Some registers were lying open on a desk and an officer
of a coarse dark aspect presided over these

"Some registers were lying open on a desk and an officer of a coarse dark aspect presided over these" (p. 117) by Fred Barnard. 1870s. 10.7 x 13.7 cm (framed). Barnard realises the moment at which Darnay's being an exiled aristocrat becomes a legal charge that results in his immediate detention in La Force in the first illustration for "The Track of a Storm" in Dickens's A Tale of Two Cities, Book III, chap. i, "In Secret," originally in the November 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

Even if we disliked the subjects of the previous illustration — the bullying and hectoring of Stryver and those aloof emigres who through their negligence of their responsibilities under the L'Ancien Régime, we cannot find the arbitrary law of the new republic and its administrators any more praiseworthy. From the caption and the composition of the illustration, with the uniformed officer seated (centre) and Darnay, hat removed, standing (right), one may surmise that the textual moment realised is this, on the page facing the illustration (p. 117):

He accompanied his conductor into a guard-room, smelling of common wine and tobacco, where certain soldiers and patriots, asleep and awake, drunk and sober, and in various neutral states between sleeping and waking, drunkenness and sobriety, were standing and lying about. The light in the guard-house, half derived from the waning oil-lamps of the night, and half from the overcast day, was in correspondingly uncertain condition. Some registers were lying open on a desk, and an officer of a coarse dark aspect presided over these.

Citizen Defarge," said he to Darnay's conductor as he took a slip of paper to write on, "is this the emigrant Evrémonde?"

"This is the man."

"Your age, Evrémonde?"

"Thirty-seven."

Married, Evrémonde?"

"Yes."

"Where married?"

"In England." [116]

Since Darnay is calmly answering his interrogator's questions and is clearly not moved to exclaim "Just Heaven!" we know that the officer has yet to consign him to the prison of La Force. Instead of studiously filling out the slip of paper mentioned in the text and recording the prisoner's laconic answers, the officer, slumping over his desk and the large directory — presumably of aristocratic names — studies Darnay assiduously, but also with a distinctly sinister expression.

Whereas John McLenan in the Harper's Weekly series uses the headnote vignette for 24 September 1859 to let the reader know at once that the "heretofore" Marquis St. Evrémonde, Charles Darnay, has been jailed, Fred Barnard in the Household Edition presents a study of the new government's "officials" even as he maintains the suspense by not telegraphing what shortly is about to befall Charles Darnay.

In "Before the Prison Tribunal" in the first of the two illustrations for November 1859, Phiz had provided a rather Baroque visual accompaniment to the text, situating the arraignment of Charles Darnay in a sprawling scene of the new officialdom's amateurish incompetence. In contrast, Barnard focuses the reader's attention on four solid figures in complementary poses: the officer (centre), Defarge (right of centre), a heavily armed Jacobin (left), and (back turned towards the reader) Charles Darnay himself. Whereas, perhaps appropriately, Phiz loses Darnay in the crowded guard room, Barnard distinguishes him by pose and dress. Whereas Phiz had not been much interested in studying any of the rather multitudinous, cartoon-like characters in the arraignment scene, Barnard gives us a close-up of the swarthy officer, who studies Darnay as a cat would study a canary or a mouse; Citizen Defarge's closed arms and sharp glance suggest that Darnay can expect neither understanding nor compassion from that quarter. The raised cup in the background is a metonymy for the drunkenness of the inmates. In many ways, Phiz's plate is a much better realisation of the details mentioned in the text — "the waning oil-lamps" (116), the desk, and Darnay's interrogators — but Barnard captures far better the great seriousness of Defarge and the cool malevolence of the presiding officer. This is not a mere vanity fair, but a kangaroo court that will exact the full penalty of the anti-emigre law without tempering it with compassion or making exceptions for individuals as well motivated as Darnay. Those studied stares betoken implacable resentment of all aristocrats.

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. (24 September 1859): 621.


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Last modified 3 March 2011