He stooped a little . . .

"He stooped a little . . ." by Fred Barnard. 1870s. 10.8 x 13.9 cm. Book 2, chapter 8.

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 contemptuous visage of the Marquis St. Evrémonde. — scowling at the interruption of his journey from the metropolis to his country chateau — competes for the viewer's attention at the centre of Barnard's composition with the questioning expressions of the peasantry surrounding the carriage in the square of the little village, in front of the posting-house gate beside the fountain, neither of which is in evidence in Barnard's ninth illustration. Barnard's lengthy title points to this specific moment in the text. Accosting the grizzled road-mender who has just joined the phlegmatic group looking under the carriage, the Marquis interrogates him:

"What did you look at so fixedly?"

"Monseigneur, I looked at the man."

He stooped a little, and with his tattered blue cap pointed under the carriage. All his fellows stooped to look under the carriage.

"What man, pig? And why look there?"

"Pardon, Monseigneur; he swung by the chain of the shoe — the drag." [52, facing the illustration]

Barnard probably concluded, after reviewing the original 1859 steel engravings, that it would be difficult to compete with Phiz's "The Stoppage at the Fountain" with its seething mob, rearing horses, and moment of high melodrama as the insensitive aristocrat's encouraging his driver to race through the crowded streets of St. Antoine has resulted in a child's death. Instead, realising a moment in Chapter 8, "Monseigneur in the Country," of Book the Second, "The Golden Thread," Barnard elected to reinforce the moment of the Marquis' discovering that he has been carrying a hitchhiker under his carriage. The reader studies the reaction of the villagers near the Marquis' chateau and ponders why a denizen of St. Antoine has chosen to follow Monseigneur from town by so dangerous an expedient. Whereas Phiz's dual focus in is the group of grieving women at the fountain (left) and the Marquis' surveying the distraught father, Gaspard, and his comforter, Defarge (right), in a swirling vortex of action and raw emotion, Barnard's scene, showing the horses as entirely tranquil, is far more mundane: there is no social tragedy, no sudden loss of life, just a small mystery — which nevertheless is significant in that it prepares the reader for the discovery of the Marquis murdered in his bed in Chapter 9, "The Gorgon's Head."

A detail wholly consistent with the text is that the man who is holding his cap in his right hand as he points downward with his left (left of centre) has been brought forward by a fashionably attired courier, who has removed his own tricorn hat as the Marquis addresses the peasant in his charge. A detail not mentioned by Dickens but consistent with the fashions of the countryside in eighteenth-century France is the wooden shoes worn by the nine villagers. Although their presence on the horses is entirely logical in Barnard's woodcut, Dickens does not mention the Marquis' having mounted postilions accompanying him. In this respect, Phiz's illustration more closely follows the text in depicting a driver, a pair of horses harnessed side-by-side, and a courier at the very back of the carriage. However, whereas Phiz in "The Stoppage at the Fountain" as a visual complement to the seventh chapter, "Monseigneur in Town," had emphasised the rearing horses to further energise the scene, Barnard has effectively realised the ornately trimmed carriage of the Marquis, a shield with a cross on it ironically commenting on the owner's lack of Christian charity and also suggesting a connection with England as the decoration approximately the shield of St. George.

Curiously, in the Harper's serialisation, John McLenan expressed little interest in the Marquis and his carriage, which is depicted in very small scale in the background of the headnote vignette for 2 July 1859, Chapter 7, "Monseigneur in Town". Instead, McLenan focussed on the assassination of the Marquis in his own bed in "This from Jacques!" in the same instalment.

References

Dickens, Charles. A Tale of Two Cities. il. Phiz. London: Chapman & Hall, 1859.

Dickens, Charles. A Tale of Two Cities. il. Fred Barnard. The Household Edition. London: Chapman & Hall, 1870s.

Dickens, Charles. A Tale of Two Cities. il. John McLenan. Harper's Weekly. Tenth instalment (2 July 1859): 405.


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Last modified 22 February 2011