A Tale of Two Cities (1859) is a historical novel by Charles Dickens, set in London and Paris before and during the French Revolution. The novel tells the story of the French Doctor Manette, his 18-year-long imprisonment in the Bastille in Paris and his release to live in London with his daughter Lucie, whom he had never met. The story is set against the conditions that led up to the French Revolution and the Reign of Terror.
|A Tale of Two Cities|
Cover of serial Vol. V, 1859
|Illustrator||Hablot Knight Browne (Phiz)|
|Cover artist||Hablot Knight Browne (Phiz)|
|Published||Weekly serial April – November 1859|
|Publisher||London: Chapman & Hall|
|Pages||341 pages (Paperback)|
|Preceded by||Little Dorrit (1855–1857)|
|Followed by||Great Expectations (1860–1861)|
Dickens' famous opening sentence introduces the universal approach of the book, the French Revolution, and the drama depicted within:
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way—in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.
In 1775, a man flags down the nightly mail-coach on its route from London to Dover. The man is Jerry Cruncher, an employee of Tellson's Bank in London; he carries a message for Jarvis Lorry, a passenger and one of the bank's managers. Lorry sends Jerry back to deliver a cryptic response to the bank: "Recalled to Life." The message refers to Alexandre Manette, a French physician who has been released from the Bastille after an 18-year imprisonment. Once Lorry arrives in Dover, he meets with Dr. Manette's daughter Lucie and her governess, Miss Pross. Lucie has believed her father to be dead, and faints at the news that he is alive; Lorry takes her to France to reunite with her father.
In the Paris neighbourhood of Saint Antoine, Dr. Manette has been given lodgings by his former servant Ernest Defarge and his wife Therese, owners of a wine shop. Lorry and Lucie find him in a small garret, where he spends much of his time making shoes - a skill he learned in prison - which he uses to distract himself from his thoughts and which has become an obsession for him. He does not recognise Lucie at first but does eventually see the resemblance to her mother through her blue eyes and long golden hair, a strand of which he found on his sleeve when he was imprisoned. Lorry and Lucie take him back to England.
In 1780, French émigré Charles Darnay is on trial for treason against the British Crown. The key witnesses against him are two British spies, John Barsad and Roger Cly, who claim that Darnay gave information about British troops in North America to the French. Barsad states that he would recognise Darnay anywhere. Up to this point, Barsad has been grilled by Mr. Stryver while Darnay's other barrister, Sydney Carton, has remained silent and almost aloof from the proceedings. Carton quietly passes a written note to Stryver, whereupon Stryver draws Barsad's attention to the remarkable facial resemblance between Carton and Darnay. Barsad has to admit that indeed the two men look almost identical. With Barsad's eyewitness testimony now discredited, Darnay is acquitted.
In Paris, the hated and abusive Marquis St. Evrémonde orders his carriage driven recklessly fast through the crowded streets, hitting and killing the child of Gaspard in Saint Antoine. The Marquis throws a coin to Gaspard to compensate him for his loss. Defarge, having observed the incident, comes forth to comfort the distraught father, saying the child would be worse off alive. This piece of wisdom pleases the Marquis, who throws a coin to Defarge also. As the Marquis departs, a coin is flung back into his carriage.
Arriving at his country château, the Marquis meets with his nephew and heir, Darnay. Out of disgust with his aristocratic family, Darnay has shed his real surname and adopted an anglicized version of his mother's maiden name, D'Aulnais. The following passage records the Marquis' principles of aristocratic superiority:
"Repression is the only lasting philosophy. The dark deference of fear and slavery, my friend," observed the Marquis, "will keep the dogs obedient to the whip, as long as this roof," looking up to it, "shuts out the sky."
That night, Gaspard, who followed the Marquis to his château by riding on the underside of the carriage, stabs and kills him in his sleep. Gaspard leaves a note on the knife saying, "Drive him fast to his tomb. This, from JACQUES." After nearly a year on the run, he is caught and hanged above the village well.
In London, Darnay gets Dr. Manette's permission to wed Lucie; but Carton confesses his love to Lucie as well. Knowing she will not love him in return, Carton promises to "embrace any sacrifice for you and for those dear to you". Stryver, the barrister who defended Darnay and with whom Carton has a working relationship, considers proposing marriage to Lucie, but Lorry talks him out of the idea.
