. Only their dresses imply their gender: their faces and arms are thoroughly masculine, and this fight to the death seems utterly out of place in the domestic setting, characterized by the broken porcelain basin in the foreground. Several other illustrators, including Phiz and Eytinge, have interpreted Miss Pross as a mere old maid, albeit one of stubborn and protective disposition, whose victory at this crucial juncture therefore must be a matter of chance — or, perhaps, Providence, which Dickens in his 5 June 1860 letter to Sir Edward Bulwer Lytton expressed himself as being quite justified in using here:

"I am not clear, and I never have been clear, respecting that canon of fiction which forbids the interposition of accident in such a case as Madame Defarge's death. Where the accident is inseparable from the passion and emotion of the character, where it is strictly consistent with the whole design, and arises out of some culminating proceeding on the part of the character which the whole story had led up to, it seems to me to become, as it were, an act of divine justice. And when I use Miss Pross (though this is quite another question) to bring about that catastrophe, I have the positive intention of making that half-comic intervention a part of the desperate woman's failure, and of opposing that mean death — instead of a desperate one in the streets, which she wouldn't have minded — to the dignity of Carton's wrong or right; this was the design, and seemed to be in the fitness of things."

However, perhaps neither Barnard nor Furniss was comfortable with the notion that Madame Defarge is the victim of mere caprice or accident (or for that matter Providence) in that these later artists made Miss Pross as physically formidable as her adversary, whereas Phiz, Eytinge, and McLenan have made her a far less imposing figure and therefore the victor by virtue of the fortunate accident of her discharging Madame Defarge's own pistol, a symbol of her expropriation of masculine power. Even as she contemplates betraying her own husband (whom she, like Lady Macbeth with respect to her husband's murdering the venerable King Duncan in Shakespeare's tragedy of bloody ambition, dismisses as too tender-hearted about Doctor Manette to consign him, his child, and grandchild to the guillotine) and arranging the execution of both Lucie and her child on trumped-up charges, she perishes in a burst of gunpowder by inadvertence caused by her own negligence in the care and storage of a destructive implement more properly from the political, martial, and therefore masculine sphere.

Having abandoned her knitting-needles for weapons of close combat, Madame Defarge, too, changes over the period encompassed by these illustrated editions, that is, 1859 to 1910, as a number of critics have noted:

Madame Defarge begins to age soon after Dickens' death. The "Household Edition" (New York: Harper, 1878), for example, shows a square-jawed, muscular Madame Defarge, looking very much like a man, on the title page. She looks older, heavier, and uglier by the end of the novel, but is at her worst where she bears a remarkable resemblance to the aging Queen Victoria.

In asserting that illustrators' conceptions of Madame Defarge began to shift in the 1870s, Catherine Waters overlooks the more conventional depictions of her as a not-unattractive publican earlier in the story as realized by Fred Barnard and Harry Furniss:

In the original 'Phiz' drawings, she is shown as a strong, young woman, with a beautiful but determined face, and dark hair. The illustrations set her in contrast with the blonde-haired beauty of Lucie Manette. However, many subsequent versions of Madame Defarge in film and illustration have made her a witch. According to Hutter, the Harper and Row cover to A Tale of Two Cities, for example, 'shows a cadaverous old crone, gray-haired, hunched over her knitting, with wrinkles stitched across a tightened face'. In the 1935 film, starring Ronald Colman, Madame Defarge is a rather haggard and plain-faced woman, with dark circles beneath her eyes, whose grim appearance contrasts with the fair complexion and rosy lips of the beautiful Lucie.

