We are celebrating the 200th birth anniversary of Charles Dickens. Gopa and Sivaram therefore selected this novel. It relies on Thomas Carlyle's account of the French Revolution and depicts the contrasting fortunes of citizens in the capitals of neighbouring countries, London and Paris.
London was lawless and its common citizens were poor, lorded over by the nobility; the citizens of Paris were equally down-trodden, but are now caught in the throes of a violent revolt that will change the landscape of France forever, but not before a bloodthirsty period of head-chopping.
Mathew, Gopa, Kavita
As is true of Dickens' novels the characters are vivid. But there is little of Dickens' humour in this work, which came late in his life. Perhaps Dr Manette is the most striking person; he evolves from the mental trauma of solitary imprisonment to become heroic in stature.
Madame Defarge symbolises the extreme violence and bloody vengeance the French Revolution heaped on the aristocracy, sweeping along many unwitting individuals implicated by false testimony.
The language is complex; Dickens seems to have revelled in long sentences and his style has the stolidity of the Victorians, but it has aged quickly. Lacking an editor, Dickens does not hesitate to pile detail on top of details; a judicious reader is forced to skip.
Google celebrated the Dickens anniversary with a doodle depicting a collage of his characters:
Kavita, Priya, Zakia, Gopa, KumKum, Mathew, Sunil, Joe
Click below to read more ...
A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
Reading on June 14, 2012
Charles Dickens by Ary Scheffer (1855)
Present: Priya, KumKum, Zakia, Joe, Mathew, Sunil, Kavita, Gopa
Absent: Thommo (our paisano on a Nano drive), Talitha (away to USA), Bobby (struck by a bug), Sivaram (undergoing Ayurvedic treatment).
The next session is Poetry, on July 13, 2012. The next novel for reading is Three men in a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome on Aug 10, 2012. The novel selection after that is up to Sunil and Mathew - by end June, please.
KumKum said she was sad she'd miss the next two sessions as she is going to visit her children and grand-children in USA. KRG sessions and her garden are only two things she'll miss when she's abroad. How about joining on Skype, several asked? If someone brought a laptop and linked up, Joe and KumKum could be having coffee in Boston at 8am when KRG readers were meeting at 5:30pm IST in the CYC on July 13. It's worth a try if someone will bring a laptop and sign onto Skype and initiate a video session with Joe whose id on Skype is jocle11. He'll be waiting (unless he's washing the few clothes he takes along, said KumKum). “No more bunking then,” said Sunil with a laugh; even if he's away in Kodagu supervising his coffee estates he'll need to sign in at the appointed hour! The USB dongles work in Madikeri, said KumKum from her experience of visiting friends there.
Gopa begged to go first as she was the one who chose the novel. When she let on she'd read from the opening page, there were knowing smiles, because it's been the favourite con used by those who have not completed the assigned novel, having read only a summary, to choose something from Chapter 1. But no, it was the second time she was reading the entire novel. The sonorous rhetorical devices of antithesis and anaphora could make this crafted sentence the opening gambit of many a novel.
Gopa noted that in France and England, kings and queens thought they had the right to rule absolutely. The parliamentary system was already the norm in England but the oppression of common people continued and was to reach its zenith when the Industrial Revolution came. 1775 was an age of Revelation too; Mathew referred to one Miss Southcote who was convinced she was a prophetess and wrote down her prophecies in rhyme, one of them predicting the swallowing up of London and Westminster, he said. Here is a web link:
Dickens is writing about events that took place 100 years before his time.
The passage graphically describes the chateaux of the nobles being put to the torch, as Gabelle, apprehensive he would be a victim himself surveys the scene. So far the violence of the revolution had affected the city of Paris mainly; now it was spreading to the countryside. The incendiary scene is described with a Dickensian vehemence: “molten lead,” “great rents and splits,” “stupefied birds.”
Joe noted that French infrastructure must have been sorely lacking in investment at the time, for there is but one mender of the roads in the novel for all of France, and he recurs from chapter to chapter, sometimes wearing a red cap, sometimes a blue cap; he is a kind of mute, nameless observer of all that's going on.
Sunil's passage describes the pathetic condition of people in France, so impoverished by oppression that they would even stoop to licking the wine spilled on the road from a ruptured cask. The widespread deprivation is painted with the power of Dickens' pen, lively in its description of a land laid waste. The script of a horror movie could not rival these demonic scenes of 'gaunt scarecrows,' 'scrags of meat,' 'compressed lips,' 'murderous gunmaker's stock,' 'dim wicks,' and rivulets running down street gutters.