On the morning of the marriage, Darnay reveals his real name and family lineage to Dr. Manette, a detail he had been asked to withhold until that day. In consequence, Dr. Manette reverts to his obsessive shoemaking after the couple leave for their honeymoon. He returns to sanity before their return, and the whole incident is kept secret from Lucie. Lorry and Miss Pross destroy the shoemaking bench and tools, which Dr. Manette had brought with him from Paris.
As time passes in England, Lucie and Charles begin to raise a family, a son (who dies in childhood) and a daughter, little Lucie. Lorry finds a second home and a sort of family with the Darnays. Stryver marries a rich widow with three children and becomes even more insufferable as his ambitions begin to be realized. Carton, even though he seldom visits, is accepted as a close friend of the family and becomes a special favourite of little Lucie.
In July 1789, the Defarges help to lead the storming of the Bastille, a symbol of royal tyranny. Defarge enters Dr. Manette's former cell, "One Hundred and Five, North Tower," and searches it thoroughly. Throughout the countryside, local officials and other representatives of the aristocracy are dragged from their homes to be killed, and the St. Evrémonde château is burned to the ground.
In 1792, Lorry decides to travel to Paris to collect important documents from the Tellson's branch in that city and bring them to London for safekeeping against the chaos of the French Revolution. Darnay intercepts a letter written by Gabelle, one of his uncle's servants who has been imprisoned by the revolutionaries, pleading for the Marquis to help secure his release. Without telling his family or revealing his position as the new Marquis, Darnay sets out for Paris.
Shortly after Darnay arrives in Paris, he is denounced for being an emigrated aristocrat from France and jailed in La Force Prison. Dr. Manette, Lucie, little Lucie, Jerry, and Miss Pross travel to Paris and meet Lorry to try to free Darnay. A year and three months pass, and Darnay is finally tried.
Dr Manette, viewed as a hero for his imprisonment in the Bastille, testifies on Darnay's behalf at his trial. Darnay is released, only to be arrested again later that day. A new trial begins on the following day, under new charges brought by the Defarges and a third individual who is soon revealed as Dr Manette. He had written an account of his imprisonment at the hands of Darnay's father and hidden it in his cell; Defarge found it while searching the cell during the storming of the Bastille.
While running errands with Jerry, Miss Pross is amazed to see her long-lost brother Solomon, but he does not want to be recognized in public. Carton suddenly steps forward from the shadows and identifies Solomon as Barsad, one of the spies who tried to frame Darnay for treason at his trial in 1780. Jerry remembers that he has seen Solomon with Cly, the other key witness at the trial and that Cly had faked his death to escape England. By threatening to denounce Solomon to the revolutionary tribunal as a Briton, Carton blackmails him into helping with a plan.
At the tribunal, Defarge identifies Darnay as the nephew of the dead Marquis St. Evrémonde and reads Dr Manette's letter. Defarge had learned Darnay's lineage from Solomon during the latter's visit to the wine shop several years earlier. The letter describes Dr Manette's imprisonment at the hands of Darnay's father and uncle for trying to report their crimes against a peasant family. Darnay's uncle had become infatuated with a girl, whom he had kidnapped and raped; despite Dr. Manette's attempt to save her, she died. The uncle killed her husband by working him to death, and her father died from a heart attack on being informed of what had happened. Before he died defending the family honour, the brother of the raped peasant had hidden the last member of the family, his younger sister. The Evrémonde brothers imprisoned Dr. Manette after he refused their offer of a bribe to keep quiet. He concludes his letter by condemning the Evrémondes, "them and their descendants, to the last of their race." Dr. Manette is horrified, but he is not allowed to retract his statement. Darnay is sent to the Conciergerie and sentenced to be guillotined the next day.
Carton wanders into the Defarge's wine shop, where he overhears Madame Defarge talking about her plans to have both Lucie and little Lucie condemned. Carton discovers that Madame Defarge was the surviving sister of the peasant family savaged by the Evrémondes. At night, when Dr. Manette returns, shattered after spending the day in many failed attempts to save Darnay's life, he falls into an obsessive search for his shoemaking implements. Carton urges Lorry to flee Paris with Lucie, her father, and Little Lucie, asking them to leave as soon as he joins.