This change in the visual representation of Madame Defarge denotes a cultural shift in the construction of female subjectivity from the nineteenth to the twentieth century, and highlights Defarge's function in the novel. As a crucial part of the novel's effort to solve the problems posed by the Revolution, Madame Defarge serves as the monstrous female 'other' against which the norms of Victorian middle-class femininity and domesticity can be invoked. She is characterized as dangerously sexual and violent, oblivious of her wifely role and domestic responsibilities, lacking the feminine virtues of meekness, compassion and purity shown by Lucie and ominously intimate with like-minded women. All of these traits are informed by a Victorian middle-class conception of female subjectivity. Later representations showing Madame Defarge as a witch provide evidence of a historical change in the significance of femininity and domesticity as a cultural norms. "In order to continue serving as the 'other' woman, Madame Defarge is represented as old, ugly and deformed, because overt sexual attractiveness, assertiveness and freedom from convention have become attributes of the new twentieth-century heroine.


message 16: by Kim (last edited Jul 18, 2022 08:34AM) (new)

Kim .........In fact, in this final illustration of these champions of traditional (English) and radicalized (French) societies, Furniss has depicted these combatants in a manner quite inconsistent with his earlier representations of them: in Miss Manette and Mr. Lorry Interrupted and Doctor Manette's 'Old Companion' Furniss underscores Miss Pross's propensity to act rather than passively acquiesce in male decisions, but the slight if somewhat assertive servant in these earlier illustrations bears little resemblance to the powerful wrestler here. In many ways, it seems as if Furniss has derived this British bulldog version of Miss Pross directly from Fred Barnard, who from the first regards Miss Pross's assertiveness in the scene at the Royal George as a sign of her masculine character, so that he introduces her not as the "slight," and generally somewhat timid servant-woman of Phiz's illustrations, but as a large, strong-boned, broad-shouldered woman with masculinised facial features in And smoothing her rich hair with as much pride as she could possibly have taken in her own hair if she had been the vainest and handsomest of women, the illustration accompanying Book the Second, "The Golden Thread," Chapter 6, "Hundreds of People." Since Barnard depicts Miss Pross only twice, he initially suggests that she is both feminine (a surrogate mother who is taking pride in her adopted child's golden hair) and masculine (physically as well as emotionally domineering) in order later on to make her more plausible as a match for the French termagant, who is both a far cry from his own coolly competent community organizer of Saint Antoine in "Still Knitting" and Phiz's original conception of a beautiful, demure knitter who is blonde Lucie Manette's brunette doppelganger in Phiz's wine-shop scenes and the monthly wrapper:

Madame Defarge in "The Wine-Shop" resembles Lucie "After the Sentence" and during "The Knock at the Door"; Lucie's expressions are naturally quite different, but the features of the two women are quite similar — both women are young and attractive. What appear to be mirror images of the two women are placed opposite each other on the wrapper of the original edition.

Whereas Phiz is able to maintain Madame Derfarge's fine, female figure in The Sea Rises, his title for the violent post-Bastille scene in which the Saint Antoine mob, whipped up to a frenzy by Madame Defarge and her companion, The Vengeance, abuse and then hang Foulon, functionary of the ancient régime, Barnard wisely decides to leave the fair publican out of the picture altogether. Thus, we can put Furniss's depiction of the mighty female adversaries as the novel's concluding illustration (rather than the scene of Carton disguised as Darnay on the public scaffold, which Furniss has strategically made the frontispiece in order to end his visual program on a note of triumph rather than of tragedy) in the context of the Household Edition volume of 1874, in which the ultimate and therefore climatic illustration focuses on the sacrifice of Sydney Carton in The Third Tumbrel rather than the accidental triumph of Miss Pross's English tenacity and devotion to a living family over Madame Defarge's French passion and commitment to seeking vengeance for those destroyed by an oppressive system and the vicious sociopaths whom it has fostered. Only in Furniss's sequence when she shifts from feminine plotting and enabling masculine action to becoming an active abettor of institutional injustice and class warfare does Furniss transform her from the determined but not unattractive petite bourgeois of The Fountain — An Allegory and Still Knitting into the formidable wrestler (still wearing her tricolor rosette, but now on a Phrygian cap) with the masculine profile and kinetically charged, lean body that occupies most of the frame as she determinedly attempts to push her English opponent out of the frame.


