13.5 x 8.5 cm vignetted
Fourteenth illustration for A Tale of Two Cities in A Tale of Two Cities, American Notes, Pictures from Italy, Charles Dickens Library Edition (1910), vol. 13, facing p. 144.
Just as, in Mr. Stryver, the egotistical attorney is due for a disappointment in pursuit of Lucie Manette, so the virtuous wastrel genuinely in love with the golden-haired beauty, Sydney Carton, who might have reformed himself under her benign influence, is rejected as a suitor — in favour of his serious double, Charles Darnay. [Commentary continued below.]
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Scanned image and text by Philip V. Allingham.
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"The utmost good that I am capable of now, Miss Manette, I have come here to realise. Let me carry through the rest of my misdirected life, the remembrance that I opened my heart to you, last of all the world; and that there was something left in me at this time which you could deplore and pity."
"Which I entreated you to believe, again and again, most fervently, with all my heart, was capable of better things, Mr. Carton!"
"Entreat me to believe it no more, Miss Manette. I have proved myself, and I know better. I distress you; I draw fast to an end. Will you let me believe, when I recall this day, that the last confidence of my life was reposed in your pure and innocent breast, and that it lies there alone, and will be shared by no one?"
"If that will be a consolation to you, yes."
"Not even by the dearest one ever to be known to you?"
"Mr. Carton," she answered, after an agitated pause, "the secret is yours, not mine; and I promise to respect it."
"Thank you. And again, God bless you."
He put her hand to his lips, and moved towards the door.
"Be under no apprehension, Miss Manette, of my ever resuming this conversation by so much as a passing word. I will never refer to it again. If I were dead, that could not be surer than it is henceforth. In the hour of my death, I shall hold sacred the one good remembrance — and shall thank and bless you for it — that my last avowal of myself was made to you, and that my name, and faults, and miseries were gently carried in your heart. May it otherwise be light and happy!"
He was so unlike what he had ever shown himself to be, and it was so sad to think how much he had thrown away, and how much he every day kept down and perverted, that Lucie Manette wept mournfully for him as he stood looking back at her.
"Be comforted!" he said, "I am not worth such feeling, Miss Manette. An hour or two hence, and the low companions and low habits that I scorn but yield to, will render me less worth such tears as those, than any wretch who creeps along the streets. Be comforted! But, within myself, I shall always be, towards you, what I am now, though outwardly I shall be what you have heretofore seen me. The last supplication but one I make to you, is, that you will believe this of me."
"I will, Mr. Carton."
"My last supplication of all, is this; and with it, I will relieve you of a visitor with whom I well know you have nothing in unison, and between whom and you there is an impassable space. It is useless to say it, I know, but it rises out of my soul. For you, and for any dear to you, I would do anything. If my career were of that better kind that there was any opportunity or capacity of sacrifice in it, I would embrace any sacrifice for you and for those dear to you. Try to hold me in your mind, at some quiet times, as ardent and sincere in this one thing. The time will come, the time will not be long in coming, when new ties will be formed about you — ties that will bind you yet more tenderly and strongly to the home you so adorn — the dearest ties that will ever grace and gladden you. O Miss Manette, when the little picture of a happy father's face looks up in yours, when you see your own bright beauty springing up anew at your feet, think now and then that there is a man who would give his life, to keep a life you love beside you!"
He said, "Farewell!" said a last "God bless you!" and left her. [Book Two, "The Golden Thread," Chapter Thirteen, "The Fellow of No Delicacy," pages 142-143]
Relevant Illustrations from earlier editions: 1859, 1867, and 1874.
Left: John McLenan's study of the inebriated barrister, Headnote vignette for Book Two, Chapter Four. Right: Phiz's study of the alienated Carton in the aftermath of Carton's exoneration, "Congratulations" (July 1859).
Left: Fred Barnard's dual study of the departing Carton and Lucie Manette in "...there is a man who would give his life" (1874), and (right) Sol Eytinge, Jr.'s study of a decidedly more handsome Carton on the scaffold, "Sydney Carton and The Seamstress" (1867). [Click on images to enlarge them.]
Despite the fact that this emotionally-charged scene is crucial to Carton's later sacrificing his own life for Darnay's by trading places with him in La Force, only Fred Barnard had previously attempted it. Furniss's emphasis is not divided like Barnard's as he focuses on the dejected Carton in the foreground, and places a pensive Lucie Manette well into the background, so that the illustrator compels the reader-viewer to sympathize with the young lawyer. To further this identification, Furniss minimizes the setting, whereas Barnard particularizes the drawing room with its eighteenth-century appurtenances: the screen, the embroidery frame, the large Chinese vase, the barley-cane legged table, and the mirror with paired candles. In the midst of this quiet, refined, domestic setting Barnard stages this romantic scene. In contrast, Furniss sketches in Sydney Carton with vigorous strokes in pen-and-ink, charging the figure with an energy that will carry him to the scaffold to protect the man whom Lucie has preferred to himself. An elegant detail which reveals his complex state of mind is Carton's gesture of farewell as Lucie, disregarding his exit entirely, look towards her future as the wife of Charles Darnay.
In many of the ornamental title-pages' Characters in the Story for the eighteen-volume Charles Dickens Library Edition (1910), Harry Furniss shows Sydney Carton in just such a pose as we see him here, dejectedly walking away — not from Lucie Manette, but from his romantic rival, Charles Darnay (lower left), in such volumes as The Dickens Companion (volume 18) and The Dickens Picture-Book (volume 17). As an Impressionist, Furniss must have felt that this sketch revealed not merely the emotional state of a single, interestingly conflicted character, but also much about the writer's ability to draw such compelling characters.
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Last modified 18 November 2013