Mathew noted that the passage opens by saying “the time was to come” and repeats the warning “the time was not come yet.” In a later passage Defarge says the time was not come yet; this leads up to the climax when the Bastille is stormed. Gopa saw a sinister figure in Madame Defarge, eternally knitting away at her stool, keeping track of the names of those who might be termed “enemies of the people.” People in war time think it will all be settled soon, but there is no reckoning how many are going to be killed .
Priya thought of this writing as excellent reportage from the front lines of war. There are differences in the kind of oppression going on in France and England. This is a hundred years before the Industrial Revolution as Mathew noted.
The novel has an opening sentence that is often quoted for its lofty and antithetical brilliance. It lapses thereafter into a long-drawn out and repetitious account of a stagecoach journey from London to Dover. After you have plodded through a quarter of the novel you have still not found the reason why the author wished to torture his readers so. Hundred word sentences are quite common. There is much verbosity in them, and the descriptions show a distressing lack of point. The casual reader suspects this author was paid by the sheer quantum of his output. Did Dickens have an editor? The testimony of this novel is that he needed such help to avoid the excesses of laboured writing. By way of excuse one can say he wrote this novel when he was not on top of his form, perhaps.
The one excellence attributed to him is summed up by Somerset Maugham:
“David Copperfield is filled with characters of the most astonishing variety, vividness, and originality.”
Here's a quote from the first chapter on the stagecoach journey about strangers:
A wonderful fact to reflect upon, that every human creature is constituted to be that profound secret and mystery to every other.
Joe admitted he was known for selecting romantic passages. But where is such a passage in this book, wondered Priya? It was where Carton expresses his overflowing infatuation with Lucie. The passage fairly drips with sentimentality of an almost comical kind. Joe read it in such a manner as to heighten the hopelessness of this man confessing his love-sickness in paragraph after paragraph of anguished protestations, and simultaneously undermining it by putting forward his diffident unworthiness. Carton lacked the killer instinct, thought Joe: he should have gone and kissed the girl midway in his distraught rant. Carton was all foreplay, and no tackle was Joe's verdict.
Dickens must be left for folk who can tolerate such a presentation of women as elevated spotless saints beyond the reach of feckless men prostrating themselves before them. KumKum saw something to love in Stryver, the lawyer for Darnay. Priya said she liked Joe's reading.
There was some discussion of Amitav Ghosh and his novel Sea of Poppies. How famine struck India, in the time of the second World War and millions died in Bengal. Kavita thought Indian kings were less oppressive. The talk veered off to how tapioca was brought to Kerala from S. America to feed poor people in Kerala in the 1800s and prevent famine. The kappa breakfast is now standard fare in Kerala; it provides starch and energy for workers. Similar to that is chhatu (gram flour) in Bihar and Bengal, consumed by workers and rickshaw-puller in the old days with a little chilli and salt. Ragi was the breakfast of our sleeping Prime Minister, Deve Gowda, said Sunil.
This is a popular novel of Dickens. He first published the book in installments starting April 1859 in his own magazine called All the Year Round – taking full advantage of his undisputed fame at the time, and people’s desire to know what happened in Paris during the French Revolution.
KumKum admitted she was no fan of Charles Dickens. Years ago she read this book in an abridged form. However, she thanked Gopa for selecting it for this session.
A Tale of Two Cities has lost most of the magic it had for the Victorians. Dickens’ style is archaic, and his language too. It tells a story which has very little appeal in our time. Yet, she enjoyed reading the book as historical fiction, making an effort to transport herself back to that era.
KumKum found the going was not easy, but didn't give up. It took her a month to finish the book, but she was happy she persevered. Some of the characters, such as Madame Defarge, Jarvis Lorry, Mr. Stryver, Sydney Carton, and Miss Pross etc. are among her favourites now. They recurred often in the book and kept her entertained. Kavita said she would read for a while and then go off and do something else. Most other novels she would read straight through. Incidentally, if you go to Librivox.org you can get the entire novel in audio in 420MB and listening to the whole book takes 15 hours. One can read it by sight in about half the time.
