Miss Manette and Mr. Lorry interrupted
14.5 x 9.5 cm vignetted
Fourth 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. 24.
Who is this brash woman well into middle age who thus interrupts Mr. Lorry's revelation that Miss Manette's father, "The Doctor of Beavais," is not in fact dead at all, but is being released from death in life, after a generation spent in the forebidding political prison adjacent to St. Antoine, the Bastille? [Commentary continued below.]
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Scanned image and text by Philip V. Allingham.
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Perfectly still and silent, and not even fallen back in her chair, she sat under his hand, utterly insensible; with her eyes open and fixed upon him, and with that last expression looking as if it were carved or branded into her forehead. So close was her hold upon his arm, that he feared to detach himself lest he should hurt her; therefore he called out loudly for assistance without moving.
A wild-looking woman, whom even in his agitation, Mr. Lorry observed to be all of a red colour, and to have red hair, and to be dressed in some extraordinary tight-fitting fashion, and to have on her head a most wonderful bonnet like a Grenadier wooden measure, and good measure too, or a great Stilton cheese, came running into the room in advance of the inn servants, and soon settled the question of his detachment from the poor young lady, by laying a brawny hand upon his chest, and sending him flying back against the nearest wall.
("I really think this must be a man!" was Mr. Lorry's breathless reflection, simultaneously with his coming against the wall.)
"Why, look at you all!" bawled this figure, addressing the inn servants. "Why don't you go and fetch things, instead of standing there staring at me? I am not so much to look at, am I? Why don't you go and fetch things? I'll let you know, if you don't bring smelling-salts, cold water, and quick, I will." [Book One, Chapter Four, "The Preparation," p. 24]
Relevant Illustrations from earlier editions, 1859, 1867, and 1874
Left: John McLennan's periodical illustration of the old maid, Miss Pross, and her hapless foil, the old bachelor banker, "Miss Pross and Mr. Lorry"; Centre: Phiz's "The Accomplices". Sol Eytinge, Junior's dual character study, "Mr. Lorry and Miss Pross" (1868). Right: Fred Barnard's "And smoothing her rich hair" (1874). [Click on images to enlarge them.]
Following the suspenseful scene on the Dover road in Chapter 2, Miss Pross's sudden entry at the Royal George Hotel, Dover, constitutes a particularly Dickensian form of comic relief, accentuated by her Stilton millinery. Since Dickens requires that Miss Pross, at the crucial moment, be more than a match physically for the much younger Madame Defarge, it is surprising that no previous illustrator over the half-century between the appearance of the original monthly parts and the Charles Dickens Library Edition of 1910 hadcharacterized her as anything more than a plain, rather angular bourgeois in old-fashioned dress. Consequently, despite the iron-will she manifests throughout the story, readers prior to the 1910 edition must have been somewhat surprised at Miss Pross's getting the better of the French harpy in order to ensure the safe escape of Lucie and her children. Then, too, the other illustrators waited some chapters to introduce Miss Pross into the narrative-pictorial sequence — not so Harry Furniss.
Having read and re-read this historical novel since early adolescence, Furniss decided to introduce Miss Pross early as a force to be reckoned with. Indeed, immediately after the moment realised, the British lioness without much effort hurls the unfortunate Jarvis Lorry against the wall.She appears most memorably as Lorry's co-conspirator in the destruction of Dr. Manette's shoemender's bench in order to preserve his sanity: initially in Phiz's memorable steel engraving The Accomplices (October 1859), and subsequently in the 1868 Diamond Edition of American illustrator Sol Eytinge, Junior and Mr. Lorry and Miss Pross. The more masculine and muscular version of Miss Pross whom Fred Barnard describes in the Household Edition is, nevertheless, less forceful than Furniss's here — until her fateful confrontation of Madame Defarge in "You might, from your appearance, be the wife of Lucifer. . .". But issued just five years earlier than Furniss's edition, the Collins Pocket Edition didnot even offer Furniss a possible model for this intimidating yetloveable English virago with a heart of gold.
In dramatic fashion, Furniss introduces her as a force of nature who bursts in upon the intimate scene between the gallant old bank clerk and the young Anglo-French woman who has mistakenly thought of herself for many years as an orphan, and is now shocked into temporary insensibilty by the news that her father has been "recalled to life."Recognizing the role that she will play in the final frame, Furniss introduces as early as possible in his pictorial sequence two of the story's chief supporting characters, Tellson's confidential head clerk, Jarvis Lorry, and the determined nurse and protector of "Ladybird," the delicate and beautiful young woman whom Miss Pross has raised to young adulthood. More accurately than such early illustrators as Phiz and McLenan, Furniss emphasizes the nurse's force of character and physical power, Dickens's comparison of her hat to a grenadier's implying an unfeminine, aggressive, domineering nature Furniss reflects in her considerable bulk lowering over Mr. Lorry, looking fiercely at him as she grabs him by the cravat. To complement Dickens's suggestion of her martial presence Furniss gives her a dress with the flavour of a military uniform. In the final illustration for the novel, Furniss characterizes her once again by her powerful "brawny" (in Book One, Chapter Four) arms as she struggles with a formidable French adversary wearing a Jacobin cap, in sharp contrast to conventional matron's cap that has replaced Miss Pross's Stilton travelling hat in the present plate.
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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.
Last modified 2 November 2013