"Darnay Arraigned before the Judges"
14.2 x 9.6 cm vignetted
Twenty-seventh 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. 272.
Although a man's life is at stake as a result of the 19 September 1793 Republican law enacted against "Aristocrats, Federalists, [and] Monsieurs" (according to Thomas Carlyle's account of that autumn's events in The French Revolution, 3.4.6, cited in Sanders 148), only the prisoner himself seems to be fully attending to the proceedings in Furniss's courtroom scene, which does not encompass either the jury in their Phrygian caps or the blood-thirsty "patriots" in the audience. [Commentary continued below.]
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Scanned image and text by Philip V. Allingham.
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Charles Evrémonde, called Darnay, was accused by the public prosecutor as an emigrant, whose life was forfeit to the Republic, under the decree which banished all emigrants on pain of Death. It was nothing that the decree bore date since his return to France. There he was, and there was the decree; he had been taken in France, and his head was demanded.
"Take off his head!" cried the audience. "An enemy to the Republic!"
The President rang his bell to silence those cries, and asked the prisoner whether it was not true that he had lived many years in England?
Undoubtedly it was.
Was he not an emigrant then? What did he call himself?
Not an emigrant, he hoped, within the sense and spirit of the law.
Why not? the President desired to know.
Because he had voluntarily relinquished a title that was distasteful to him, and a station that was distasteful to him, and had left his country — he submitted before the word emigrant in the present acceptation by the Tribunal was in use — to live by his own industry in England, rather than on the industry of the overladen people of France. [Book Three, "The Track of a Storm," Chapter Six, "Triumph," p. 269]
Relevant Illustrations from earlier editions: 1859, 1874, and 1905
Left: John McLenan's 5 October 1859 depiction of the re-arrest of Darnay after his first trial, "Citizen Evrémonde, called Darnay". Right: "After the Sentence" by Hablot Knight Browne in the final monthly number (December 1859).
Left: Fred Barnard's Household Edition illustration depicting Darnay's second trial in Book Three, Chapter Nine, "The Trial of Evréemonde" (1874). Right: A. A. Dixon's version of Darnay's re-arrest following the Defarges' denunciation, "I know you, Evrémonde!" (1905). [Click on images to enlarge them.]
From Carlyle and Dickens Furniss has produced operetta costumes for the Commissioners of the Convention sitting in judgment on Charles Darnay: "round hat, plumed with tricolour feathers, girt with flowing tricolour taffeta, in close frock, tricolour sash, sword and jackboots" (The French Revolution, 3.5.5, cited in Sanders 148). The four plumed "Judges" whom Furniss has placed upper left are hardly pillars of jurisprudence; indeed, only the prisoner, whose manly, upright figure dominates the composition, seems to be attending to the proceedings — in contrast to the utterly bored old soldier in the right foreground, whose cynical expression suggests that he already knows how the accused will fare before so biased a court.
Charles Darnay, having been "drawn to the loadstone rock" to rescue Gabelle, a family retainer, now faces the dread consequences of having left the safety of England sixteen months earlier. However, in Furniss's courtroom scene, the handsome, middle-aged emigré is immaculately dressed and utterly self-possessed, despite his extended incarceration, undoubted privation, and lack of exercise. His calm demeanour is all the more impressive in the context of the audience's cries for his decapitation as an enemy of the Republic, and his having suffered the loss of all acquaintances made over his months in La Force, for they have now all perished on the guillotine.
The other figures in the illustration are an ill-kempt, bleary-eyed, and generally disinterested pack of functionaries whose ill-fitting uniforms suggest that, until just recently, they have been accustomed to much plainer garb. In particular, Furniss's Public Prosecutor, seated immediately below the judges, seems both dull-witted and heavy featured; however, the corpulent judges are little better, although not as "low, cruel, and bad" (268) as the unseen jury and audience, among whom sits Madame Defarge and her husband. Thus, in moving in for the closeup in order to contrast Darnay and the officials, Furniss has missed an opportunity to show the attitudes of the Defarges to Darnay's arraignment as an "emigrant."
In fact, perhaps because their programs of illustration were much more restricted, and perhaps because this first trial is not nearly so suspenseful as the second, Dickens's other illustrators have not dealt with this arraignment. Indeed, since he had already depicted Darnay on trial at the Old Bailey early in his narrative-pictorial sequence, Phiz elected instead to realise the scene after Darnay's conviction at the second trial, when Lucie faints, her father and Lorry feel powerless after this latest reversal, and Carton comes to her aid, reintroducing him at a crucial moment. Barnard's full-page treatment of the second trial (discounting the Old Bailey proceedings) is the most informative in terms of artistic contrast. Barnard clearly regarded this second arraignment as a worthy subject for the frontispiece since it pits a diminutive Darnay against the juggernaut of the Revolution.
Whereas Furniss offers a closeup that eliminates the jury and the audience to focus on Darnay, Barnard offers a panoramic treatment in which the figure of the accused is almost lost in the congested courtroom. Whereas Barnard reveals his mistrust of revolutionary justice through the general tawdriness of the scene and the grim, animal-like expressions of that portion of the jury wearing Phrygian caps (right), Furniss makes his prisoner a paragon of both manliness and fashion and those who are in charge as slovenly, heavy-set, dull-witted, and bored — mere appetitive animals in contrast to the more intellectual type who stands before them as an enemy of the state. Like Carlyle and Dickens, Furniss implies that the revolutionary tribunal is merely another instance of mob rule and retribution.
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Dickens, Charles. A Tale of Two Cities and Great Expectations. Il. Sol Eytinge, Jr. The Diamond Edition. 16 vols. Boston: Ticknor and Fields, 1867.
Dickens, Charles. A Tale of Two Cities. Il. Fred Barnard. The Household Edition. London: Chapman and Hall, 1874.
Dickens, Charles. A Tale of Two Cities. Il. A. A. Dixon. London: Collins, 1905.
Dickens, Charles. A Tale of Two Cities, American Notes, and Pictures from Italy. Il. Harry Furniss. Charles Dickens Library Edition. 18 vols. London: Educational Book Company, 1910. Vol. 13.
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Last modified 27 December 2013