Shortly before the executions are to begin, Solomon sneaks Carton into the prison for a visit with Darnay. The two men trade clothes, and Carton drugs Darnay and has Solomon carry him out. Carton has decided to be executed in his place, which he is able to do because of their similar appearances, and has given his own identification papers to Lorry to present on Darnay's behalf. Following Carton's earlier instructions, the family and Lorry flee to England with the unconscious Darnay, who slowly comes to consciousness as they travel by stages to cross the waters to England.
Meanwhile, Madame Defarge, armed with a dagger and pistol, goes to the Manette residence, hoping to apprehend Lucie and little Lucie and bring them in for execution. However, the family is already gone and Miss Pross stays behind to confront and delay Madame Defarge. As the two women struggle, Madame Defarge's pistol discharges, killing her and causing Miss Pross to go permanently deaf from noise and shock.
The novel concludes with the guillotining of Carton. As he is waiting to board the tumbril, he is approached by a seamstress, also condemned to death, who mistakes him for Darnay (with whom she had been imprisoned earlier) but realises the truth once she sees him at close range. Awed by his unselfish courage and sacrifice, she asks to stay close to him and he agrees. Upon their arrival at the guillotine, Carton comforts her, telling her that their ends will be quick but that there is no Time or Trouble "in the better land where ... [they] will be mercifully sheltered", and she is able to meet her death in peace. After Carton tearfully hears the execution of the seamstress, his final thoughts flash in his mind as he is pushed towards the slot where the blade would fall. Carton's unspoken last thoughts are prophetic:
I see Barsad, and Cly, Defarge, The Vengeance [a lieutenant of Madame Defarge], 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 [Lorry], 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.
In order of appearance:
While performing in The Frozen Deep, Dickens was given a play to read called The Dead Heart by Watts Phillips which had the historical setting, the basic storyline, and the climax that Dickens used in A Tale of Two Cities. The play was produced while A Tale of Two Cities was being serialized in All the Year Round and led to talk of plagiarism.
Other sources are The French Revolution: A History by Thomas Carlyle (especially important for the novel's rhetoric and symbolism); Zanoni by Edward Bulwer-Lytton; The Castle Spector by Matthew Lewis; Travels in France by Arthur Young; and Tableau de Paris by Louis-Sébastien Mercier. Dickens also used material from an account of imprisonment during the Terror by Beaumarchais, and records of the trial of a French spy published in The Annual Register.
The 45-chapter novel was published in 31 weekly instalments in Dickens' new literary periodical titled All the Year Round. From April 1859 to November 1859, Dickens also republished the chapters as eight monthly sections in green covers. All but three of Dickens' previous novels had appeared as monthly instalments prior to publication as books. The first weekly instalment of A Tale of Two Cities ran in the first issue of All the Year Round on 30 April 1859. The last ran thirty weeks later, on 26 November.
Dickens uses literal translations of French idioms for characters who cannot speak English, such as "What the devil do you do in that galley there?!!" and "Where is my wife? ---Here you see me." The Penguin Classics edition of the novel notes that "Not all readers have regarded the experiment as a success."
J. L. Borges quipped: "Dickens lived in London. In his book A Tale of Two Cities, based on the French Revolution, we see that he really could not write a tale of two cities. He was a resident of just one city: London."
In Dickens' England, resurrection always sat firmly in a Christian context. Most broadly, Sydney Carton is resurrected in spirit at the novel's close (even as he, paradoxically, gives up his physical life to save Darnay's.) More concretely, "Book the First" deals with the rebirth of Dr. Manette from the living death of his incarceration.
Resurrection appears for the first time when Mr. Lorry replies to the message carried by Jerry Cruncher with the words "Recalled to Life". Resurrection also appears during Mr. Lorry's coach ride to Dover, as he constantly ponders a hypothetical conversation with Dr. Manette: ("Buried how long?" "Almost eighteen years." ... "You know that you are recalled to life?" "They tell me so.") He believes he is helping with Dr. Manette's revival and imagines himself "digging" up Dr. Manette from his grave.
