The Characters in the Story

Harry Furniss


14.6 x 9.2 cm vignetted

Ornamental title-page for A Tale of Two Cities in A Tale of Two Cities, American Notes, Pictures from Italy, Charles Dickens Library Edition (1910), vol. 13.

A feature of each volume in the Charles Dickens Library Edition (1910), "The Characters in the Stories," as Furniss has entitled the thumbnail vignettes that form the four borders of the title-page, includes most of the characters in the novel: in the top register, left to right, are the principals of the story, often in postures and poses that anticipate their appearances in the full-page illustrations. [Commentary continued below.]

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Consequently, for example, Furniss describes Charles Darnay (in upper rght-hand corner) and Sydney Carton (in the upper left-hand corner) in exactly the poses in which they will subsequently appear. Darnay is seen in profile, with a Jacobin cap above and behind him, in the same posture that he strikes as he pleads his innocence before the revolutionary tribunal in Darnay arraigned before the Judges in Book Three, Chapter Six, "Triumph," a study which also resembles Furniss's study of him at the Old Bailey, The Likeness in Court, in which however, he faces right rather than left, as in the title-page vignette and the French courtroom scene.

Even though A Tale of Two Cities initially appeared in weekly instalments in Dickens's weekly journal All the Year Round without the benefit of illustration, Furniss nevertheless had two sets of competent illustrations available as references, even if he had not seen the work of American illustrators Sol Eytinge, Junior and John McLenan dating from the 1860s: the sixteen steel engravings in the monthly parts illustrated by Hablot Knight Browne and the twenty-five 1874 wood-engravings by Fred Barnard for the Household Edition — to say nothing of the Barnard study of Carton on the scaffold from 1879 for his first series of Character Sketches from Dickens (London: Cassell, Petter, and Gilpin, 1874-79), a version of which, by Toulouse Lautrec admirer John Hassall served to advertise Sir John Martin-Harvey's highly successful stage adaptation The Only Way at London's Lyceum Theatre (which debutéd on 16 February 1899, ran until 25 March 1899 with 168 performances, and was revived some ten times in London up to 1909). And issued just five years earlier than Furniss's edition, the Collins Pocket Edition offered Furniss realistic lithographs as reference points, there being two illustrations of Carton's final moments in that series. Thus, the influences at work in Furniss's frontispiece are legion.

Providing a sort of visual overture to characters and situations in the novel, Furniss offers thumbnail sketches of almost all of the characters, the exceptions apparently being "The Honest Tradesman," Jerry Cruncher, and his son; the road-mender; Gaspard; the chief St. Everemonde family retainer (Gabelle); the wood-sawyer; the Darnay children; and the professional spy for two nations and both sides in the Revolution, Solomon Pross (alias "John Barsad"). The thumbnails filling the borders of the title-page encompass some thirty-seven distinct figures in the sort of ornamental picture-frame that precedes each of the eighteen volumes (including Hammerton's The Dickens Picture Book and The Dickens Companion, volumes seventeen and eighteen). Indeed, sometimes a volume containing several works, such as Volume 13, contain additional title-pages, but these are generally an overview of the most celebrated characters from the novels, as is the case for that for American Notes for General Circulation and Pictures from Italy.

As a weekly novel written for a limited number of instalments (as opposed to the nineteen-month, full-length novels, beginning with The Pickwick Papers), A Tale of Two Cities, appearing 30 April through 26 November 1859 and simultaneously in eight parts issued over seven months, has a limited cast of characters and concomitantly fewer dramatic scenes appropriate to illustration. Thus, whereas the equivalent page for Pickwick, for example, in the Charles Dickens Library Edition has forty-five figures, this title-page has far fewer recognizable characters: Sydney Carton, raising a glass, perhaps in celebration of winning the Darnay case, and Stryver, striking an aristocratic pose with his walking-stick, exactly as in Mr. Stryver in Book Two, Chapter Eleven (upper left); the idyllic scene under the plane-tree in the garden at Soho: Doctor Manette, Lucie, Miss Pross, and (disappearing off right) Sydney Carton in the centre of the top register; Charles Darnay, the heretofore Marquis St. Evremonde, before the Revolutionary tribunal (upper-right); the Marquis as "Monseigneur in Town," trampling a proletarian child, and (below) killing a youth (Madame Defarge's brother) with his rapier (right-hand margin); the St. Antoine Jacobins (lower right); their leaders, the Defarges, in their wine-shop (lower right); the Vengeance, beating her drum as the mob storms the Bastille (bottom centre); Madame Defarge, wielding both a dagger and a sabre as she tramples Foulon (lower left); Jarvis Lorry on his stool in Tellson's counting-house (lower left-hand corner); above him, the coachman on the Dover Road and Aggerawayter, Jerry Cruncher's much-abused wife; the Judges in the Revolutionary Tribunal; Foulon, a bound captive of the mob; and Lucie, enquiring after her husband with a guard at La Force (upper left).


Barnard, Fred. A Series of Character Sketches from Charles Dickens [Series One: Alfred Jingle, Mrs. Gamp, Bill Sikes, Little Dorrit, Samuel Pickwick, and Sidney Carton]. London: Cassell, Petter, Galpin & Co., 1880 [portfolio].

Bentley, Nicolas, Michael Slater, and Nina Burgis. The Dickens Index. Oxford and New York: Oxford U. P., 1988.

Bolton, H. Philip. Dickens Dramatized. Boston: G. K. Hall, 1987.

Davis, Paul. Charles Dickens A to Z: The Essential Reference to His Life and Work. New York: Facts On File, 1998.

Dickens, Charles. A Tale of Two Cities. All the Year Round. 30 April through 26 November 1859.

Dickens, Charles. A Tale of Two Cities. Il. John McLenan. Harper's Weekly: A Journal of Civilization. 7 May through 3 December 1859.

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, 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 30 October 2013