message 17: by Kim (last edited Jul 18, 2022 08:38AM) (new)

Kim

"Sydney Carton on the Scaffold"

Book III Chapter 15

Harry Furniss

Charles Dickens Library Edition 1910

Text Illustrated:

"She kisses his lips; he kisses hers; they solemnly bless each other. The spare hand does not tremble as he releases it; nothing worse than a sweet, bright constancy is in the patient face. She goes next before him — is gone; the knitting-women count Twenty-Two.

"I am the Resurrection and the Life, saith the Lord: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: and whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die."

The murmuring of many voices, the upturning of many faces, the pressing on of many footsteps in the outskirts of the crowd, so that it swells forward in a mass, like one great heave of water, all flashes away. Twenty-Three.

They said of him, about the city that night, that it was the peacefullest man's face ever beheld there. Many added that he looked sublime and prophetic. . . . .

"It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to, than I have ever known."


Commentary:

In the 1910 Charles Dickens Library Edition, Harry Furniss prepares the reader for (or reminds the reader of) the story's climax, when Carton nobly offers himself up as a sacrifice to the blood-thirsty revolution in place of the marked enemy of Madame Defarge, Charles Darnay.

Even though A Tale of Two Cities initially appeared in weekly installments in Dickens's weekly journal All the Year Round without the benefit of illustration, Furniss nevertheless had two sets of competent illustrations available as references, even if he had not seen the work of American illustrators Sol Eytinge, Junior and John McLenan dating from the 1860s: the sixteen steel engravings in the monthly parts illustrated by Hablot Knight Browne and the twenty-five 1874 wood-engravings by Fred Barnard for the Household Edition — to say nothing of the Barnard study of Carton on the scaffold from 1879 for his first series of Character Sketches from Dickens, a version of which, by Toulouse Lautrec admirer John Hassall served to advertise Sir John Martin-Harvey's highly successful stage adaptation The Only Way at London's Lyceum Theatre (which debuted on 16 February 1899, ran until 25 March 1899 with 168 performances, and was revived some ten times in London up to 1909). And issued just five years earlier than Furniss's edition, the Collins Pocket Edition offered Furniss realistic lithographs as reference points, there being two illustrations of Carton's final moments in that series. Thus, the influences at work in Furniss's frontispiece are legion.

To bolster the circulation of All the Year Round in its opening number, 30 April 1859, Charles Dickens did more than begin with one of his own novels in weekly serialization: he decided to experiment with simultaneous weekly numbers and monthly, illustrated parts. When the sales of the monthly installments disappointed him, Dickens refused to blame himself for undercutting the monthly sales, and instead blamed his long-time friend and illustrator, Hablot Knight Browne, for shoddy, hurried work. In fact, as in 1854, he had written the type of serialization he detested, a slighter novel in compact weekly numbers (30 April-26 November), and had failed to provide his illustrator with adequate guidance and oversight — hardly a problem with his tenth full-length work, Hard Times, which appeared weekly without illustration in Household Words and was in fact without illustration until the Fred Walker wood-engravings in the Illustrated Library Edition of 1868.

In America, there were two editions which British readers likely never saw, the work of American illustrators Sol Eytinge, Junior and John McLenan dating from the 1860s. Ticknor and Fields' slender Diamond Edition volume, published to coincide with Dickens's second visit to American shores, features an equally spare frontispiece of Sydney Carton and the Little Seamstress, a realistic rather than a sentimental rendering with a single, phlegmatic Jacobin guard and no howling mob.

