Drive him fast to his tomb. . . .

"Drive him fast to his tomb. This, from Jacques" by Fred Barnard. 1870s. 9.2 x 13.4 cm. The mask-like visage of the murdered Marquis St. Evrémonde is surprisingly handsome in Barnard's conception in Dickens's A Tale of Two Cities, Book 2, 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.]

Commentary

The picture of the tranquil face of the dead Marquis occurs over the page from the textual moment realised at the very end of the ninth chapter, "The Gorgon's Head." The passage illustrated is this:

. . . there was one more stone face too many up at the chateau.

The Gorgon had surveyed the building again in the night, and had added the one stone face wanting; the stone face for which it had waited through about two hundred years.

It lay back on the pillow of Monsieur the Marquis. It was like a fine mask, suddenly startled, made angry, and petrified. Driven home into the heart of the stone figure attached to it was a knife. Round its hilt was a frill of paper, on which was scrawled:

"Drive him fast to his tomb. This, from JACQUES." [59]

Whereas Phiz had elected, perhaps at Dickens's instruction, not to attempt this moment for illustration in his series for the monthly part-publication (June through December 1859), John McLenan in his extensive series for the Harper's Weekly serialisation had realised the moment at which some servant discovers the body of the Marquis in bed, an ornate screen partially obscuring our view of the body. In contrast, Barnard focuses on that beautiful face, devoid of the bitterness and malignancy that distorted that visage in life. Instead of deploying a symbolic object such as McLenan's eighteenth-century, Louis XV Chinoiserie screen in "This, from Jacques", Barnard conveys the context — the Marquis' affluent lifestyle supported by the labours of a downtrodden peasantry — by the elaborately decorated headboard, bedspread, and ruffled nightgown. An interesting touch is Barnard's transforming the note left by "Jacques" from Dickensian Franglais into actual French, albeit a fragmentary sentence ("Cecide"). Whereas McLenan contrasts the beauty of the natural world of bird song and vines in the headnote vignette for "The Gorgon's Head" with the artifice and luxury of the interior of the Marquis bed chamber in "This, from Jacques," showing the dead man from a distance (suggesting the perspective the nameless servant who discovers the corpse the next morning), Barnard zooms in for a closeup, and thereby humanizes and particularizes the victim of Nemesis. Barnard subtly contrasts the acidic personality of the Marquis, which Dickens has revealed so ably through description, narration, and dialogue, with his outward, physical beauty, as if he himself is a work of art. For the sake of visual continuity, Barnard reintroduces the ornamentation evident in the headboard and the swirling patterns and movements in the coverlet in the next illustration, specifically in the screen behind Lucie Manette and in her skirt, respectively.

References

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

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

Dickens, Charles. A Tale of Two Cities. Illustrated by John McLenan. Harper's Weekly. (9 July 1859).


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Last modified 25 February 2011