KumKum liked this bit about the animated motion of the feet:
On a day in August, when Mr. Stryver (after notifying to his jackal that "he had thought better of that marrying matter") had carried his delicacy into Devonshire, and when the sight and scent of flowers in the City streets had some waifs of goodness in them for the worst, of health for the sickliest, and of youth for the oldest, Sydney's feet still trod those stones. From being irresolute and purposeless, his feet became animated by an intention, and, in the working out of that intention, they took him to the Doctor's door.
Joe laughed and said Carton should have got the girl, except that he was suffering from a self-defeating lack of confidence. Priya adverted to the touching nature of the moonlight scene between father and daughter, Dr Manette and Lucie. Well, he won her heart like no other man could in her life.
Dickens was an acute observer of life. Many unimportant events are woven into the main story, along with descriptions of nature, and everyday events interspersed. However, to some extent this rambling causes the story to lose momentum at places in the text.
KumKum added: the romantic and the sentimental aspects of the story left her unmoved, for these were written like fairy tales.
Priya read the action-packed scene in which the two women, Mrs Pross and Madame Defarge go for each other, the one jingoistically exclaiming the superior strength that comes of her being an Englishwoman, and the other filled with malevolence and keen to capture the fleeing Lucie and her child. However in the heat of the struggle the reader laughs at the use of such comic epithets as: “Woman imbecile and pig-like!” Consider the outlandish similes uttered as the women heave and struggle in hand-to-hand combat:
"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."
Did Dickens not have the gift for invective? Gopa, however, marvelled at the sagacity of Mrs Pross in dropping the door key in the river after locking the house. KumKum noted that Vengeance sees Madame Defarge is missing from her reserved seat at the public guillotine spectacle, something that's never happened before. Priya imagined they would bring out chocolates to celebrate each guillotining. Sunil was struck by the viciousness Madame Defarge who even wanted to kill the daughter of Lucie.
The passage Zakia chose exemplifies all that was unjust in the French system that made it ripe for revolution. After injuring a child with his carriage the Marquis has his coin flung back at him when he offers a scant compensation. He cries out:
"You dogs! I would ride over any of you very willingly, and exterminate you from the earth.“
Such was the absolute power of the aristocracy over the common people. Mathew said that the material Dickens used was drawn from Carlyle's The French Revolution: A History
We read that Dickens compulsively read and re-read the book while producing A Tale of Two Cities.
Kavita read from the same chapter as Zakia, the section where the child is actually run over and hurt by the Monseigneur's horse-carriage. The fault is the pedestrian's and the aristocrat's concern is more for the bruise it might have left on his horses:
"It is extraordinary to me, that you people cannot take care of yourselves and your children. One or the other of you is for ever in the, way. How do I know what injury you have done my horses.
How callous, said Kavita. Gopa noted her own anxiety when she drives to her school in Mattancherry, not to hit any goats. You have to be very careful, for nobody on the streets takes any care; it is left to the vehicles to save the pedestrians from their own negligence. Mathew seconded the idea, because pedestrians consider zebra crossings as their entitlement to walk, no matter what the oncoming traffic. KumKum said they have absolute faith in the drivers, forgetting that a car's brakes can fail. Sunil mentioned that near Bandipur in Tamil Nadu there was a notorious place where children were pushed into oncoming traffic deliberately, in order that the pusher could hustle and extract money from the vehicle driver. Begging too is conducted as a racket in TN, bringing to mind Fagin's gang in Oliver Twist. Beggars' favourite place of business is outside five-star hotels, because people coming from expensive dining would part with some coppers easily on seeing people who may not get one square meal a day (except that beggars no longer accept coppers).
Mathew said he is on a transfer to Bihar (Patna) and people are inducing him to go, saying you have no idea what luxury a Commissioner's life can be until you've been Commissioner in Patna. But he's fighting it and would rather stay on in Kochi, backwater though it be as postings go. Joe asked if KRG could write a letter of support, stating the absolute necessity and inestimable value of Mathew's services to our reading group, and to the larger cause of literature in our fair city, Kochi.
Gopa noted that the English banker makes money, whatever happens – revolutions, bailouts, depressions, bull markets, bear markets, etc. From what is described about Tellson's in the novel it seems that they were running a hawala business, Joe thought. Someone said that was a legitimate form of banking to support trade across frontiers in ancient times, and obviated the need to carry gold, which would make the trader a person of interest to brigands en route. Mathew added that what the hawala dealer considers legal, the Customs authorities consider illegal.