In contrast, Furniss de-contextualizes the solitary Carton, drawing attention to his resigned expression and hopeful glance heavenward, his only companion on the scaffold being the uniformed soldier. The vengeance and other denizens of St. Antoine, yearning to see the blood of St. Evremonde spilled, are nowhere in evidence, and there is no indication that the physical setting is the present Place de la Concorde, formerly Place Louis XV, but called the Place de de la Revolution during in the notorious Reign of Terror (the backdrop historically for the third book of A Tale of Two Cities), which swept away some 1300 lives under the blade of the guillotine erected there in a single month of the summer of 1794. Impressionistic-ally, Furniss gives a vague block of building on the horizon (left) for one of two magnificent buildings in the background (on either side the Rue Royale), then the Ministry of the Navy and the residence of the Duc D'Aumont. The octagonal square, gardens, moat, bridge traversing the Seine at this point (Le Pont de la Concorde, 1787-1790), and magnificent stone buildings in fact occur in none of the illustrations of Carton in the third tumbrel and on the scaffold.

Since the success of Carton's plan ultimately is contingent upon nobody's penetrating his disguise as the erstwhile Marquis St. Evremonde, from the very opening of the novel Dickens underscores the uncanny resemblance of Carton and Darnay. Hence, in illustrating the trial at the Old Bailey Furniss emphasizes the similarity in the profiles of the profligate barrister and the high-minded French emigré charged with espionage. Thus, the initial illustration, showing Carton in profile, foreshadows The Likeness in Court. Moreover, Furniss subtly draws the reader's attention to the resemblance between the two in the upper-right corner of the ornamented title-page, where Darnay faces charges in the revolutionary tribunal, and the dissolute Carton in the upper-left corner of that same page. Carton's clothing in the frontispiece is identical to that worn by Darnay in the thumbnail vignette of the French courtroom scene because Carton has, of course, appropriated his double's clothes.

In the Furniss illustration, on a gloomy day, apparently near sunset, an institutional tower — a church or fortress prison such as the La Force dominates the skyline, representing the repressive system that demands new institutions be baptized in the blood of sacrificial victims. Sydney Carton, formerly a man without purpose, now looks heavenward, as in Fred Barnard's celebrated 1879 character study, as a uniformed guard (right)( turns away from him to face what the reader presumes are the spectators, although Furniss has included none and the reader in imagination must supply the howling denizens of St. Antoine. Clearly Furniss has rejected the patient realism of the Sixties style, exemplified by Eytinge and Barnard, as well as the caricature of the earlier period of Victorian illustration as exemplified by Phiz and McLenan. What matters is the received impression of heroic self-sacrifice as the reader focuses on the soldier's massive sabre and the bound wrists of the captive. Here no mob (as in Barnard's Household Edition illustration The Third Tumbrel) excoriates and derides the heretofore Marquis St. Evremonde; here, no device of mass execution stands ready for its latest victim; here, no dingy patriot phlegmatically smokes his pipe as he drives the cart towards the place of execution, ignoring alike his passengers and the seething mob; here, no tender, young innocent keeps Carton company until his final moments. Carton is alone, but for the soldier and the ominous horizon. Furniss's choice of this scene for the frontispiece suggests that the illustrator was well aware of his readers' general familiarity with Dickens's tale and the culminating scene of Carton's judicial murder.

Unlike illustrator A. A. Dixon five years earlier, Furniss feels no need to delineate the specifics of the scene with historical accuracy: the executioner and his assistant, the urban backdrop, and even the guillotine given such prominence by Dixon are not present. Furniss draws the reader's eye to the face and form of the courageous young Englishman, facing an unjust and arbitrary fate in order to spare his beloved Lucie's husband and ensure their future happiness across the water. There is no maudlin sentimentality in Furniss's treatment, no exploitation of the tender emotions conjured textually by the little seamstress, who appears in Eytinge's and McLenan's sequences. Whereas McLenan's visualization of Carton's final moments is embedded in the vary passage on the page of Harper's, Eytinge's and Furniss's images as frontispieces are separated from the textual passage realized as they remind the reader of the trajectory of the novel, highlighting not merely Carton's self-sacrifice but his development as a character from dissipated wastrel to romantic hero.