Resurrection is a major theme in the novel. In Jarvis Lorry's thoughts of Dr. Manette, resurrection is first spotted as a theme. It is also the last theme: Carton's sacrifice. Dickens originally wanted to call the entire novel Recalled to Life. (This instead became the title of the first of the novel's three "books".) Jerry is also part of the recurring theme: he himself is involved in death and resurrection in ways the reader does not yet know. The first piece of foreshadowing comes in his remark to himself: "You'd be in a blazing bad way, if recalling to life was to come into fashion, Jerry!" The black humour of this statement becomes obvious only much later on. Five years later, one cloudy and very dark night (in June 1780), Mr. Lorry reawakens the reader's interest in the mystery by telling Jerry it is "Almost a night ... to bring the dead out of their graves". Jerry responds firmly that he has never seen the night do that.
It turns out that Jerry Cruncher's involvement with the theme of resurrection is that he is what the Victorians called a "Resurrection Man", one who (illegally) digs up dead bodies to sell to medical men (there was no legal way to procure cadavers for study at that time).
The opposite of resurrection is of course death. Death and resurrection appear often in the novel. Dickens is angered that in France and England, courts hand out death sentences for insignificant crimes. In France, peasants had formerly been put to death without any trial, at the whim of a noble. The Marquis tells Darnay with pleasure that "[I]n the next room (my bedroom), one fellow ... was poniarded on the spot for professing some insolent delicacy respecting his daughter—his daughter!"
The demolition of Dr. Manette's shoe-making workbench by Miss Pross and Mr. Lorry is described as "the burning of the body". It seems clear that this is a rare case where death or destruction (the opposite of resurrection) has a positive connotation since the "burning" helps liberate the doctor from the memory of his long imprisonment. But Dickens' description of this kind and healing act is strikingly odd:
So wicked do destruction and secrecy appear to honest minds, that Mr. Lorry and Miss Pross, while engaged in the commission of their deed and in the removal of its traces, almost felt, and almost looked, like accomplices in a horrible crime.
Sydney Carton's martyrdom atones for all his past wrongdoings. He even finds God during the last few days of his life, repeating Christ's soothing words, "I am the resurrection and the life". Resurrection is the dominant theme of the last part of the novel. Darnay is rescued at the last moment and recalled to life; Carton chooses death and resurrection to a life better than that which he has ever known: "it was the peacefullest man's face ever beheld there ... he looked sublime and prophetic".
In the broadest sense, at the end of the novel, Dickens foresees a resurrected social order in France, rising from the ashes of the old one.
Hans Biedermann writes that water "is the fundamental symbol of all the energy of the unconscious—an energy that can be dangerous when it overflows its proper limits (a frequent dream sequence)." This symbolism suits Dickens' novel; in A Tale of Two Cities, the frequent images of water stand for the building anger of the peasant mob, an anger that Dickens sympathizes with to a point, but ultimately finds irrational and even animalistic.
Early in the book, Dickens suggests this when he writes, "[T]he sea did what it liked, and what it liked was destruction." The sea here represents the coming mob of revolutionaries. After Gaspard murders the Marquis, he is "hanged there forty feet high—and is left hanging, poisoning the water." The poisoning of the well represents the bitter impact of Gaspard's execution on the collective feeling of the peasants.
After Gaspard's death, the storming of the Bastille is led (from the St. Antoine neighbourhood, at least) by the Defarges; "As a whirlpool of boiling waters has a centre point, so, all this raging circled around Defarge's wine shop, and every human drop in the cauldron had a tendency to be sucked towards the vortex..." The crowd is envisioned as a sea. "With a roar that sounded as if all the breath in France had been shaped into a detested word [the word Bastille], the living sea rose, wave upon wave, depth upon depth, and overflowed the city..."
Darnay's jailer is described as "unwholesomely bloated in both face and person, as to look like a man who had been drowned and filled with water." Later, during the Reign of Terror, the revolution had grown "so much more wicked and distracted ... that the rivers of the South were encumbered with bodies of the violently drowned by night..." Later a crowd is "swelling and overflowing out into the adjacent streets ... the Carmagnole absorbed them every one and whirled them away."
During the fight with Miss Pross, Madame Defarge clings to her with "more than the hold of a drowning woman". Commentators on the novel have noted the irony that Madame Defarge is killed by her own gun, and perhaps Dickens means by the above quote to suggest that such vicious vengefulness as Madame Defarge's will eventually destroy even its perpetrators.
So many read the novel in a Freudian light, as exalting the (British) superego over the (French) id. Yet in Carton's last walk, he watches an eddy that "turned and turned purposeless, until the stream absorbed it, and carried it onto the sea"—his fulfilment, while masochistic and superego-driven, is nonetheless an ecstatic union with the subconscious.