From there we digressed into the need for an identity proof such as a ration card to open a bank account; and how this prevents Bengali and Oriya gardeners who work in Kochi from keeping their money in a bank. They leave their ration cards behind at home so the family can draw subsidised grain from the public distribution shops. Joe noted that KumKum has a policy of making all domestic help, gardeners, etc. open bank accounts to save their money (and to prevent predatory husbands from using the maid's money for drinking). Gopa narrated her recollection of her father in Bombay going far out of the city to obtain rice, the so-called levy rice sold at cheap prices. KumKum says Joe remembers the same thing in Calcutta where his parents would drive to Jadavpur, then thought of as a mofussil location, across the railway tracks, where peasant women would be come to sell rice for four annas a seer.
To end, Gopa wanted to read a passage showing the contrast between England and France as it is brought out in Dickens' novel. In England common people of Anglo-Saxon descent were bold; but lawlessness was rampant even in the streets of London. In France the peasants were down-trodden and lacking in spirit. Mathew stated that England and France had always been arch rivals, in the quest for power. In spite of the events of the two World Wars in which they fought on the same side, a smouldering jingoism remains.
Kavita told of her experience in Paris when she went with her daughters and nobody would deign to understand them if they inquired in English. One of her daughters suggested she ask in Malayalam, which she did. Whereupon the people immediately helped them, breaking into French English; any language so long as it is not English seems okay with the Parisians. Joe's experience from the sixties is that truly nobody understood English on the Continent, except in Holland. The Germans only spoke German, the French only spoke French. Now it's different, with globalisation and multinational companies staffing their office with people from all over the world; English has become the natural lingua franca.
Joe recalls a column he used to read in the old days: Parlez vous Franglais. It used to be serialised in The Economist. Franglais is “a mangled combination of English and French, produced either by poor knowledge of one or the other language, or for humorous effect.” For more humour see:
Words like “le weekend” have become naturalised in French, but other words are maintained rigidly in newly-minted French words, for instance e-mail is courriel, and computer is l'ordinateur.
In any event Mathew said there's a well-known prediction (by Malcolm Muggeridge, the late British satirist): “The last Englishman left will be an Indian,”– in all probability, in Kolkata. KumKum thought it must have been Mr Bandey in the Cochin Club:
Numerous comments referred to the persistence of British traditions in India ('egg and watercress sandwiches' – Priya). The High Range Club in Munnar may be one such repository of colonial nostalgia:
The Ootacamund Gymkhana Club may be another candidate in the South:
In a recent article in the Indian Express there was a story of an Indian professor and how he came to love Charles Dickens novels:
"Mild-mannered Vijay Madge met Dickens through his dentist. 'It was the ’60s, at that time even dentists read books,' he says. Unimpressed by his patient’s dental reports and his English skills, the good doctor urged him to read Dickens to 'catch the spirit of the English language' ”
Professor Madge was invited to join the Queen at a reception for Dickensians from the world over for the 200th anniversary of his birth.
Monica Dickens, author and great granddaughter of Charles Dickens died in 1992:
Book 1 Ch 1 --Recalled to Life
The Period – opening description
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.
There were a king with a large jaw and a queen with a plain face, on the throne of England; there were a king with a large jaw and a queen with a fair face, on the throne of France. In both countries it was clearer than crystal to the lords of the State preserves of loaves and fishes, that things in general were settled for ever.
Book 2 Ch 23 – Fire Rises
Book 2 Ch 23 – Fire Rises
The chateau is put to the torch
The chateau burned; the nearest trees, laid hold of by the fire, scorched and shrivelled; trees at a distance, fired by the four fierce figures, begirt the blazing edifice with a new forest of smoke. Molten lead and iron boiled in the marble basin of the fountain; the water ran dry; the extinguisher tops of the towers vanished like ice before the heat, and trickled down into four rugged wells of flame. Great rents and splits branched out in the solid walls, like crystallisation; stupefied birds wheeled about and dropped into the furnace; four fierce figures trudged away, East, West, North, and South, along the night- enshrouded roads, guided by the beacon they had lighted, towards their next destination. The illuminated village had seized hold of the tocsin, and, abolishing the lawful ringer, rang for joy.
Not only that; but the village, light-headed with famine, fire, and bell-ringing, and bethinking itself that Monsieur Gabelle had to do with the collection of rent and taxes--though it was but a small instalment of taxes, and no rent at all, that Gabelle had got in those latter days--became impatient for an interview with him, and, surrounding his house, summoned him to come forth for personal conference. Whereupon, Monsieur Gabelle did heavily bar his door, and retire to hold counsel with himself. The result of that conference was, that Gabelle again withdrew himself to his housetop behind his stack of chimneys; this time resolved, if his door were broken in (he was a small Southern man of retaliative temperament), to pitch himself head foremost over the parapet, and crush a man or two below.