(This illustration was also the title page for the 1910 Library Edition of Dickens works. I wonder what the readers thought when this was the first thing they saw.)


message 18: by Kim (last edited Jul 18, 2022 08:40AM) (new)

Kim

Sydney Carton and The Seamstress

Sol Eytinge Jr.

Frontispiece

The Diamond Edition 1867

Commentary:

This frontispiece, which was also first full-page illustration in the 1867 Ticknor and Fields A Tale of Two Cities, differs from those that follow because it has an urban backdrop that conveys, if ever so sketchily, the revolutionary events that form the novel's historical context. The moment realized is likely this in the very last chapter:

"The supposed Evremonde descends, and the seamstress is lifted out next after him. He has not relinquished her patient hand in getting out, but still holds it as he promised. He gently places her with her back to the crashing engine that constantly whirs up and falls, and she looks into his face and thanks him.

"But for you, dear stranger, I should not be so composed, for I am naturally a poor little thing, faint of heart; nor should I have been able to raise my thoughts to Him who was put to death, that we might have hope and comfort here today. I think you were sent to me by Heaven."

"Or you to me," says Sydney Carton. "Keep your eyes upon me, dear child, and mind no other object."

"I mind nothing while I hold your hand. I shall mind nothing when I let it go, if they are rapid."

"They will be rapid. Fear not!"

The two stand in the fast-thinning throng of victims, but they speak as if they were alone. Eye to eye, voice to voice, hand to hand, heart to heart, these two children of the Universal Mother, else so wide apart and differing, have come together on the dark highway, to repair home together, and to rest in her bosom."



"In "Sydney Carton and The Seamstress," a full-page dual character study in the compact American publication, a bearded Jacobin, arms crossed as if waiting, regards the couple, who seem oblivious to the context of their meeting, their impending execution at la place de la guillotine. Apparently they are already on the platform, if we may judge by the myriad of anonymous heads in the left-hand register. Perhaps inserted for the sake of irony, the spires of a Gothic church tower rise in the background, the only distinct feature of the urban setting. For Eytinge, a student of human nature, nothing must distract the reader from the focus of the scene, the moment of tenderness in the face of certain death, and so the illustrator has omitted even the instrument of their execution to realize Carton, dressed in the fashion of the young Marquis Ste. Evremonde, Charles Darnay (with whom he has exchanged clothes) and the simply dressed seamstress, her her tumbling down her back."


message 19: by Hilary (new)

Hilary (agapoyesoun) Thank you for the fabulous illustrations, Kim. I can actually see them on the tablet! I just noticed how McLenan draws his eyes almost identically; for men and for women. I'm sure that there are many other such features to be found. Fascinating!


message 20: by Linda (new)

Linda | 712 comments Thank you again for the illustrations, Kim. I like how Furniss chose to depict the action in the scene with Miss Pross and Madame Defarge.

I also think that Barnard's depiction of Carton and the seamstress captured the scene well, where they are so close in conversation with one another that they don't bother to notice the throngs of people watching the victims wheel by. It's depressing to see that there is a woman in the crowd of people who brought her infant to the day's executions.


message 21: by Peter (last edited Oct 18, 2016 11:59AM) (new)

Peter A feast for the eyes. Thank you Kim!

In answer to your question regarding the Furniss illustration I think the readers would sense the gloom and doom, and yet see a noble figure, standing tall, overlooking a moody indistinguishable background. But it is all about the stance, the nobility, the presence. Dickens at his finest. ... the individual facing the unknown, but with dignity and faith.

In one of the commentaries there is a mention that Dickens thought Browne's work was, of late, "shoddy, hurried work." Well, the illustrations looked good to me. In fact, they seemed, in places, to be cleaner, less cluttered. Somewhere in the back of my fluff-filled mind I recall that one of the reasons for the falling out of Browne and Dickens was the fact that Browne disagreed with Dickens's recent marital problems and how Dickens was conducting himself and spoke out against Dickens's conduct.

