Carton finds Consolation
13.7 x 8.8 cm framed
Eighth illustration for A Tale of Two Cities in A Tale of Two Cities, American Notes, Pictures from Italy, The Charles Dickens Library Edition (1910), vol. 13, facing p. 80.
The notion that a protagonist can be so profoundly flawed that Sydney Carton as revealed in Book Two, "The Golden Thread," is self-pitying, defeatist alcoholic was evidently something that Phiz had difficulty coming to terms with, so that he was reluctant to describe Carton's addiction in his illustrations. Furniss has no such qualms. [Commentary continued below.]
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Scanned image and text by Philip V. Allingham.
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The bill being paid, Charles Darnay rose and wished him good night. Without returning the wish, Carton rose too, with something of a threat of defiance in his manner, and said, "A last word, Mr. Darnay: you think I am drunk?"
"I think you have been drinking, Mr. Carton."
"Think? You know I have been drinking."
"Since I must say so, I know it."
"Then you shall likewise know why. I am a disappointed drudge, sir. I care for no man on earth, and no man on earth cares for me."
"Much to be regretted. You might have used your talents better."
"May be so, Mr. Darnay; may be not. Don't let your sober face elate you, however; you don't know what it may come to. Good night!"
When he was left alone, this strange being took up a candle, went to a glass that hung against the wall, and surveyed himself minutely in it.
"Do you particularly like the man?" he muttered, at his own image; "why should you particularly like a man who resembles you? There is nothing in you to like; you know that. Ah, confound you! What a change you have made in yourself! A good reason for taking to a man, that he shows you what you have fallen away from, and what you might have been! Change places with him, and would you have been looked at by those blue eyes as he was, and commiserated by that agitated face as he was? Come on, and have it out in plain words! You hate the fellow."
He resorted to his pint of wine for consolation, drank it all in a few minutes, and fell asleep on his arms, with his hair straggling over the table, and a long winding-sheet in the candle dripping down upon him. — Book Two, "The Golden Thread," Chapter Four, "Congratulatory," p. 77-78.
Relevant Illustrations from earlier editions, 1859, 1874, and 1905.
Left: John McLennan's headnote vignette of an inebriated Caton, "Chapter IV. Congratulatory". Right: Phiz's "Congratulations". [Click on images to enlarge them.]
Left:Fred Barnard's "The Lion and The Jackal" (1874). Right: A. A. Dixon's realisation of the tavern scene in Fleet-street after the trial, "Mr. Darnay, let me ask you a question" (1905).
Although both Sydney Carton, wastrel, and Charles Darnay, upright language teacher, are merely the undistinguished male ingénues found throughout Phiz's illustrations for Dickens, Lever, and others in his monthly steel-engravings for the novel, Harry Furniss seems to have been prepared to distinguish their outward forms after emphasizing the similarity of their faces in The Likeness in Court. Furniss in this "dark" plate shows barrister, Sydney Carton, in quite another light after his successful defence of his alter ego, Charles Darnay, at the Old Bailey. Although Furniss's illustration is positioned within Chapter 5, "The Jackal," it actually realizes a moment at the conclusion of the previous chapter, and is therefore comparable to other illustrators' realisations of Carton in that chapter.
In the All the Year Round weekly instalment of June 11, the reader could assess Carton's moral worth and addiction issues without being directed by such illustrations to contemplate how the young attorney was squandering his talents. However, in the original monthly steel-engraving entitled Congratulatory (for Part Two, July 1859), the illustrator focuses on Darnay (centre), who receives the vociferous congratulations of barrister Stryver (left) and the serious attention of Lucie Manette (right), while the architect of the legal coup, a handsome Sydney Carton, stands apart in a passageway (right), staring directly at the reader, as if to comment ironically on the "triumph" that the client and his legal partner are enjoying without proper acknowledgement of the part Carton has played. At least, Phiz is not guilty of failing to acknowledge the importance of Carton to the plot as his figure appears four times in just sixteen illustrations, as opposed to five representations of Charles Darnay. Although Fred Barnard in the Chapman and Hall Household Edition has a much larger narrative-pictorial program than Phiz's (twenty-five wood-engravings, with most being at least half-page), Barnard elected to emphasize the role of Carton (giving him five appearances, including the central position in the last plate, The Third Tumbrel) and relegate Darnay to secondary status, with just three appearances, but including the full-page frontispiece, The Trial of Evrémond. In contrast, in his thirty-two illustration program, Furniss regards Carton as central to the action and singularly as a character throughout the first two books, with appearances (including his heroic posture in the frontispiece, Sydney Carton on the Scaffold), and Darnay as peripheral until the final book, with most of his eight appearances occurring in Book Three.
In Phiz's July 1859 representations of Carton, especially in Congratulations, Dickens's chief illustrator has made the debauched attorney far more attractive and sympathetic than either Barnard or Furniss at this point. A. A. Dixon is more flattering than Furniss to both young men, and does not depict Carton as a drunkard, but only as a saviour. Furniss, like Phiz, clearly apprehended the importance of Carton to the plot, but realised in his pictorial sequence the text's focussing on Carton until the French trial scenes, the turning point being signalled by Darnay's appearance in fashionable travelling garb in On the Way to Paris. In this portrait of a man who feels undervalued, ignored, and unloved Furniss offers a study of deep depression rather than mere melancholy. The candle (left), like Carton's life, gutters out in the dimly lit tavern, leaving Carton, prostrate, in the dark. Carton in this illustration finds oblivion rather than consolation.
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Last modified 3 January 2014