As he was drawn away, his wife released him. . . .

"As he was drawn away, his wife released him, and stood looking after him with her hands touching one another in the attitude of prayer" (p. 156) by Fred Barnard. 1870s. 9.3 x 13.6 cm. (framed).n In the aftermath of the reading into the court transcript of Dr. Alexandre Manette's 1767 epistolary denunciation of the St. Evrémonde brothers, his belovéd son-in-law, now indicted as an enemy of the People and the Republic, leaves the courtroom under guard, to be executed the following day, in Dickens's A Tale of Two Cities, Book 3, chap. xi, "Dusk," originally in the twenty-eighth weekly part (5 November 1859) in All the Year Round, and then in the December 1859 illustrated 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: The Sins of the Father are Visited upon His Son.

As in early stage adaptations of the novel, such as Fox Cooper's at The Victoria Theatre, London (7 July 1860) or Tom Taylor's at the Lyceum, London (28 January through 17 March 1860), the crowd scene "The Trial of Evrémonde", concluded and the prisoner by unanimous vote consigned to the Conciergerie and thence to the guillotine, "a notorious oppressor of the People" (155), the liberal aristocrat who turned his back on his aristocratic lineage and wealth now makes his exit. Whether Fred Barnard, only fourteen at time those plays debuted, would actually have attended a performance of a stage adaptation of the novel prior to his Household Edition commission in the 1870s is uncertain, but he conceives of the moment as being theatrically staged. The picture has all the qualities of a tableau vivant.

Whereas Phiz had charged his realisation of the scene with melodramatic emotion in "After the Sentence", showing Lucie swooning in her husband's arms immediately after the reading of the dread sentence, as her father tears his hair and Lorry stands helplessly by, here Fred Barnard captures the moment of dignified stillness that follows when, having embraced her husband for the last time (she thinks), Lucie releases Charles. The Household Edition illustrator disposes his figures across the space, directing the gazes of the characters upstage, to the departing Charles Darnay, organising the characters into two groups of three; downstage right (i. e., the viewer's left), the psychologically shattered Dr. Manette, "draw[ing] his hands through his white hair, and wring[ing] them with with a shriek of anguish" (155), Jarvis Lorry, and Lucie; upstage left, a guard, Darnay, and the turnkey or gaoler, identified by his keys — presumably the shadowy profile just outside the door is Barsad's. Like Auguste Rodin's The Burghers of Calais (i. e., Les Bourgeois de Calais), 1889, the six figures convey in their poses and expressions differing responses to a death sentence imposed by an implacable and arbitrary judgement, from Dr. Manette's mental and emotional prostration, to Mr. Lorry's uncertainty as to how to act, to Lucie's tenderly waving farewell (not the attitude of prayer that Dickens specifies), to Darnay's stoical resignation. Foiling these attitudes are the guard's obvious indifference to the emotional parting and the gaoler's stern resolve to do his duty in liquidating a man who, despite his sympathetic domestic circumstances and nobility of character, is "At heart and by descent an Aristocrat" (155), and therefore one to whom no true Citizen of the Republic should show pity. In contrast, all three functionaries of the justice system (left) in Phiz's illustration seem oblivious to the moving scene transpiring just feet away. Darnay turns from profile just slightly to exchange a parting, enigmatic glance.

References

Bolton, H. Philip. Dickens Dramatized. Boston: G. K. Hall, 1987.

Davis, Paul. Charles Dickens A to Z: The Essential Reference to His Life and Work. New York: Checkmark and Facts On File, 1998.

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. (12 November 1859): 732-34.


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Last modified 11 March 2011