Probably, Monsieur Gabelle passed a long night up there, with the distant chateau for fire and candle, and the beating at his door, combined with the joy-ringing, for music; not to mention his having an ill-omened lamp slung across the road before his posting-house gate, which the village showed a lively inclination to displace in his favour. A trying suspense, to be passing a whole summer night on the brink of the black ocean, ready to take that plunge into it upon which Monsieur Gabelle had resolved! But, the friendly dawn appearing at last, and the rush-candles of the village guttering out, the people happily dispersed, and Monsieur Gabelle came down bringing his life with him for that while.
Within a hundred miles, and in the light of other fires, there were other functionaries less fortunate, that night and other nights, whom the rising sun found hanging across once-peaceful streets, where they had been born and bred; also, there were other villagers and townspeople less fortunate than the mender of roads and his fellows, upon whom the functionaries and soldiery turned with success, and whom they strung up in their turn. But, the fierce figures were steadily wending East, West, North, and South, be that as it would; and whosoever hung, fire burned. The altitude of the gallows that would turn to water and quench it, no functionary, by any stretch of mathematics, was able to calculate successfully.
Book 1, Ch 5 The Wine-shop
The time was to come, when that wine too would be spilled on the street-stones, and when the stain of it would be red upon many there.
And now that the cloud settled on Saint Antoine, which a momentary gleam had driven from his sacred countenance, the darkness of it was heavy-cold, dirt, sickness, ignorance, and want, were the lords in waiting on the saintly presence-nobles of great power all of them; but, most especially the last. Samples of a people that had undergone a terrible grinding and regrinding in the mill, and certainly not in the fabulous mill which ground old people young, shivered at every corner, passed in and out at every doorway, looked from every window, fluttered in every vestige of a garment that the wind shook. The mill which had worked them down, was the mill that grinds young people old; the children had ancient faces and grave voices; and upon them, and upon the grown faces, and ploughed into every furrow of age and coming up afresh, was the sigh, Hunger. It was prevalent everywhere. Hunger was pushed out of the tall houses, in the wretched clothing that hung upon poles and lines; Hunger was patched into them with straw and rag and wood and paper; Hunger was repeated in every fragment of the small modicum of firewood that the man sawed off; Hunger stared down from the smokeless chimneys, and started up from the filthy street that had no offal, among its refuse, of anything to eat. Hunger was the inscription on the baker's shelves, written in every small loaf of his scanty stock of bad bread; at the sausage-shop, in every dead-dog preparation that was offered for sale. Hunger rattled its dry bones among the roasting chestnuts in the turned cylinder; Hunger was shred into atomics in every farthing porringer of husky chips of potato, fried with some reluctant drops of oil.
Its abiding place was in all things fitted to it. A narrow winding street, full of offence and stench, with other narrow winding streets diverging, all peopled by rags and nightcaps, and all smelling of rags and nightcaps, and all visible things with a brooding look upon them that looked ill. In the hunted air of the people there was yet some wild-beast thought of the possibility of turning at bay. Depressed and slinking though they were, eyes of fire were not wanting among them; nor compressed lips, white with what they suppressed; nor foreheads knitted into the likeness of the gallows-rope they mused about enduring, or inflicting. The trade signs (and they were almost as many as the shops) were, all, grim illustrations of Want. The butcher and the porkman painted up, only the leanest scrags of meat; the baker, the coarsest of meagre loaves. The people rudely pictured as drinking in the wine-shops, croaked over their scanty measures of thin wine and beer, and were gloweringly confidential together. Nothing was represented in a flourishing condition, save tools and weapons; but, the cutler's knives and axes were sharp and bright, the smith's hammers were heavy, and the gunmaker's stock was murderous. The crippling stones of the pavement, with their many little reservoirs of mud and water, had no footways, but broke off abruptly at the doors. The kennel, to make amends, ran down the middle of the street--when it ran at all: which was only after heavy rains, and then it ran, by many eccentric fits, into the houses. Across the streets, at wide intervals, one clumsy lamp was slung by a rope and pulley; at night, when the lamplighter had let these down, and lighted, and hoisted them again, a feeble grove of dim wicks swung in a sickly manner overhead, as if they were at sea. Indeed they were at sea, and the ship and crew were in peril of tempest.
