The Spy's Funeral The Wine-Shop

Left: 4A. The Spy's Funeral, Book II, Chapter 4 (for September 1859; issued 23 July in weekly numbers) opposite 86. Right: 4B. The Wine-Shop Book II, Chapter 6 (for September 1859; issued on 6 August in weekly numbers) opposite 22. [Click on thethumbnails for larger images.]

Again, horses, numerous figures (28 in the Paris street, 35 in the English street), and multiple focal points suggest parallel scene construction. Appropriate to the release of animal spirits in The Spy's Funeral, there is only one woman, as opposed to at least five in The Stoppage at the Fountain in the previous month's instalment. In contrast to the sounds of the horses, the consternation of the men, and the lachrymose lamentations of the women in The Stoppage at the Fountain in the essentially comedic The Spy's Funeral we hear sounds of communal festivity: three 'common' musical instruments (proletarian trumpet, drum, and fiddle), and the boisterous play of the leap-frogging street urchins — indeed, as opposed to the marble children of the French fountain, the English scene bubbles over with the youthful vivacity of living children, consistent with Dickens's piling present participles on top of each other to describe the scene: "with beer-drinking, pipe-smoking, song-roaring, and infinite caricaturing of woe, the disorderly procession went its way, recruiting at every step, and all the shops shutting up before it" (II, 4: 86). In the Parisian scene, the fountain, the houses, and in particular the clogs clearly establish the scene's context rather more clearly than the signs (left) and the house-tops (right). In The Spy's Funeral adults' shoes contrast the children's bare feet to indicate the social strata represented and the playful nature of this more carefree crowd. Finally, the overall movement, right to left, is unimpeded in both urban scenes: the direction as suggested by the faces of all present is reinforced by the horses' heads, left of center in each plate.

Structurally as well as thematically, The Stoppage at the Fountain (August) and The Spy's Funeral (September) are visual complements, for in each case a crowd reacts to a death in a right-to-left movement of a carriage bearing an object of opprobrium — the indignant Marquis and the spy. Within these large group, historical genre pictures is a strong sense of violent, swirling, confusing motion complementing each plate's dominant mood; to convey all this, each crowd scene has several focal points. The English street again involves a communal response, general rejoicing over the death of a spy, whose casket we cannot see, and a shadowy figure just emerging from the doorway, extreme right.

The effectiveness of the September pairing depends upon a series of binary oppositions: London/Paris, outdoors/indoors, crowd/limited cast, exuberant emotionalism/dispassionate conversation, kinetic/static. In "The Spy's Funeral," the bear-leader has just been pressed into the service of the rag-tag mob accompanying Barsad's corpse to the cemetery. In contrast, all appears serene in the little St. Antoine wine-shop run by the habitually smoking Defarge and his perpetually knitting wife.

Mr. Stryver at Tellson's Bank, Book II, Chapter 2 (for August), and The Wine-Shop, Book II, Chapter 6 (for September), help the reader to draw parallels and make differentiations between the two cities and knit up the plot. Both scenes ostensibly concern business — the ledgers in the London counting house (symbolic of British commerce, and, by extension, British society, dominated by mercantile interests and a burgeoning middle class) are paralleled by the bottles of the Defarges' St. Antoine wine-shop. In the background of the Tellson's scene, three men count bags of money, apparently for deposit, the iron grates here (suggestive of the need for security) contrasting the fifteen-paned window of the wine-shop. Outside the Defarges' door, women gossip in the street as a male idler attempts to overhear the conversation between the publicans and the spy. The close-up structure of both scenes does not permit us to see whether there are other patrons, but the rose in Madame Defarge's cap is a detail consistent with the printed text, and we may therefore assume that this signal has momentarily cleared the shop of customers. The precise moment captured seems to be that at which Barsad (seen in the plates for the first time) informs the Defarges that Lucie is to marry Charles Darnay (otherwise, D'Aulnais on his mother's side and St. Evrémonde on his father's), in effect, the present Marquis.

Whereas Browne's Defarge seems unperturbed, Dickens's betrays his emotion at this "intelligence": "Do what he would, behind the little counter, as to striking of a light and the lighting of his pipe, he was troubled, and his hand not trustworthy" (Book II, Chapter 6: page 24). Although Dickens says that the effect of this news is "palpable," Browne has not chosen to reveal it. Rather, he has chosen to depict a tranquil surface whose undercurrents he signals to us through the male idler just beyond the lintel, for his Jacobin cap is a visual reminder of the revolutionary nature of the establishment roughly equivalent to Barsad's hailing Defarge as "Jacques," the code-name for a member of the clandestine Jacquerie. A clear symbol of the coming social cataclysm, the idler is seen through the doorway in roughly the same position in The Wine-Shop as the fashionably-dressed gentleman in the greatcoat and sporting a cane who is apparently depositing three bags of coins, details all suggestive of Britain's mercantile establishment, in Mr. Stryver at Tellson's Bank.

The common activity (the graphic subtext, if you will) in these scenes is recording, for Madame Defarge's knitting is as much a ledger as the large tome on Mr. Lorry's desk, right of center. The chair and large pot of the wine-shop are paralleled by the stool and waste-basket in Tellson's, occupying a similar position in both plates. Despite the differences in their trade and clients, the St. Antoine wine-shop, not far from the Bastille, is the counterpart of the bank hardby Temple Bar, for information as well as coin is exchanged in both establishments, the former run by implacable foes of the aristocracy, the latter superintended by the protector of Lucie Darnay and frequented by French émigrés in search of news of home after the outbreak of the Revolution. The aristocratic and monied clientele of Tellson's are in marked contrast to the scarecrow paupers (covert radicals) who haunt the wine-shop, which becomes a grassroots insurrectionist stronghold after the storming of the Bastille (depicted on the Paris skyline of The Sea Rises, Browne's plate for October). In addition to being centers of recording, the wine-shop and Tellson's are repositories of records. The weighty volumes on the shelf behind Mr. Lorry bespeak years of financial transactions (deposits and withdrawals), and assure the financial survival of those French aristocrats wise enough to deposit in a Parisian bank with a London house. In Madame Defarge's equally copious coded ledgers are accounts of the aristocracy's heinous domestic crimes and familial lineages. Behind these quiet genre scenes lie the essential differences in the societies of the two cities of the tale; the prosperity of a relatively free trading people implies that they will not experience the mob violence of The Sea Rises that proletarian poverty and exploitation across the water have virtually foredoomed, although, as The Spy's Funeral suggests, the potential for such violence lies within English society also.

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Cayzer, Elizabeth. "Dickens and His Late Illustrators. A Change in Style: Phiz and A Tale of Two Cities." Dickensian 86, 3 (Autumn, 1990): 130-141.

Cohen, Jane R. "Part Two. Dickens and His Principal Illustrator. Ch. 4. Hablot Browne." Charles Dickens and His Original Illustrators. Columbus: University of Ohio Press, 1980. 61-124.

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Last updated 21 September 2016