"Doctor Manette's 'Old Companion'"
13.9 x 9.4 cm
Nineteenth 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. 192.
The illustration corresponds to Phiz's original conception of the Jarvis Lorry and Miss Pross conspiratorially destroying the shoemender's bench in order to prevent their old friend, Doctor Manette, from relapsing into his former identity as the Bastille prisoner. The moment as Furniss conceives of it is even more dramatic than the October 1859 illustration The Accomplices as he has moved in for a close-up, eliminating much of the background (especially the shelves of books and the screen) — and has the well-meaning vandals stare apprehensively in the reader's direction. [Commentary continued below.]
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Scanned image and text by Philip V. Allingham.
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On the night of the day on which he left the house, Mr. Lorry went into his room with a chopper, saw, chisel, and hammer, attended by Miss Pross carrying a light. There, with closed doors, and in a mysterious and guilty manner, Mr. Lorry hacked the shoemaker's bench to pieces, while Miss Pross held the candle as if she were assisting at a murder for which, indeed, in her grimness, she was no unsuitable figure. The burning of the body (previously reduced to pieces convenient for the purpose) was commenced without delay in the kitchen fire; and the tools, shoes, and leather, were buried in the garden. So wicked do destruction and secrecy appear to honest minds, that Mr. Lorry and Miss Pross, while engaged in the commission of their deed and in the removal of its traces, almost felt, and almost looked, like accomplices in a horrible crime. [Book Two, "The Golden Thread," Chapter Nineteen, "An Opinion," p. 193]
Relevant Illustrations from earlier editions: 1859, 1867, and 1874.
Left: John McLenan's 27 August 1859 depiction of the destruction of Doctor Manette's old companion in "The Auto da Fe". Right: "The Accomplices" by Hablot Knight Browne in the fifth monthly number (October 1859).
Left: Sol Eytinge, Junior's Diamond Edition illustration of the guardians of the Manettes in "Mr. Lorry and Miss Pross" (1867). Right: Fred Barnard's Household Edition illustration depicting Doctor Manette conversing with Jarvis Lorry about ten days after his daughter's marriage, "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 encountered the scene in Doctor Manette's library before it occurred in the text for October since Phiz's The Accomplices, was one of two loose illustrations inside the monthly wrapper, affording a proleptic reading of the illustration. Although Fred Barnard in his Household Edition illustrations of 1874 realizes the "consultation" about the patient rather than the actual demolition of the cobbler's bench, in the original American periodical publication John MacLenan also offers a realisation of this suspenseful moment which underscores the fragility of Doctor Manette's recovery. Neatly, Phiz in the original sequence had juxtaposed this intensely private scene of justified vandalism with the very public scene of the Saint Antoine mob, led by Madame Defarge and the Vengeance, storming the Bastille in The Sea Rises, an act of destruction perhaps equally well motivated but having catastrophic consequences in the history of Europe.
The seventeenth weekly instalment in Harper's, issued on the 27th of August 1859, features MacLenan's dramatic realisation of Mr. Lorry and Miss Pross destroying the Doctor's only companion in the Bastille, his cobbler's workbench, the light of the candle casting a theatrical glow on their faces as Lorry raises a large chopper which visually foreshadows the guillotine in later scenes of the novel. In the main illustration for this weekly instalment, The auto da Fe for Book Two, Chapter Nineteen, MacLenan has anticipated the subject that Phiz would choose for one of his two engravings for the October instalment, by coincidence even including the ornamental screen as a symbol of the clandestine nature of the destruction. The title that MacLenan has chosen for the composition emphasizes the murderous quality of the scene, and draws the parallel between this well-motivated "purge" and the crueller bloodletting soon to be enacted across the Channel by revolutionaries bent on removing from the new and just society the contaminating presence of an exploitative and corrupt monarchy and aristocracy.