For, the time was to come, when the gaunt scarecrows of that region should have watched the lamplighter, in their idleness and hunger, so long, as to conceive the idea of improving on his method, and hauling up men by those ropes and pulleys, to flare upon the darkness of their condition. But, the time was not come yet; and every wind that blew over France shook the rags of the scarecrows in vain, for the birds, fine of song and feather, took no warning.
Book 2 Ch XIII The Fellow of No Delicacy (829 words)
Carton professes his hopeless love for Lucie
"If it had been possible, Miss Manette, that you could have returned the love of the man you see before yourself--flung away, wasted, drunken, poor creature of misuse as you know him to be--he would have been conscious this day and hour, in spite of his happiness, that he would bring you to misery, bring you to sorrow and repentance, blight you, disgrace you, pull you down with him. I know very well that you can have no tenderness for me; I ask for none; I am even thankful that it cannot be."
"Without it, can I not save you, Mr. Carton? Can I not recall you-- forgive me again!--to a better course? Can I in no way repay your confidence? I know this is a confidence," she modestly said, after a little hesitation, and in earnest tears, "I know you would say this to no one else. Can I turn it to no good account for yourself, Mr. Carton?"
He shook his head.
"To none. No, Miss Manette, to none. If you will hear me through a very little more, all you can ever do for me is done. I wish you to know that you have been the last dream of my soul. In my degradation I have not been so degraded but that the sight of you with your father, and of this home made such a home by you, has stirred old shadows that I thought had died out of me. Since I knew you, I have been troubled by a remorse that I thought would never reproach me again, and have heard whispers from old voices impelling me upward, that I thought were silent for ever. I have had unformed ideas of striving afresh, beginning anew, shaking off sloth and sensuality, and fighting out the abandoned fight. A dream, all a dream, that ends in nothing, and leaves the sleeper where he lay down, but I wish you to know that you inspired it."
"Will nothing of it remain? O Mr. Carton, think again! Try again!"
"No, Miss Manette; all through it, I have known myself to be quite undeserving. And yet I have had the weakness, and have still the weakness, to wish you to know with what a sudden mastery you kindled me, heap of ashes that I am, into fire--a fire, however, inseparable in its nature from myself, quickening nothing, lighting nothing, doing no service, idly burning away."
"Since it is my misfortune, Mr. Carton, to have made you more unhappy than you were before you knew me—"
"Don't say that, Miss Manette, for you would have reclaimed me, if anything could. You will not be the cause of my becoming worse."
"Since the state of your mind that you describe, is, at all events, attributable to some influence of mine--this is what I mean, if I can make it plain--can I use no influence to serve you? Have I no power for good, with you, at all?"
"The utmost good that I am capable of now, Miss Manette, I have come here to realise. Let me carry through the rest of my misdirected life, the remembrance that I opened my heart to you, last of all the world; and that there was something left in me at this time which you could deplore and pity."
"Which I entreated you to believe, again and again, most fervently, with all my heart, was capable of better things, Mr. Carton!"
"Entreat me to believe it no more, Miss Manette. I have proved myself, and I know better. I distress you; I draw fast to an end. Will you let me believe, when I recall this day, that the last confidence of my life was reposed in your pure and innocent breast, and that it lies there alone, and will be shared by no one?"
"If that will be a consolation to you, yes." …
For you, and for any dear to you, I would do anything. If my career were of that better kind that there was any opportunity or capacity of sacrifice in it, I would embrace any sacrifice for you and for those dear to you. Try to hold me in your mind, at some quiet times, as ardent and sincere in this one thing. The time will come, the time will not be long in coming, when new ties will be formed about you--ties that will bind you yet more tenderly and strongly to the home you so adorn--the dearest ties that will ever grace and gladden you. O Miss Manette, when the little picture of a happy father's face looks up in yours, when you see your own bright beauty springing up anew at your feet, think now and then that there is a man who would give his life, to keep a life you love beside you!"