As is frequent in European literature, good and evil are symbolized by light and darkness. Lucie Manette is the light, as represented literally by her name; and Madame Defarge is darkness. Darkness represents uncertainty, fear, and peril. It is dark when Mr. Lorry rides to Dover; it is dark in the prisons; dark shadows follow Madame Defarge; dark, gloomy doldrums disturb Dr. Manette; his capture and captivity are shrouded in darkness; the Marquis' estate is burned in the dark of night; Jerry Cruncher raids graves in the darkness; Charles' second arrest also occurs at night. Both Lucie and Mr. Lorry feel the dark threat that is Madame Defarge. "That dreadful woman seems to throw a shadow on me," remarks Lucie. Although Mr. Lorry tries to comfort her, "the shadow of the manner of these Defarges was dark upon himself". Madame Defarge is "like a shadow over the white road", the snow symbolising purity and Madame Defarge's darkness corruption. Dickens also compares the dark colour of blood to the pure white snow: the blood takes on the shade of the crimes of its shedders.
Charles Dickens was a champion of the poor in his life and in his writings. His childhood included some of the pains of poverty in England, as he had to work in a factory as a child to help his family. His father, John Dickens, continually lived beyond his means and eventually went to debtors' prison. Charles was forced to leave school and began working ten-hour days at Warren's Blacking Warehouse, earning six shillings a week.
Dickens considered the workings of a mob, in this novel and in Barnaby Rudge, creating believable characters who act differently when the mob mentality takes over. The reasons for revolution by the lower classes are clear, and given in the novel. Some of his characters, notably Madame Defarge, have no limit to their vengeance for crimes against them. The Reign of Terror was a horrific time in France, and she gives some notion for how things went too far from the perspective of the citizens, as opposed to the actions of the de facto government in that year. Dickens does not spare his descriptions of mob actions, including the night Dr Manette and his family arrive at Tellson's bank in Paris to meet Mr Lorry, saying that the people in the vicious crowd display "eyes which any unbrutalized beholder would have given twenty years of life, to petrify with a well-directed gun".
The reader is shown that the poor are brutalised in France and England alike. As crime proliferates, the executioner in England is "stringing up long rows of miscellaneous criminals; now hanging housebreaker ... now burning people in the hand" or hanging a broke man for stealing sixpence. In France, a boy is sentenced to have his hands removed and be burned alive, only because he did not kneel down in the rain before a parade of monks passing some fifty yards away. At the lavish residence of Monseigneur, we find "brazen ecclesiastics of the worst world worldly, with sensual eyes, loose tongues, and looser lives ... Military officers destitute of military knowledge ... [and] Doctors who made great fortunes ... for imaginary disorders". (This incident is fictional, but is based on a true story related by Voltaire in a famous pamphlet, An Account of the Death of the Chevalier de la Barre.)
So riled is Dickens at the brutality of English law that he depicts some of its punishments with sarcasm: "the whipping-post, another dear old institution, very humanising and softening to behold in action". He faults the law for not seeking reform: "Whatever is, is right" is the dictum of the Old Bailey. The gruesome portrayal of quartering highlights its atrocity.
Dickens wants his readers to be careful that the same revolution that so damaged France will not happen in Britain, which (at least at the beginning of the book) is shown to be nearly as unjust as France; Ruth Glancy has argued that Dickens portrays France and England as nearly equivalent at the beginning of the novel, but that as the novel progresses, England comes to look better and better, climaxing in Miss Pross' pro-Britain speech at the end of the novel. But his warning is addressed not to the British lower classes, but to the aristocracy. He repeatedly uses the metaphor of sowing and reaping; if the aristocracy continues to plant the seeds of a revolution through behaving unjustly, they can be certain of harvesting that revolution in time. The lower classes do not have any agency in this metaphor: they simply react to the behaviour of the aristocracy. In this sense it can be said that while Dickens sympathizes with the poor, he identifies with the rich: they are the book's audience, its "us" and not its "them". "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 licence and oppression over again, and it will surely yield the same fruit according to its kind".
With the people starving and begging the Marquis for food, his uncharitable response is to let the people eat grass; the people are left with nothing but onions to eat and are forced to starve while the nobles are living lavishly upon the people's backs. Every time the nobles refer to the life of the peasants it is only to destroy or humiliate the poor.
