The Wine-Shop

"The Wine-Shop" (p. 16) by Fred Barnard. 1870s. 9.4 x 13.8 cm. (framed). The picture of Gaspard, Madame de Farge, and her publican husband, Earnest, at the bar in their St. Antoine wine-shop establishes the context for the imminent arrival of Lucie Manette and Mr. Jarvis Lorry of Tellson's Bank, and more significantly the social and economic contexts in which the French Revolution will erupt in Dickens's A Tale of Two Cities, Book 1, chap. v, "The Wine-Shop," originally in the third weekly part (14 May 1859) in All the Year Round, and then in the June 1859 illustrated monthly number.

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Commentary: Saint Antoine's Wineshop — A Breeding Ground for Revolution.

In Barnard's sequence, the illustrator presents the Household Edition's reader with a contrast between the solid, middle-class — albeit old-fashioned — comfort of Dover's Royal George Hotel in the fourth chapter and this den of poverty and discontent in the fifth. The specific passage in "The Wine-Shop" that the illustration realises is this:

Madame Defarge, being sensitive to the cold, was wrapped in fur, and had a quantity of bright shawl twined about her head, though not to the concealment of her large ear-rings. Her knitting was before her, but she laid it down to pick her teeth with a toothpick. Thus engaged, with her right elbow supported by her left hand, Madame Defarge said nothing when her lord came in, but coughed just one grain of cough. This, in combination with the lifting of her darkly-defined eyebrows over her toothpick by the breadth of a line, suggested to her husband that he would do well to look round the shop among the customers for any new customer who had dropped in while he stepped over the way. [14]

Thus, Barnard has chosen to re-examine a subject that his friend Hablot Knight Browne had chosen as his first subject in the fourth monthly number (September, 1859), "The Wine-Shop". However, Phiz had focused on the garret above the shop in which the Defarges were housing the former prisoner of the Bastille, Dr. Manette, at this point in the story, "The Wine-Shop" by Phiz referring to events in the sixth chapter of the second book. Barnard conveys a stronger sense of the patrons of the establishment, seen left rear, and thus of the wine-shop as a centre of the St. Antoine community. With surer modelling, Barnard brings to life the meeting of the Jacquerie across the Defarges' bar, including even such details as Madame Defarge's fur collar and tooth-pick. The rough-and-tumble atmosphere of the place is immediately apparent through the male-dominated discourse and card-playing: Barnard shows nine men, but only two women. The large cask in the foreground recalls the scene at the opening of the chapter in which animalistic violence erupts in the street outside when a cask being delivered comes tumbling out of a cart and shatters.

John McLenan in the series for the American serialisation published in Harper's Weekly chose a rather more sensational moment for realisation as the headnote vignette for 21 May 1859 (325). Instead of the casual gossip among the Jacquerie inside Saint Antoine's community centre, McLenan depicts the riotous scene outside in the cobble stoned street when the wine cask is smashed as it falls off a cart. An impressionistic jumble of figures surrounds the gigantic cask, "on the stones just outside the door of the wine-shop, shattered like walnut shell" (325), enabling the reader of the weekly illustrated magazine to encounter the same moment simultaneously in two media.

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. 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. (21 May 1859): 325.


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Last modified 13 March 2011