Book 2 Ch XIII The Fellow of No Delicacy
The irresolute Mr Carton
If Sydney Carton ever shone anywhere, he certainly never shone in the house of doctor manette. He had been there often, during a whole year, and had always been the same moody and morose lounger there. When he cared to talk, he talked well; but, the cloud of caring for nothing, which overshadowed him with such a fatal darkness, was very rarely pierced by the light within him. And yet he did care something for the streets that environed that house, and for the senseless stones that made their pavements. Many a night he vaguely and unhappily wandered there, when wine had brought no transitory gladness to him; many a dreary daybreak revealed his solitary figure lingering there, and still lingering there when the first beams of the sun brought into strong relief, removed beauties of architecture in spires of churches and lofty buildings, as perhaps the quiet time brought some sense of better things, else forgotten and unattainable, into his mind. Of late, the neglected bed in the Temple Court had known him more scantily than ever; and often when he had thrown himself upon it no longer than a few minutes, he had got up again, and haunted that neighbourhood.
On a day in August, when Mr. Stryver (after notifying to his jackal that “he had thought better of that marrying matter.
From being irresolute and purposeless, his feet became animated by an intention, and, in the working out of that intention, they took him to the Doctor’s door.
He was shown up-stairs, and found Lucie at her work, alone. She had never been quite at her ease with him, and received him with some little embarrassment as he seated himself near her table. But, looking up at his face in the interchange of the first few common-places, she observed a change in it.
“I fear you are not well, Mr. Carton!”
Book 3 Ch XIV The Knitting Done
The hand-to-hand combat between Miss Pross and Madame Defarge
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."
Madame Defarge was not likely to follow these idiomatic remarks in detail; but, she so far understood them as to perceive that she was set at naught.
"Woman imbecile and pig-like!" said Madame Defarge, frowning. "I take no answer from you. I demand to see her. Either tell her that I demand to see her, or stand out of the way of the door and let me go to her!" This, with an angry explanatory wave of her right arm.
"I little thought," said Miss Pross, "that I should ever want to understand your nonsensical language; but I would give all I have, except the clothes I wear, to know whether you suspect the truth, or any part of it." Neither of them for a single moment released the other's eyes. Madame Defarge had not moved from the spot where she stood when Miss Pross first became aware of her; but, she now advanced one step.
"I am a Briton," said Miss Pross, "I am desperate. I don't care an English Twopence for myself. I know that the longer I keep you here, the greater hope there is for my Ladybird. I'll not leave a handful of that dark hair upon your head, if you lay a finger on me!"
Thus Miss Pross, with a shake of her head and a flash of her eyes between every rapid sentence, and every rapid sentence a whole breath. Thus Miss Pross, who had never struck a blow in her life.
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.
Book 2 Ch VII – Monseigneur in Town
Book 2 Ch VII – Monseigneur in Town
The cowed condition of the peasantry under the crushing heels of the nobles
Without deigning to look at the assemblage a second time, Monsieur the Marquis leaned back in his seat, and was just being driven away with the air of a gentleman who had accidentally broke some common thing, and had paid for it, and could afford to pay for it; when his ease was suddenly disturbed by a coin flying into his carriage, and ringing on its floor.
"Hold!" said Monsieur the Marquis. "Hold the horses! Who threw that?"
He looked to the spot where Defarge the vendor of wine had stood, a moment before; but the wretched father was grovelling on his face on the pavement in that spot, and the figure that stood beside him was the figure of a dark stout woman, knitting.
"You dogs!" said the Marquis, but smoothly, and with an unchanged front, except as to the spots on his nose:"I would ride over any of you very willingly, and exterminate you from the earth. If I knew which rascal threw at the carriage, and if that brigand were sufficiently near it, he should be crushed under the wheels."
So cowed was their condition, and so long and hard their experience of what such a man could do to them, within the law and beyond it, that not a voice, or a hand, or even an eye was raised. Among the men, not one. But the woman who stood knitting looked up steadily, and looked the Marquis in the face. It was not for his dignity to notice it; his contemptuous eyes passed over her, and over all the other rats; and he leaned back in his seat again, and gave the word "Go on!"
He was driven on, and other carriages came whirling by in quick succession; the Minister, the State-Projector, the Farmer-General, the Doctor, the Lawyer, the Ecclesiastic, the Grand Opera, the Comedy, the whole Fancy Ball in a bright continuous flow, came whirling by. The rats had crept out of their holes to look on, and they remained looking on for hours; soldiers and police often passing between them and the spectacle, and making a barrier behind which they slunk, and through which they peeped. The father had long ago taken up his bundle and bidden himself away with it, when the women who had tended the bundle while it lay on the base of the fountain, sat there watching the running of the water and the rolling of the Fancy Ball--when the one woman who had stood conspicuous, knitting, still knitted on with the steadfastness of Fate. The water of the fountain ran, the swift river ran, the day ran into evening, so much life in the city ran into death according to rule, time and tide waited for no man, the rats were sleeping close together in their dark holes again, the Fancy Ball was lighted up at supper, all things ran their course.
