"She curtsied to him . . ." by Fred Barnard. 1870s. 10.6 x 13.8 cm. For Book 1, chapter 4. [Click on image to enlarge it.]

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

Lucie Manette meets Mr. Jarvis Lorry of Tellson's Bank in her room at the old coaching inn ("The Royal George Hotel") at the port of Dover in the fourth chapter ("The Preparation") in Book the First, "Recalled to Life," Dickens's A Tale of Two Cities (Household Edition, p. 1). Through the curtseying and bowing of the figures, as well as through their costuming, Barnard reinforces the story's eighteenth-century setting, a period, as the text below the picture announces, of Light and Darkness, of hope and despair, a period, despite its quaint customs and antiquated fashions then thought current, "so far like the present" (1). The specific passage illustrated occurs a number of pages and several chapters later:

The obscurity was so difficult to penetrate that Mr. Lorry, picking his way over the well-worn Turkey carpet, supposed Miss Manette to be, for the moment, in some adjacent room, until, having got past two tall candles, he saw standing to receive him, by the table between them and the fire, a young lady of not more than seventeen, in a riding cloak, and still holding her straw travelling hat by its ribbon in her hand. As his eyes rested on a short, slight, pretty figure, a quantity of golden hair, a pair of blue eyes that met his own with an enquiring look, and a forehead with a singular capacity (remembering how young and smooth it was) of lifting and knitting itself into an expression that was not quite one of perplexity, or wonder, or alarm, or merely of a bright fixed attention, though it included all the four expressions — as his eyes rested on these things, a sudden vivid likeness passed before him of a child whom he had held in his arms on the passage across that very Channel, one cold time, when the hail drifted heavily and the sea ran high. . . . .

"Pray take a seat, sir." In a very clear and pleasant young voice: a little foreign in its accent, but a very little indeed.

"I kiss your hand, miss," said Mr. Lorry, with the manners of an earlier date, as he made his formal bow again, and took his seat. . . . .

She curtsied to him (young ladies made curtsies in those days) with a pretty desire to convey to him that she felt how much older and wiser he was than she. He made her another bow. [9]

Thus, Barnard has chosen to focus on this connection between two of the tale's principal characters, rather than on Jerry Cruncher's highly dramatic stopping of the coach on the Dover Road in the second chapter, the subject that his friend Hablot Knight Browne had chosen as his first subject in the first monthly number (June, 1859), "Recalled to Life".

References

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. Il. Fred Barnard. The Household Edition. London: Chapman and Hall, 1870s.

Dickens, Charles. A Tale of Two Cities. Il. Phiz. London: Chapman and Hall, 1859.


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Last modified 22 February 2011

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