Some have argued that in A Tale of Two Cities Dickens reflects on his recently begun affair with eighteen-year-old actress Ellen Ternan, which was possibly platonic but certainly romantic. Lucie Manette has been noted as resembling Ternan physically.
After starring in a play by Wilkie Collins titled The Frozen Deep, Dickens was first inspired to write Tale. In the play, Dickens played the part of a man who sacrifices his own life so that his rival may have the woman they both love; the love triangle in the play became the basis for the relationships between Charles Darnay, Lucie Manette, and Sydney Carton in Tale.
Sydney Carton and Charles Darnay may also bear importantly on Dickens' personal life. The plot hinges on the near-perfect resemblance between Sydney Carton and Charles Darnay; the two look so alike that Carton twice saves Darnay through the inability of others to tell them apart. Carton is Darnay made bad. Carton suggests as much:
'Do you particularly like the man [Darnay]?' he muttered, at his own image [which he is regarding in a mirror]; 'why should you particularly like a man who resembles you? There is nothing in you to like; you know that. Ah, confound you! What a change you have made in yourself! A good reason for talking to a man, that he shows you what you have fallen away from and what you might have been! Change places with him, and would you have been looked at by those blue eyes [belonging to Lucie Manette] as he was, and commiserated by that agitated face as he was? Come on, and have it out in plain words! You hate the fellow.'
Many have felt that Carton and Darnay are doppelgängers, which Eric Rabkin defines as a pair "of characters that together, represent one psychological persona in the narrative". If so, they would prefigure such works as Robert Louis Stevenson's Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Darnay is worthy and respectable but dull (at least to most modern readers), Carton disreputable but magnetic.
One can only suspect whose psychological persona it is that Carton and Darnay together embody (if they do), but it is often thought to be the psyche of Dickens himself. Dickens might have been quite aware that between them, Carton and Darnay shared his own initials, a frequent property of his characters. However, he denied it when asked.
The novel takes place primarily in London and Paris in the latter half of the eighteenth century. It spans a time period of roughly thirty-six years, with the (chronologically) first events taking place in December 1757 and the last in either late 1793 or early 1794.
In a building at the back, attainable by a courtyard where a plane tree rustled its green leaves, church organs claimed to be made, and likewise gold to be beaten by some mysterious giant who had a golden arm starting out of the wall... as if he had beaten himself precious.
The "golden arm" (an arm-and-hammer symbol, an ancient sign of the gold-beater's craft) now resides at the Charles Dickens Museum but you could have seen a modern replica sticking out of the wall near the Pillars of Hercules pub at the western end of Manette Street (formerly Rose Street), until this building was demolished in 2017.
The reports published in the press are very divergent. Thomas Carlyle is enthusiastic, which makes the author "heartily delighted".. On the other hand, Mrs Oliphant finds "little of Dickens" in the novel., and critic James Fitzjames Stephen sparked off a scandal by calling it a "dish of puppy pie and stewed cat which is not disguised by the cooking" and "a disjointed framework for the display of the tawdry wares, which are Mr Dickens's stock-in-trade..
In United States politics, at the 1984 Democratic National Convention, the keynote speaker Gov. Mario Cuomo of New York delivered a scathing criticism of then-President Ronald Reagan's comparison of the United States to a "shining city on a hill" with an allusion to Dickens' novel, saying: "Mr. President, you ought to know that this nation is more a 'Tale of Two Cities' than it is just a 'Shining City on a Hill'."
A Tale of Two Cities served as inspiration to the 2012 Batman film The Dark Knight Rises by Christopher Nolan. The character of Bane is in part inspired by Dickens' Madame Defarge: he organises kangaroo court trials against the ruling elite of the city of Gotham and is seen knitting in one of the trial scenes like Madame Defarge. There are other hints to Dickens' novel, such as Talia al Ghul being obsessed with revenge and having a close relationship to the hero, Bane's catchphrase "the fire rises" as an ode to one of the book's chapters, among others. Bane's associate Barsard is named after a supporting character in the novel. In the final scene of the film, Jim Gordon (Gary Oldman) reads aloud the closing lines of Carton's inner monologue directly from the novel.