Book 2 Ch VII – Monseigneur in Town
Book 2 Ch VII – Monseigneur in Town
The negligible value of human life
With a wild rattle and clatter, and an inhuman abandonment of consideration not easy to be understood in these days, the carriage dashed through streets and swept round corners, with women screaming before it, and men clutching each other and clutching children out of its way. At last, swooping at a street corner by a fountain, one of its wheels came to a sickening little jolt, and there was a loud cry from a number of voices, and the horses reared and plunged.
But for the latter inconvenience, the carriage probably would not have stopped; carriages were often known to drive on, and leave their wounded behind, and why not? But the frightened valet had got down in a hurry, and there were twenty hands at the horses' bridles.
"What has gone wrong?" said Monsieur, calmly looking out.
A tall man in a nightcap had caught up a bundle from among the feet of the horses, and had laid it on the basement of the fountain, and was down in the mud and wet, howling over it like a wild animal.
"Pardon, Monsieur the Marquis!" said a ragged and submissive man, "it is a child."
"Why does he make that abominable noise? Is it his child?"
"Excuse me, Monsieur the Marquis--it is a pity—yes."
The fountain was a little removed; for the street opened, where it was, into a space some ten or twelve yards square. As the tall man suddenly got up from the ground, and came running at the carriage, Monsieur the Marquis clapped his hand for an instant on his sword-hilt.
"Killed!" shrieked the man, in wild desperation, extending both arms at their length above his head, and staring at him. "Dead!"
The people closed round, and looked at Monsieur the Marquis. There was nothing revealed by the many eyes that looked at him but watchfulness and eagerness; there was no visible menacing or anger. Neither did the people say anything; after the first cry, they had been silent, and they remained so. The voice of the submissive man who had spoken, was flat and tame in its extreme submission. Monsieur the Marquis ran his eyes over them all, as if they had been mere rats come out of their holes.
He took out his purse.
"It is extraordinary to me," said he, "that you people cannot take care of yourselves and your children. One or the other of you is for ever in the, way. How do I know what injury you have done my horses.
Gopa (once more)
Book 1 Recalled to Life. Ch 1 The Period
Book 1 Recalled to Life. Ch 1 The Period
The contrast between France and England
France, less favoured on the whole as to matters spiritual than her sister of the shield and trident, rolled with exceeding smoothness down hill, making paper money and spending it. Under the guidance of her Christian pastors, she entertained herself, besides, with such humane achievements as sentencing a youth to have his hands cut off, his tongue torn out with pincers, and his body burned alive, because he had not kneeled down in the rain to do honour to a dirty procession of monks which passed within his view, at a distance of some fifty or sixty yards. It is likely enough that, rooted in the woods of France and Norway, there were growing trees, when that sufferer was put to death, already marked by the Woodman, Fate, to come down and be sawn into boards, to make a certain movable framework with a sack and a knife in it, terrible in history. It is likely enough that in the rough outhouses of some tillers of the heavy lands adjacent to Paris, there were sheltered from the weather that very day, rude carts, bespattered with rustic mire, snuffed about by pigs, and roosted in by poultry, which the Farmer, Death, had already set apart to be his tumbrils of the Revolution. But that Woodman and that Farmer, though they work unceasingly, work silently, and no one heard them as they went about with muffled tread: the rather, forasmuch as to entertain any suspicion that they were awake, was to be atheistical and traitorous.
In England, there was scarcely an amount of order and protection to justify much national boasting. Daring burglaries by armed men, and highway robberies, took place in the capital itself every night; families were publicly cautioned not to go out of town without removing their furniture to upholsterers' warehouses for security; the highwayman in the dark was a City tradesman in the light, and, being recognised and challenged by his fellow- tradesman whom he stopped in his character of "the Captain," gallantly shot him through the head and rode away; the mall was waylaid by seven robbers, and the guard shot three dead, and then got shot dead himself by the other four, "in consequence of the failure of his ammunition:" after which the mall was robbed in peace; that magnificent potentate, the Lord Mayor of London, was made to stand and deliver on Turnham Green, by one highwayman, who despoiled the illustrious creature in sight of all his retinue;