I really liked Fred Barnard's Tumbrel illustration III 15. Says it all, doesn't it?

My other favourites were both Harry Furniss, which by now should be no surprise. His III 13 chiaroscuro prison scene is powerful. The darkness that is to happen to the prisoners, the light of Carton. The other Furniss that I found most effective was the fight between Defarge and Pross (III 14). In the front centre of the illustration is the shattered bowl. So much has been broken, hasn't it? The lives of families, the minds of individuals, the rules of law, the social conventions of civility. All broken. Furniss places the women behind the bowl. Will good or evil finally triumph? What is the ostof victory? We learn that Good (England) defeats Evil but the cost is high for all. Death and deafness. Pyrrhic victories.
.


message 22: by Hilary (new)

Hilary (agapoyesoun) Something came to mind, Linda, when you mentioned the child being brought on a 'day out', as it were, to see the execution. There is that horrible morbid curiosity that people in those far-off days were happy to demonstrate. Warning: please do not read unless you have your 'black humour cap' firmly in place...

It took place in Ireland; in County Derry in particular. This is where I grew up and it is filled with many such worthy happenings. The story is told of a man who is running breathlessly to be part of the spectacle that is public execution. He is late and tries to run faster and faster to make up for lost time. He practically punctures a lung in his efforts, but alas he is late and misses the day's entertainment. Another spectator who has not been so unlucky sympathises with said gentleman. His commiseration is tantamount to gloating. Our
unfortunate friend who finding his heckles to be somewhat raised, shouts aloud "I don't care, I don't care anyway! I seen a man drownded in the Foyle as I passed!"


message 23: by Tristram (new)

Tristram Shandy My black humour cap must fit me admirably for I found that story dead funny, Hilary. That poor guy who had to make up his mind whether to watch that drowning man and risk missing the execution ;-)

Still, the question remains why people in the old days (and I think most modern people would also do this if they had a chance) went to executions to "enjoy" the ghastly spectacle. In some cases, e.g. with criminals who have incurred public wrath and disgust because of their atrocious deeds it is probably the desire for vengeance but in many other cases it is sensationalism but maybe also a strange fascination with death. And in an execution you will witness death in a rather unusual form, viz. the organized and staged death of a person who could have lived on. Maybe the spectators reassure themselves of their own ability to live on, their outliving somebody else giving them a crude sense of power, of being better off? So, in a way, it's generally not cruelty but the desire to come to grips with mortality that makes people watch executions?


message 24: by Tristram (new)

Tristram Shandy Thank you, Kim, for all those illustrations and the recaps! I am back now, and will, as far as I know, undertake no other great trips before next summer.

You were asking the question why the revolutionaries would kill all those people. Dickens does not really give a conclusive answer here, nor does he really attempt to do so. Instead, everything seems to be boiling down to the wrath of those who had been trodden under foot so long knowing no natural limits, and in a way, much of the terror we experience here seems to be brought about by people like Mme Defarge.

I'd say, though, that the problem lay in the radicalization of the petty bourgeois urban masses, which the Jacobins risked in order to rise to power. Once in charge of events, however, the Jacobins had to fuel the "enthusiasm" of those whose interests they pretended or claimed to represent, and the result was a radicalization of the public, the stress of "equality" at the expense of "liberty", and public paranoia. And yes, this would lead to absurd laws as forbidding people to mourn for those who were executed as "enemies of the republic". When you look at Stalinist Socialism, you will find similar mechanisms.

Dickens's rather conservative stance would see the problem in a lack of traditional regulating powers, and he would, of course, moralize instead of analyzing.


message 25: by Tristram (last edited Oct 19, 2016 11:02AM) (new)

Tristram Shandy I was very much fascinated with what we could learn about the change in depicting Mme Defarge this week, and how this was said to have to do with a change in perceiving gender roles.

