Charles Darnay and The Marquis
approximately 10 cm high by 7.5 cm wide (framed)
One of eight illustrations for Dickens's A Tale of Two Cities and Great Expectations in the Ticknor & Fields (Boston), 1867, Diamond Edition.
Scanned image and text by Philip V. Allingham.
[You may use these images without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose as long as you (1) credit the photographer and (2) link your document to this URL in a web document or cite the Victorian Web in a print one.]
A Tale of Two Cities (Boston: Ticknor and Fields, 1867)., by Sol Eytinge, Jr., in Charles Dickens's
It would be a mistake to envisage the Marquis as a mere popinjay, as Charles Keeping did for the 1985 Folio Society volume, for underneath the sophisticated veneer lurks a voracious savage who consumes not merely chocolate in small quantities but the entire income of his benighted peasantry. He is both an individual — Charles Darnay's uncle — and a type, "Monseigneur," the quintessential French aristocrat. Eytinge's study of the two St. Evrémondes is so effective because, taking his cue from the text, the illustrator contrasts the underlying, feral wiliness of the aging, decadent aristocrat with the frank openness of his more liberal and enlightened nephew, now using his mother's surname, Darnay. The meeting between these polar opposites from France's first estate occurs in the rural chateau of the Marquis shortly after his callous disregard for the third estate has resulted in a child's being run over by his carriage — and shortly before the Marquis himself will be found murdered in his bed. Suggesting his evil and egocentric nature by the dark shading around the eyes, Eytinge has based his portrait of the insensitive nobleman upon Dickens's description of "Monseigneur" in an earlier passage:
He was a man of about sixty, handsomely dressed, haughty in manner, and with a face like a fine mask. A face of a transparent paleness; every feature in it clearly defined; one set expression on it. The nose, beautifully formed otherwise, was very slightly pinched at the top of each nostril. In those two compressions, or dints, the only little change that the face ever showed, resided. They persisted in changing colour sometimes, and they would be occasionally dilated and contracted by something like a faint pulsation; then, they gave a look of treachery, and cruelty, to the whole countenance. Examined with attention, its capacity of helping such a look was to be found in the line of the mouth, and the lines of the orbits of the eyes, being much too horizontal and thin; still, in the effect of the face made, it was a handsome face, and a remarkable one. [Book 2, Chapter 7; i. e., Ch. 13, "Monseigneur in Town"]
However, the scene that Eytinge realises in "Charles Darnay and the Marquis" occurs several chapters later, when the nephew appears before his uncle to severe all connection with the detested aristocratic family:
. . . the Marquis went on with his supper. He was half way through it, when he again stopped with his glass in his hand, hearing the sound of wheels. It came on briskly, and came up to the front of the chateau.
"Ask who is arrived."
It was the nephew of Monseigneur. He had been some few leagues behind Monseigneur, early in the afternoon. He had diminished the distance rapidly, but not so rapidly as to come up with Monseigneur on the road. He had heard of Monseigneur, at the posting-houses, as being before him.
He was to be told (said Monseigneur) that supper awaited him then and there, and that he was prayed to come to it. In a little while he came. He had been known in England as Charles Darnay.
Monseigneur received him in a courtly manner, but they did not shake hands.
"You left Paris yesterday, sir?" he said to Monseigneur, as he took his seat at table.
"Yesterday. And you?"
"I come direct."
"You have been a long time coming," said the Marquis, with a smile.
"On the contrary; I come direct."
"Pardon me! I mean, not a long time on the journey; a long time intending the journey."
"I have been detained by" — the nephew stopped a moment in his answer — "various business."
"Without doubt," said the polished uncle.
So long as a servant was present, no other words passed between them. When coffee had been served and they were alone together, the nephew, looking at the uncle and meeting the eyes of the face that was like a fine mask, opened a conversation.
"I have come back, sir, as you anticipate, pursuing the object that took me away. It carried me into great and unexpected peril; but it is a sacred object, and if it had carried me to death I hope it would have sustained me."
"Not to death," said the uncle; "it is not necessary to say, to death."
"I doubt, sir," returned the nephew, "whether, if it had carried me to the utmost brink of death, you would have cared to stop me there."
The deepened marks in the nose, and the lengthening of the fine straight lines in the cruel face, looked ominous as to that; the uncle made a graceful gesture of protest, which was so clearly a slight form of good breeding that it was not reassuring.
"Indeed, sir," pursued the nephew, "for anything I know, you may have expressly worked to give a more suspicious appearance to the suspicious circumstances that surrounded me."
"No, no, no," said the uncle, pleasantly.
"But, however that may be," resumed the nephew, glancing at him with deep distrust, "I know that your diplomacy would stop me by any means, and would know no scruple as to means."
"My friend, I told you so," said the uncle, with a fine pulsation in the two marks. "Do me the favour to recall that I told you so, long ago."
"I recall it."
"Thank you," said the Marquis — very sweetly indeed.
His tone lingered in the air, almost like the tone of a musical instrument.
"In effect, sir," pursued the nephew, "I believe it to be at once your bad fortune, and my good fortune, that has kept me out of a prison in France here."
"I do not quite understand," returned the uncle, sipping his coffee. "Dare I ask you to explain?"
"I believe that if you were not in disgrace with the Court, and had not been overshadowed by that cloud for years past, a letter de cachet would have sent me to some fortress indefinitely."