Season 6, episode 10 of the AMC television series Mad Men is titled "A Tale of Two Cities". The episode features Don Draper and Roger Sterling flying out to Los Angeles, California for business in the late 1960s. The episode shows the stark differences between liberal Los Angeles and more conservative New York City. In the novel, London is seen to be in a time of relative calm while Paris is undergoing a radical shift like Los Angeles was in the late 1960s.
American rapper J. Cole recorded the track "A Tale of 2 Citiez" on his album 2014 Forest Hills Drive. He speaks of inner city struggles and the idea that anyone can be pushed to the limit of murder or other terrible acts.
A Tale of Two Cities is a 1911 silent film produced by Vitagraph Studios, loosely based on the 1859 novel by Charles Dickens.A Tale of Two Cities (1917 film)
A Tale of Two Cities is a 1917 American silent historical drama film directed by Frank Lloyd and starring William Farnum, Jewel Carmen, and Charles Clary. The film is based on Charles Dickens' novel of the same name, which has been filmed a number of times.A Tale of Two Cities (1922 film)
A Tale of Two Cities is a 1922 British silent drama film directed by Walter Courtney Rowden and starring Clive Brook, Ann Trevor and J. Fisher White. The film is an adaptation of the 1859 novel A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens, and its plot concerns events taking place during the French Revolution. It was made as part of the "Tense Moments with Great Authors Series" of films.A Tale of Two Cities (1935 film)
A Tale of Two Cities is a 1935 film based upon Charles Dickens' 1859 historical novel, A Tale of Two Cities, set in London and Paris. The film stars Ronald Colman as Sydney Carton, Donald Woods and Elizabeth Allan. The supporting players include Reginald Owen, Basil Rathbone, Claude Gillingwater, Edna May Oliver and Blanche Yurka. It was directed by Jack Conway from a screenplay by W. P. Lipscomb and S. N. Behrman. The film was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture and Best Film Editing. The story is set in the French Revolution and deals with two men who love the same woman.
The film is generally regarded as the best cinematic version of Dickens' novel.A Tale of Two Cities (1935 play)
A Tale of Two Cities is a 1935 play by Terence Rattigan and John Gielgud, adapting the novel of the same name by Charles Dickens. It was intended to premiere in 1935, but Gielgud (who had also planned to play Sydney Carton) cancelled the production to avoid competing with another actor's adaptation of the same work. It was put on once at a school and adapted for radio in 1950, but its professional stage premiere was from September 25 until October 19, 2013 at the King's Head Theatre.A Tale of Two Cities (1958 film)
A Tale of Two Cities is a 1958 British film directed by Ralph Thomas and starring Dirk Bogarde and Dorothy Tutin. It is a period drama based on parts of Charles Dickens' novel A Tale of Two Cities (1859).A Tale of Two Cities (1980 film)
A Tale of Two Cities is a 1980 American made-for-television historical drama film directed by Jim Goddard and starring Chris Sarandon, who plays dual roles as two characters who are in love with the same woman. It is based on the Charles Dickens novel of the same name set in the French Revolution.A Tale of Two Cities (Lost)
"A Tale of Two Cities" is the third season premiere, and 50th episode overall, of the American Broadcasting Company (ABC)'s serial drama television series Lost. The episode was written by co-creators/executive producers J. J. Abrams and Damon Lindelof, based on a story by Lindelof and directed by executive producer Jack Bender. The episode begins with the introduction of Juliet Burke (Elizabeth Mitchell) and The Barracks. The character of Jack Shephard (Matthew Fox) is featured in the episode's flashbacks. This is the only episode of the series other than the pilot to have been co-written by J.J. Abrams.
When the episode first aired on October 4, 2006, in the United States, it was watched by an average of 19 million American viewers, making it the fourth most watched episode of the week. It premiered to generally positive reviews, with many praising Mitchell's new character.A Tale of Two Cities (musical)
A Tale of Two Cities is a musical with book, music and lyrics by Jill Santoriello based on the novel of the same name by Charles Dickens.