I am with Phiz and his depiction of Mme Defarge as a young and good-looking woman, maybe of a somewhat sterner beauty. Whereas Lucie has golden tresses (and not much else to recommend her), Mme Defarge is, of course, a dark-haired woman, a pattern that every one who saw movies like John Ford's "Tombstone" and Zinneman's "High Noon) might be familiar with. As I mentioned in an earlier thread, I find it very essential that Mme Defarge is no ugly termagant, and I would still want to add that her youth and beauty give the character more depth. After all, Mme Defarge must have lived through terrible experiences when she was younger, and in a way, we can understand her thirst for retribution even though we cannot understand the extent to which she carries it (or allows herself to be carried by it). She is no cardboard villain and therefore should be no caricature (that's probably what most illustrators after Phiz made her, though).

I cannot agree, however, which the reflexions as to how different gender roles made the illustrators depart from Phiz's idea of Mme Defarge as a beauty. If she reflected a violation of the (Victorian) female roles in that she mixes with politics, takes the initiative over her husband, uses male weapons (which will eventually lead to her death) and shows more determination than her husband, if all that is not in line with how Victorians liked their female protagonists and ideals, then would it not have been more logical for Phiz to have depicted her as hag-like? Whereas, if the early 20th century took a more liberal view of "female" virtues (and would not have seen Mme Defarge as a negation of everything feminine), would it not have been more conclusive for illustrators to have depicted her as beautiful?

What I am trying to say is that I don't think that gender roles (although it is interesting to study them with regard to Dickens and his contemporaries) will help us to understand why illustrators have made Mme Defarge uglier and uglier.


message 26: by Tristram (new)

Tristram Shandy There is another thing that struck me about Mme Defarge: When she is plotting, together with her friend Vengeance and Jacques Three, the annihilation of Lucie, her child and her father, and when she says that her husband is too faint-hearted, she is not just Lady-Macbeth-like (as was said in one of the above comments). She also carelessly risks the destruction of her own husband because in a political and social climate fuelled by distrust and fanaticism, any leniency toward the "enemy" will probably be regarded as a sign of the lenient person being in league with the "enemy". So, if Mme Defarge says that her husband will not comply with having the Doctor and his daughter as well as the child executed, she actually implies that Defarge is not fully loyal to the Republic. And this is his potential death warrant, a fact that she must know perfectly well.

We can see how far her hatred has driven her. By the way, I looked up the name Therese (which is Mme Defarge's first name), and one of the things it means is ... the hunter. Befitting, isn't it?


message 27: by Tristram (new)

Tristram Shandy We will probably talk more about the Resurrection Motif and about Sydney Carton's reasons for sacrificing himself when we talk about the novel as a whole ... although saying that, I don't want to forestall any discussion of this topic if you feel so inclined. One of the things, however, that I find difficult to stomach somehow is ...

... and I am saying this, of course, also in my quality as Grump and Fault-finder, so I hope I won't destroy anybody's personal appreciation of the novel ...

that seamstress episode. I can see why Dickens chose that seamstress - and we might talk about that in our concluding thread - but stil I thought that it destroyed the realism of the novel. The seamstress made it all too sentimental to be true and, at least to my taste, to be really convincing. This is just my personal impression, mind you! Peter said that there are people who call Dickens Mr. Sentimentality, and it is a character like the seamstress and everything to do with it that makes me see why people would bestow such a name on the Inimitable.

I don't know if anybody here likes Dostoevsky ... I think that Dostoevsky is far better at creating a sad and moving atmosphere than Dickens, who often puts in too much pathos.

