The Trial of Evremonde

"The Trial of Evremonde" by Fred Barnard. 1870s. 4.5 x 6 inches. Dr. Manette and Lucie are centre, Charles Darnay is to the left in the witness box from Dickens's A Tale of Two Cities, Book 3, chap. ix.

Scanned image and text by Philip V. Allingham. [You may use this image without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose as long as you (1) credit the person who scanned the image and (2) link your document to this URL in a web document or cite it in a print one.] The copy of The Dickens Souvenir Book (p. 210) from which this image was scanned is in the collection of the Main Library of The University of British Columbia, Vancouver, B. C.

Commentary

The frontispiece for the slender, 176-page Household Edition of A Tale of Two Cities, first published in volume form in 1859 and reissued as one of twenty green-bound volumes by Dickens's own publishers, Chapman and Hall, shortly after the novelist's death in the larger, double-columned, format (reminiscent of the 1850s journal Household Words) is consistent with the new modes of production and techniques and technologies of illustration of the late 1860s. This large-scale woodblock illustration, probably composed of several blocks glued together, establishes this as an historical novel of epic dimensions in terms of the scope of its narrative. Fred Barnard's "The Trial of Evrémonde" sets the keynote, the legal and extra-legal harassment of blameless individuals caught up in the throes of great historical movements. The original victim of aristocratic malice, the former Bastille prisoner, Dr. Manette, and his married daughter, Lucie, are centre; Charles Darnay, the Liberal-minded aristocrat who has renounced his family name "St. Evrémonde" and fortune, is to the left in the witness box. The courtroom scene from Dickens's second historical novel, the first being Barnaby Rudge (1841), is dramatic both textually and visually as Barnard envisages it as set on stage. However, in contrast to such heroic revolutionary artists as Jacques Louis David, the very English Fred Barnard conceives of this event as staged in a dingy courtroom occupied by ragtag "patriots" — proletarians (left) and a piratical jury of "Jacobins" sporting cockades and revolutionary caps (above). On the wall behind the prisoner, the neatly inscribed "Liberty" and "Equality" are paramount, whereas "Brotherhood" has been scrawled in as an afterthought, implying that the court is devoid of human sympathy and understanding in these dread tribunals. In place of a tricolour flag or other national symbol to suggest the authority of the court Barnard has placed a Phrygian cap on the outlet of the gas-jet, implying that revolutionary fervour — not to say bias — has stifled any possibility for illumination that might guide the whole proceeding.

The frontispiece thus both comments upon and anticipates the highly charged trial late in the story, in Book 3, Chapter 9, and therefore invites the reader to compare the much earlier trial of Darnay as a French spy in the Old Bailey (Book Two, "The Golden Thread," Chapter 3, "A Disappointment"). Whereas Phiz had focused on the impact of the foregone verdict in "After the Sentence" (December 1859) on Charles Darnay's wife (exploiting the sensational and emotional dimensions of the situation in the manner of a Victorian melodrama), Barnard treats the whole affair as mundane, as just another day in the life of a brutal but prosaic revolution. In contrast, in his headnote vignette for Book 3, Chapter 1, American illustrator John McLenan had shown an alienated Charles Darnay, ironically well-dressed for the occupant of so dismal a prison cell in "In Secret", then transported to his trial under heavily armed guard in "'You are a cursed emigrant,' cried a farrier", then re-arrested in "The Citizen Evrémonde, Called Darnay" in Book 3, Chapter 6, and finally unseen as he is indicted by his father-in-law's own hand in "This is that paper, written" in Book 3, Chapter 8. McLenan shows us various studies of an isolated Darnay, ending with the headnote vignette for Book 3, Chapter 13 ("Fifty-two"), but fails to depict him in the context of one of the novel's most dramatic events.

References

Dickens, Charles. A Tale of Two Cities. il. Phiz. London: Chapman & Hall, 1859.

Dickens, Charles. A Tale of Two Cities. il. Fred Barnard. The Household Edition. London: Chapman & Hall, 1870s.

Dickens, Charles. A Tale of Two Cities. il. John McLenan. Harper's Weekly. (24 September1859): 621; (5 October 1859): 699; (29 October 1859): 701; (19 November 1859): 748.



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Last modified 19 February 2011