And smoothing her rich hair
13.9 x 10.7 cm.
Dickens's A Tale of Two Cities
[See commentary below]
Scanned image and text by Philip V. Allingham
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Dickens describes the relationship between the beautiful Lucie Manette and her older friend — almost a surrogate mother — Miss Pross, who dotes upon the teenager, calling her "Ladybird" and generally doting upon her as if Lucie were her daughter in A Tale of Two Cities, Book the Second, "The Golden Thread," ch. 6, "Hundreds of People." Taking into account the lengthy title of the illustration, "And smoothing her rich hair with as much pride as she could possibly have taken in her own hair if she had been the vainest and handsomest of women" (p. 45), the reader would likely make the connection between this eighth woodcut and the following passage that begins on the facing page:
Miss Pross was a pleasant sight, albeit wild, and red, and grim, taking off her darling's bonnet when she came up-stairs, and touching it up with the ends of her handkerchief, and blowing the dust off it, and folding her mantle ready for laying by, and smoothing her rich hair with as much pride as she could possibly have taken in her own hair if she had been the vainest and handsomest of women. [44-45]
The relationship is not nearly so closely described in Phiz's original narrative-pictorial sequence for the novel, the relevant illustration being "Hundreds of People" (Dec., 1859), the frontispiece that shows Lucie with her father, Lorry, Carton, and Darnay, but significantly not Miss Pross, whom Phiz depicts clearly only in "The Double Recognition" (the other December, 1859, illustration). Her only other appearance in Barnard's sequence is the important scene in which she defies Madame Defarge, wrestles with her, and inadvertently kills the French nemesis in order to protect her "Ladybird."
John Mclenan, the American illustrator for the Harper's serialisation of the novel, appears not to have been much interested in Miss Pross, showing her in "Miss Pross and Mr. Lorry", 25 June 1859, and at the climactic moment when Miss Pross thwarts Madame Defarge's plans in "Like the soul of the furious woman whose body lay lifeless on the ground" in the 26 November 1859 weekly instalment. Certainly Barnard's old maid and proud subject of King George III is a far more formidable figure than those of Phiz and Mclenan.
Dickens, Charles. A Tale of Two Cities. il. Phiz. London: Chapman & Hall, 1859.
Dickens, Charles. A Tale of Two Cities. Illustrated by Fred Barnard. The Household Edition. London: Chapman & Hall, 1870s. P. 45.
Dickens, Charles. A Tale of Two Cities. il. John Mclenan. Harper's Weekly. (25 June 1859): 405; (26 Nov. 1859): 765.
Last modified 17 February 2011