Perhaps deliberately avoiding the scene chosen by Phiz for ch. 19, Fred Barnard chose the ironic scene in which Dickens has the physician attempting to cure (or at least diagnose) his own malady. The emphasis is still on Jarvis Lorry's concern about his friend's mental well-being, but the effect is less dramatic and the subject more psychological in that the illustration draws the reader's attention to the Doctor's state of mind:
Defining 'mind' as 'the intelligent power' [in his 1756 Dictionary] Johnson adds: 'This word being often used for the soul giving life, is attributed abusively to madmen, when we say that they are of a distracted mind, instead of a broken understanding: which word, mind, we use also for opinion.' . . . . As this chapter suggests, however, Dickens possessed a remarkable psychological grasp and gives to Lorry a careful and sympathetic understanding of Manette's disorder which is in advance of its time. [Sanders, 112]
Thus, perhaps recognizing the importance of the chapter title, "An Opinion" — signifying both a medical diagnosis (as we still use it today in "a second opinion") and a state of mind — Fred Barnard focuses on the relationship between the Doctor and the man of finance, a "fellow of delicacy" who manages to obtain Doctor Manette's permission to destroy that which represents his escape from sanity and into oblivion. of course, in the original monthly illustrations, readers would have associated Doctor Manette from the outset and repeatedly owing to the month-by-month appearance of that "old companion" with the long-haired Bastille prisoner in the lower right-hand corner of the monthly wrapper (May — December 1859).
Rather than avoid a subject which Dickens's original illustrator had treated with such sensitivity, Harry Furniss elected to increase the scene's dramatic intensity by having the middle-aged (rather than elderly) "accomplices" look towards the reader in their apprehension that they may be interrupted — and that somebody is observing them. Unlike the characters in John MacLenan's parallel illustration from fifty years earlier, a vigorous Miss Pross is in the foreground, turning around to look at the reader directly, and Mr. Lorry is sawing rather than chopping the bench apart in the background. In having his accomplices systematically dismantling the bench rather than chopping it to pieces, Harry Furniss emphasizes their apprehension rather than their destructiveness as they are concerned that Doctor Manette should return home and the deed not be done.
The text's echoing Shakespeare's famous husband-and-wife team of murderers, Macbeth and Lady Macbeth ("commission of their deed") finds no equivalent in the Furniss illustration, which the illustrator has consciously based on the 1859 original by Hablot Knight Browne. Furniss may not have been aware that Dickens may have had another pair of more contemporary killers in mind. The passage and thus the original illustration
may also allude to celebrated women murderers of the nineteenth century, most probably to Maria Manning, executed with her husband in 1849 for the murder of her lover (a public execution witnessed by Dickens, and the occasion of his two letters to The Times of 13 and 17 November 1849). A further candidate might well be Madeleine Smith, whose sensational trial for the murder of her lover ended in a verdict of 'not proven' at the Edinburgh High Court in July 1857. [Sanders, 113]
Whether Furniss knew about these literary and real-life antecedents of Phiz's scene is uncertain, but through Browne himself it is plausible that Fred Barnard was aware of the scene's being connected to the Macbeths, the Mannings, and Smith. As Dickens pointed out to fellow-novelist Wilkie Collins in a letter of 6 October 1859, "the peculiarity of the Doctor's character, as affected by his imprisonment" (Letters 9, 127) is crucial to maintaining the plot secret of the damning letter hidden in Manette's cell in the Bastille and rescued by Defarge during the sack of the prison-fortress. He should not (indeed, cannot) remember having written this letter and hidden it years earlier, so that its being offered in evidence against Darnay at his second trial will prove "sensational" in the sense that Collins would have understood the term.
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Davis, Paul. Charles Dickens A to Z: The Essential Reference to His Life and Work. New York: Facts On File, 1998.
Dickens, Charles. The Letters of Charles Dickens. Ed. Madeline House, Graham Storey, and Kathleen Tillotson. Oxford: Clarendon, 1965. Vol. 9 (1859-1861).
Dickens, Charles. A Tale of Two Cities. All the Year Round. 30 April through 26 November 1859.
Dickens, Charles. A Tale of Two Cities. Illustrated by John McLenan. Harper's Weekly: A Journal of Civilization. 7 May through 3 December 1859.
Dickens, Charles. A Tale of Two Cities. Illustrated by Hablot Knight Browne. London: Chapman and Hall, 1859.
Dickens, Charles. A Tale of Two Cities and Great Expectations. Illustrated by Sol Eytinge, Jr. The Diamond Edition. 16 vols. Boston: Ticknor and Fields, 1867.
Dickens, Charles. A Tale of Two Cities. Illustrated by Fred Barnard. The Household Edition. London: Chapman and Hall, 1874.
Dickens, Charles. A Tale of Two Cities. Illustrated by A. A. Dixon. London: Collins, 1905.
Dickens, Charles. A Tale of Two Cities, American Notes, and Pictures from Italy. Illustrated by Harry Furniss. Charles Dickens Library Edition. 18 vols. London: Educational Book Company, 1910. Vol. 13.
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Last modified 5 April 2017