"It is possible," said the uncle, with great calmness. "For the honour of the family, I could even resolve to incommode you to that extent. Pray excuse me!"
"I perceive that, happily for me, the Reception of the day before yesterday was, as usual, a cold one," observed the nephew.
"I would not say happily, my friend," returned the uncle, with refined politeness; "I would not be sure of that. A good opportunity for consideration, surrounded by the advantages of solitude, might influence your destiny to far greater advantage than you influence it for yourself. But it is useless to discuss the question. I am, as you say, at a disadvantage. These little instruments of correction, these gentle aids to the power and honour of families, these slight favours that might so incommode you, are only to be obtained now by interest and importunity. They are sought by so many, and they are granted (comparatively) to so few! It used not to be so, but France in all such things is changed for the worse. Our not remote ancestors held the right of life and death over the surrounding vulgar. From this room, many such dogs have been taken out to be hanged; in the next room (my bedroom), one fellow, to our knowledge, was poniarded on the spot for professing some insolent delicacy respecting his daughter — hisdaughter? We have lost many privileges; a new philosophy has become the mode; and the assertion of our station, in these days, might (I do not go so far as to say would, but might) cause us real inconvenience. All very bad, very bad!"
The Marquis took a gentle little pinch of snuff, and shook his head; as elegantly despondent as he could becomingly be of a country still containing himself, that great means of regeneration.
"We have so asserted our station, both in the old time and in the modern time also," said the nephew, gloomily, "that I believe our name to be more detested than any name in France."
"Let us hope so," said the uncle. "Detestation of the high is the involuntary homage of the low."
"There is not," pursued the nephew, in his former tone, "a face I can look at, in all this country round about us, which looks at me with any deference on it but the dark deference of fear and slavery."
"A compliment," said the Marquis, "to the grandeur of the family, merited by the manner in which the family has sustained its grandeur. Hah!" And he took another gentle little pinch of snuff, and lightly crossed his legs.
But, when his nephew, leaning an elbow on the table, covered his eyes thoughtfully and dejectedly with his hand, the fine mask looked at him sideways with a stronger concentration of keenness, closeness, and dislike, than was comportable with its wearer's assumption of indifference.
"Repression is the only lasting philosophy. The dark deference of fear and slavery, my friend," observed the Marquis, "will keep the dogs obedient to the whip, as long as this roof," looking up to it, "shuts out the sky."
That might not be so long as the Marquis supposed. If a picture of the chateau as it was to be a very few years hence, and of fifty like it as they too were to be a very few years hence, could have been shown to him that night, he might have been at a loss to claim his own from the ghastly, fire-charred, plunder-wrecked rains. As for the roof he vaunted, he might have found that shutting out the sky in a new way — to wit, for ever, from the eyes of the bodies into which its lead was fired, out of the barrels of a hundred thousand muskets.
"Meanwhile," said the Marquis, "I will preserve the honour and repose of the family, if you will not. But you must be fatigued. Shall we terminate our conference for the night?"
"A moment more."
"An hour, if you please."
"Sir," said the nephew, "we have done wrong, and are reaping the fruits of wrong."
"We have done wrong?" repeated the Marquis, with an inquiring smile, and delicately pointing, first to his nephew, then to himself.
"Our family; our honourable family, whose honour is of so much account to both of us, in such different ways. Even in my father's time, we did a world of wrong, injuring every human creature who came between us and our pleasure, whatever it was. Why need I speak of my father's time, when it is equally yours? Can I separate my father's twin-brother, joint inheritor, and next successor, from himself?"
"Death has done that!" said the Marquis.
"And has left me," answered the nephew, "bound to a system that is frightful to me, responsible for it, but powerless in it; seeking to execute the last request of my dear mother's lips, and obey the last look of my dear mother's eyes, which implored me to have mercy and to redress; and tortured by seeking assistance and power in vain."
"Seeking them from me, my nephew," said the Marquis, touching him on the breast with his forefinger — they were now standing by the hearth — "you will for ever seek them in vain, be assured."
Every fine straight line in the clear whiteness of his face, was cruelly, craftily, and closely compressed, while he stood looking quietly at his nephew, with his snuff-box in his hand. Once again he touched him on the breast, as though his finger were the fine point of a small sword, with which, in delicate finesse, he ran him through the body, and said,
"My friend, I will die, perpetuating the system under which I have lived."
When he had said it, he took a culminating pinch of snuff, and put his box in his pocket.
"Better to be a rational creature," he added then, after ringing a small bell on the table, "and accept your natural destiny. But you are lost, Monsieur Charles, I see."
"This property and France are lost to me," said the nephew, sadly; "I renounce them." [Book Two, Chapter Nine, "The Gorgon's Head"]
To make the connection between the earlier verbal portrait and the figure of the Marquis in this scene, Eytinge has added the demitasse of chocolate; however, the small table is hardly suitable for the dinner of one person, let alone two, so that the illustrator has had to foreshorten the table in order to accommodate both figures.
Dickens, Charles. A Tale of Two Cities. Il. Hablot Knight Browne. London: Chapman and Hall, 1859.
Dickens, Charles. A Tale of Two Cities and Great Expectations. Il. Sol Eytinge, Junior. Boston: Ticknor and Fields, 1867.
Last modified 22 August 2011