Among the talkers was Stryver, of the King's Bench. . .
.

"Among the talkers was Stryver, of the King's Bench Bar, . . . . broaching to Monseigneur his devices for blowing the people up, and exterminating them from the face of the earth" (p. 112) by Fred Barnard. 1870s. 9.2 x 13.7 cm (framed). Barnard dramatises the reflex action of the bloody events across the Channel — including the eradication of the royal family —by by showing Stryver's jingoistic response some three years after the mob's execution of Foulon in Paris at the Place de Grève on 22 July 1789. In contrast to Phiz's frenzied mixed male and female mob of threadbare Saint Antoine revolutionaries in "The Sea Rises" and Barnard's own realisation of that scene in "Dragged, and struck at, and stifled," the Household Edition's illustrator shows five well-dressed elderly exiled French aristocrats who have gathered at Tellson's discussing the latest events in their homeland with attorney Stryver (centre, fist raised) in Dickens's A Tale of Two Cities, Book 2, chap. xxiv, "Drawn to the Loadstone Rock," originally in the October 1859 monthly number.

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

Scions of the morally as well as fiscally bankrupt royalist regime, these elderly but stylishly turned out French aristocrats — "Monseigneurs" in the fashions of the 1790s — gather at Tellson's London headquarters (but sketchily realised in the background) to revile the leaders of their erstwhile country's revolution at a safe distance and wonder at the news of the latest atrocities posted on the Anglo-French banking house's windows. These five (only three of whom are interested in what a mere bourgeois from outside their national circle has to remark) are rather more expensively dressed than Dickens suggests in the text, but these snuff-taking gossips must be among the more provident emigres who stored away some of their guineas (more likely Louis d'or) against the day when they would have to take to their heels after summoning up the horrors of revolution through years of callous disregard for the welfare of the most indigent and disenfranchised members of the Third Estate. Their tail-coats, snuff box, cane, fobs, waistcoats, riding-crop, silk stockings, and laced cuffs and shirt fronts, are the appropriate appurtenances of affluence. From lawyer Stryver's belligerent stance, one may surmise that the textual moment realised is this, which precedes the illustration (p. 112) by several pages:

Among the talkers was Stryver, of the King's Bench Bar, far on his way to state promotion, and, therefore, loud on the theme: broaching to Monseigneur his devices for blowing the people up, and exterminating them from the face of the earth, and doing without them: and for accomplishing many similar objects akin in their nature to the abolition of eagles by sprinkling salt on the tails of the race. Him, Darnay heard with a particular feeling of objection . . . . [110]

Stryver ironically derides the "heretofore" Marquis St. Evrémonde, the recipient of a letter posted through Tellson's Paris branch, as a "craven" — a negligent master who has abrogated his ancestral obligations by abandoning his land and servants to preserve his life. Little does "Bully Stryver" know that in denouncing the Marquis St. Evrémonde to Charles Darnay that he is denouncing Darnay himself. Apparently, on the marriage morning Doctor Manette had sworn his son-in-law to secrecy about his real name, so that even Lucie does not know her own husband of three years as a member of the accursed race of St. Evrémonde. A thorough Liberal, Darnay will now, out of a misguided sense of responsibility towards the old family retainer Gabelle (whom Dickens named after the infamous salt tax), is about to leave wife and child as he is "drawn to the "Loadstone Rock" (112). More economically, in the Harper's Weekly series of illustrations, John McLenan in the headnote vignette for ch. 24 shows Charles Darnay, mounted on horseback, determined the brave the risks of the London-to-Paris journey to rescue Gabelle.

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. (17 September 1859): 605.


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Last modified 2 March 2011