Maybe, I'd better run for cover now ;-)


message 28: by Tristram (new)

Tristram Shandy Peter,
thanks for sharing your idea about Darnay's first son and why he has to die in such an unspectacular manner. What you say makes sense to me ... although I would still ask myself why there was a first son in the first place, even though the reason you give for that also makes sense: Dickens couldn't resist the idea of foreshadowing loss and despair.


message 29: by Linda (new)

Linda | 712 comments Tristram wrote: "Still, the question remains why people in the old days (and I think most modern people would also do this if they had a chance) went to executions to "enjoy" the ghastly spectacle....Maybe the spectators reassure themselves of their own ability to live on, their outliving somebody else giving them a crude sense of power, of being better off? So, in a way, it's generally not cruelty but the desire to come to grips with mortality that makes people watch executions?"

I think that's a quite reasonable explanation, Tristram. Especially in a time where so much death and horrible circumstances surround, it's reassuring to know that you're not the one on the chopping block at that moment.


message 30: by Linda (new)

Linda | 712 comments Tristram wrote: "By the way, I looked up the name Therese (which is Mme Defarge's first name), and one of the things it means is ... the hunter. Befitting, isn't it? "

Oh, yes! That fits Madame Defarge to a T.


message 31: by Hilary (new)

Hilary (agapoyesoun) Yes Tristram, that is chilling! That woman still gives me nightmares!


message 32: by Cindy (new)

Cindy Newton | 11 comments Kim wrote: "There is much interest in seeing Darnay (Carton) and he is often pointed out by the guards, but he pays no attention to them and only talks to the girl sitting next to him holding his hand. During all this interest in Carton - well, Darnay they think, called Evremonde by these people, I am confused as to why he is so much more interesting than the others, after all they must all be guilty of something or they wouldn't be cutting the heads off of 52 people...."

I could be wrong, but I think the heightened interest in Darnay's (Carton) execution is due to his social status and the reputation of his family. Dickens took pains to establish the fact that the Evremonde family was notorious for its cruelty and was despised for it. Their past misdeeds would have put them high on the Republic's "most wanted" list.

Also, by this time, the new Republic was running short of authentic aristocrats. Their zealousness in hunting them down and doing away with them had thinned their ranks considerably; that's one reason why Carton is accompanied by the little seamstress. She's indicative of who they were reduced to executing these days--average citizens and petty offenders. Darnay was a feather in their cap, and they were excited to once again be spilling noble blood.

Tristram commented, and I tend to agree, that Dickens is fond of melodrama. I do believe that I can hear the violins sobbing in the background as Carton's last scene plays out. Perhaps Victorians had a penchant for bathos? The shameless tear-jerking aside, I love the grandness of the ending. I hate seeing Carton die, but it is, to me, the only right ending to the story. This final act is Carton's redemption, and in one fell swoop he is transformed from an unhappy, directionless underachiever to a selfless hero who saves several people (whom he believes more deserving than himself), one of whom is a child, and is also able to prove the depth of his love to the only person who matters to him.

I love Dicken's philosophical observations, and his insight into the human condition is so spot-on. The glimpse he gives us into the future and the way Sydney's legacy lives on is balm to our wounded hearts. TOTC is a book full of sorrow and loss, but also of hope and the triumph of love over evil, and the human spirit over oppression.


message 33: by Tristram (new)

Tristram Shandy Cindy,
what you say in the last two paragraphs of your previous post has been going around in my head for some days now, and I still do not really know what to make of it. However, as it has to do with what I think is one of the central aspects of the novel, I will not get into it right here but in the thread I am going to open in the course of the day, the one about the novel as a whole.


message 34: by Cindy (new)

Cindy Newton | 11 comments Tristram wrote: "Cindy,
what you say in the last two paragraphs of your previous post has been going around in my head for some days now, and I still do not really know what to make of it. However, as it has to do ..."


Sorry if I posted anything in the wrong thread! I forgot that you were going to open a section for the book as a whole.


message 35: by Tristram (new)

Tristram Shandy No reason for you to apologise. We can discuss this in either thread. It's just I have already opened the discussion there - after your post.


back to top