"Lucie and her Father under the Plane-tree"
13.6 x 8.3 cm
Eighteenth 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. 176.
The illustration corresponds to Phiz's original conception of the idyllic scene only insofar as it features Doctor Manette and his daughter prior to her marriage to Charles Darnay. The moment as Furniss conceives of it is far more intimate because he has deliberately eliminated the other figures present in the December 1859 illustration Under the Plane Tree and moved father and daughter into an embrace as the father points dramatically upward to the moon. [Commentary continued below.]
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Scanned image and text by Philip V. Allingham.
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"If I had never seen Charles, my father, I should have been quite happy with you."
He smiled at her unconscious admission that she would have been unhappy without Charles, having seen him; and replied:
"My child, you did see him, and it is Charles. If it had not been Charles, it would have been another. Or, if it had been no other, I should have been the cause, and then the dark part of my life would have cast its shadow beyond myself, and would have fallen on you."
It was the first time, except at the trial, of her ever hearing him refer to the period of his suffering. It gave her a strange and new sensation while his words were in her ears; and she remembered it long afterwards.
"See!" said the Doctor of Beauvais, raising his hand towards the moon. "I have looked at her from my prison-window, when I could not bear her fight. I have looked at her when it has been such torture to me to think of her shining upon what I had lost, that I have beaten my head against my prison-walls. I have looked at her, in a state so dull and lethargic, that I have thought of nothing but the number of horizontal lines I could draw across her at the full, and the number of perpendicular lines with which I could intersect them." He added in his inward and pondering manner, as he looked at the moon, "It was twenty either way, I remember, and the twentieth was difficult to squeeze in."
The strange thrill with which she heard him go back to that time, deepened as he dwelt upon it; but, there was nothing to shock her in the manner of his reference. He only seemed to contrast his present cheerfulness and felicity with the dire endurance that was over.
"I have looked at her, speculating thousands of times upon the unborn child from whom I had been rent. Whether it was alive. Whether it had been born alive, or the poor mother's shock had killed it. Whether it was a son who would some day avenge his father. (There was a time in my imprisonment, when my desire for vengeance was unbearable.) Whether it was a son who would never know his father's story; who might even live to weigh the possibility of his father's having disappeared of his own will and act. Whether it was a daughter who would grow to be a woman."
She drew closer to him, and kissed his cheek and his hand. [Book Two, "The Golden Thread," Chapter Seventeen, "One Night," p. 177]
Relevant Illustrations from earlier editions: 1859, 1867, and 1874.
Left: John McLenan's 20 August 1859 illustration of Doctor Manette and his daughter in the garden of their home in Soho, "'See!' said the Doctor of Beauvais". Right: "Under the Plane-tree" by Hablot Knight Browne in the final monthly double number (December 1859).
Left: Sol Eytinge, Junior's Diamond Edition illustration of Lucie's first meeting with her father, assumed long dead, in "Doctor Manette and His Daughter" (1867). Right: Fred Barnard's Household Edition illustration depicting Doctor Manette, "Still the doctor, with shaded forehead, beat his foot nervously on the ground" (1874). [Click on images to enlarge them.]
In the original monthly sequence of illustrations, readers did not see a illustration of the memorable scene in the garden when it occurred in the text for October; rather, readers had to wait until the "wind-up," December issue to see in Under the Plane Tree, an analeptic realisation of this idyllic moment which serves to underscore the depth of Sydney Carton's feelings for Lucie as the illustration occurs within the context of the final instalment, and therefore in terms of his noble sacrifice to preserve her husband's life. In the fourth and final illustration for seventh monthly part Phiz has once again placed Carton on the periphery (rear centre) while Doctor Manette chats confidentially with his contemporary, Jarvis Lorry (left), and Lucie and Charles (right) are blissfully unaware of the presence of the others. Carton is once again, as in the July 1859 engraving Congratulations, outside the charmed circle, a social isolate who looks knowingly at the viewer.
The sixteenth weekly instalment in Harper's, issued on the 20th of August 1859, features John McLenan's somewhat stilted characterization of Lucie and her father answering the door in the headnote vignette for Chapter XVII, "One Night," for Book Two, Chapter Seventeen. However, he more than makes up for this weakly executed contextualising scene by the scene of Lucie and her father alone on the garden bench later that evening, "See!" said the Doctor of Beauvais in the same instalment. It is this treatment rather than Phiz's that offers a pointed contrast for Furniss's far more emotionally satisfying realisation. Whereas MacLenan conceives of Doctor Manette as a natural philosopher, pedantically showing his daughter (her face obscured by his left arm) the night sky, the American illustrator admirably conveys Lucie's love for her long-lost parent as she leans in and holds his right hand. In contrast to Doctor Manette's sober business suit in the small-scale MacLenan wood-engraving, Furniss's Doctor Manette wears a lighter jacket and (as befits his age) a skull-cap; furthermore, although he points upward emphatically, he looks into Lucie's adoring face, as the leaves of the plane tree engulf the upper half of the illustration, underscoring the Edenic quality of the moment. This natural quality (evoked by the profuse leaves of the tree that are echoed in the profusion of blonde hair on Doctor Manette's shoulder) has unfortunately escaped the American illustrator, whose generalized night-time backdrop smacks more of the early nineteenth-century theatre (with a glaring spotlight on the Doctor and the tree-trunk behind him) than of Northrup Frye's "Green World," the restorative, alternative environment to the civilised legal and structured social environment of the city in Shakespeare's plays, a concept which the Canadian critic articulated in 1957 in The Anatomy of Criticism (Princeton; Princeton University Press).
In Harry Furniss's highly impressionist and sensuous rendering of the scene, the twentieth-century reader must have felt him- or herself almost a voyeur in being privileged to witness and overhear this highly confessional moment, for this is the first time that the father has reflected upon his imprisonment in his daughter's hearing. The intense emotion of the Furniss scene is in stark contrast to far less emotional depictions of the former Bastille prisoner: the monumental first meeting of father and daughter as realised by Sol Eytinge, Junior, in the Diamond Edition, and Fred Barnard's more prosaic realisation of another confessional moment, between the Doctor and Jarvis Lorry, in which the former Bastille prisoner must speak of himself in the third person after recovering from a fit of nine days' duration in which he has lost his reconstructed identity and reverted to being the shoe-mender. Although the MacLenan illustration captures something of Doctor Manette's moonlit reverie — which, as Andrew Sanders notes, echoes the philosophical note of Charles Lamb's "Dream Children" in Essays of Elia (1823) — the passionate embrace of the daughter in Furniss's engraving speaks volumes about Lucie's mixed feelings on the eve of her marriage. It is no mere accident of composition that Furniss has made Lucie — beautiful, adoring, and somewhat vulnerable — the physical and emotional centre of the picture, whereas previous illustrators have emphasized the centrality of her father. Both are moved by powerful and conflicting emotions, but Furniss has determined that the reader should appreciate Lucie's dilemma.
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Last modified 5 December 2013