After tryouts at the Asolo Repertory Theatre in Sarasota, Florida, in October and November 2007, the show opened on Broadway on September 18, 2008, following previews from August 19 at the Al Hirschfeld Theatre. The musical closed on November 9, 2008, after a run of 60 performances and 33 previews. The show received the 2009 Outer Critics Circle Award nomination for Outstanding New Musical for its Broadway run. James Barbour received a 2009 Drama Desk Award nomination for his performance as Sydney Carton.Alexandre Manette
Doctor Alexandre Manette is a character in Charles Dickens' novel, A Tale of Two Cities. He is Lucie's father, a brilliant physician, and spent eighteen years "in secret" as a prisoner in the Bastille prior to the French Revolution. He is imprisoned because in the course of his medical practice he learns of abusive actions by two members of the aristocratic Evrémonde family. While realizing the power at court of nobles such as the Evrémondes, Manette reports them to a minister of the royal government. He is seized from his young family and imprisoned under a lettre de cachet.Arthur Benjamin
Arthur Leslie Benjamin (Sydney, 18 September 1893 – London, 10 April 1960) was an Australian composer, pianist, conductor and teacher. He is best known as the composer of Jamaican Rumba, composed in 1938, although his most-heard work is undoubtedly the Storm Clouds Cantata featured in both versions of the Alfred Hitchcock film The Man who Knew Too Much.Charles Darnay
Charles Darnay, Charles D'Aulnais or Charles St. Evrémonde, is a fictional character in A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens.Jerry Cruncher
Jeremiah "Jerry" Cruncher is a fictional character in Charles Dickens' novel A Tale of Two Cities.Madame Defarge
Madame Thérèse Defarge is a fictional character in the book A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens. She is a tricoteuse, a tireless worker for the French Revolution, and the wife of Ernest Defarge.
She is one of the main villains of the novel, obsessed with revenge against the Evrémondes. She ruthlessly pursues this goal against Charles Darnay, his wife, Lucie Manette, and their child, for crimes a prior generation of the Evrémonde family had committed. These include the deaths of her nephew, sister, brother, father and brother-in-law. She refuses to accept the reality that Charles Darnay changed his ways by intending to renounce his title to the lands to give them to the peasants who worked on them. After Charles's arrogant and snobbish uncle becomes the Marquis St. Evrémonde, the Marquis's arrogance causes the death of an innocent child, which makes him hated and helps legitimize Defarge's rage. Her consuming need for revenge against the Evrémonde family, including the innocent Darnay and his wife, brings about her death by her own weapon at the hands of Miss Pross.
Defarge symbolises several themes. She represents one aspect of the Fates. The Moirai (the Fates as represented in Greek mythology) used yarn to measure out the life of a man, and cut it to end it; Defarge knits, and her knitting secretly encodes the names of people to be killed. Defarge also symbolises the nature of the Reign of Terror during the French Revolution in which radical Jacobins engaged in mass political persecution of all real or supposed enemies of the Revolution who were executed on grounds of sedition to the new republic with the guillotine, particularly targeting people with aristocratic heritage.Stryver
Stryver is a character in the Charles Dickens novel A Tale of Two Cities and in the 10 TV/film adaptations of the story. He is a barrister in London, with the character Sydney Carton working under him.Sydney Carton
Sydney Carton is a central character in Charles Dickens' novel A Tale of Two Cities. He is a shrewd young Englishman educated at Shrewsbury School, and sometime junior to his fellow barrister Stryver. Carton is portrayed as a brilliant but depressed and cynical drunkard who is full of self-loathing because of what he sees as his wasted life. He feels a deep unrequited love for Lucie Manette, who nevertheless inspires him to try to be a better person. Near the end of the novel, Carton manages to change places with her husband Charles Darnay hours before Darnay's scheduled execution in France, giving his life for Lucie's sake. Later, Lucie and Charles name their first son after Carton.The Only Way (1927 film)
The Only Way is a 1926 British drama film directed by Herbert Wilcox and starring John Martin Harvey, Madge Stuart and Betty Faire. It was adapted from the play The Only Way which was itself based on the novel A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens. John Martin Harvey had been playing Carton in the play since 1899 and it was his most popular work. It cost £24,000 to make and was shot at Twickenham Studios. The film was a commercial success and reportedly took over £53,000 in its first two years on release. It was a particularly notable achievement given the collapse in British film production between the Slump of 1924 and the passage of the Cinematograph Films Act 1927 designed to support British film making.The seamstress (A Tale of Two Cities)
The seamstress is a fictional character in Charles Dickens's A Tale of Two Cities.
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Charles Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities