ambrmerlinus: Portrait of a young white man with a flowing blond mohawk, in profile. (Default)
[personal profile] ambrmerlinus
Chapter 5: The Wine Shop brings us to France, and predictably, a wine shop.

A barrel of wine is dropped in the street and smashes open on the pavement, spilling all the wine. All the passersby pounce on it, drinking it with their hands and soaking it up with rags. It is, of course, red wine, which makes for a lovely visual metaphor.

pg. 37-38: Those who had been greedy with the staves of the cask had acquired a tigerish smear about the mouth; and one tall joker so besmirched, his head more out of a long squalid bag of a nightcap than in it, scrawled upon a wall with his finger dipped in muddy wine-lees – BLOOD.

The time was to come, when that wine too would be spilled on the street-stones, and when the stain of it would be red upon many there.


Dickens wants us all to note that everyone involved in this scene is super poor and hungry, including the wine-shop keeper and his wife, Monsieur and Madame Defarge. Within the wine-shop itself, apart from the Defarges, are Mr. Lorry, Miss Manette, and three men named Jacques. The three Jacques have a quick conversation with Monsieur Defarge, during which every sentence is punctuated with the name "Jacques," and are then sent on their way to go see a room. Monsieur Defarge, Mr. Lorry, and Miss Manette follow soon after.

The building they go to is very gloomy, and they climb all the way up to the top of it. On their way up, it is revealed they are going to retrieve Miss Manette's father, who is being kept alone for his own safety. Mr. Lorry asks if he is changed, which provokes an interesting response from Monsieur Defarge.

pg. 43: The keeper of the wine-shop stopped to strike the wall with his hand, and mutter a tremendous curse. No direct answer could have been half so forcible. Mr. Lorry's spirits grew heavier and heavier, as he and his two companions ascended higher and higher.

This bodes well.

The three finally reach a door, and Mr. Lorry realizes Monsieur Defarge keeps Miss Manette's father locked in. When Mr. Lorry questions this, Monsieur Defarge explains Dr. Manette is used to living in prison, and not being locked up would drive him even more insane than he already is.

Beyond the locked door, they meet the three Jacques again, who are looking into the room that holds Dr. Manette through some holes in the wall. Mr. Lorry is not happy about this.

pg. 45: "Do you make a show of Monsieur Manette?"

"I show him, in the way you have seen, to a chosen few."

"Is that well?"

"I think that it is well."

"Who are the few? How do you choose them?"

"I choose them as real men, of my name–Jacques is my name–to whom the sight is likely to do good. Enough: you are English; that is another thing. Stay there, if you please, a little moment."

I'm assuming this rationalization makes way more sense if you are French and/or from the past.

The Jacques are shooed off and, at long last, we enter Dr. Manette's chamber.

pg. 46: with his back towards the door, and his face towards the window where the keeper of the wine-shop stood looking at him, a white-haired man sat on a low bench, stooping forward and very busy, making shoes.

Chapter 6: The Shoemaker is fucking heartbreaking.

Monsieur Defarge greets Dr. Manette, and Dr. Manette responds appropriately, but something seems a little... off.

pg. 47: The faintness of the voice was pitiable and dreadful. It was not the faintness of physical weakness, though confinement and hard fare no doubt had their part in it. Its deplorable peculiarity was, that it was the faintness of solitude and disuse. It was like the last feeble echo of a sound made long and long ago. So entirely had it lost the life and resonance of the human voice, that it affected the senses like a once beautiful colour faded away into a poor weak stain. So sunken and suppressed it was, that it was like a voice underground. So expressive it was, of a hopeless and lost creature, that a famished traveller, wearied out by lonely wandering in a wilderness, would have remembered home and friends in such a tone before lying down to die.

Monsieur Defarge asks Dr. Manette to tell Mr. Lorry his name.

pg. 49: "One Hundred and Five, North Tower."

Mr. Lorry asks Dr. Manette if he recognizes him.

pg. 50: The shoe dropped to the ground, and he sat looking fixedly at the questioner.

So things are going somewhat poorly until Miss Manette steps forward. And this heartwarming scene, crafted so carefully through Dickens' marvelous narration, is immediately reduced to melodrama by its dialogue.

pg. 51: "If, when I tell you, dearest dear, that your agony is over, and that I have come here to take you from it, and that we go to England to be at peace and at rest, I cause you to think of your useful life laid waste, and of our native France so wicked to you, weep for it, weep for it! And if, when I shall tell you of my name, and of my father who is living , and of my mother who is dead, you learn that I have to kneel to my honoured father, and implore his pardon for having never for his sake striven all day and lain awake and wept all night, because the love of my poor mother hid his torture from me, weep for it, weep for it! Weep for her, then, and for me! Good gentlemen, thank God! I feel his sacred tears upon my face, and his sobs strike against my heart. O, see! Thank God for us, thank God!"

And so on and so forth. They take Dr. Manette out of his room, where he continues to break my heart.

pg. 55: He had a wild, lost manner of occasionally clasping his head in his hands, that had not been seen in him before; yet, he had some pleasure in the mere sound of his daughter's voice, and invariably turned to it when she spoke.

In the submissive way of one long accustomed to obey under coercion, he ate and drank what they gave him to eat and drink, and put on the cloak and other wrappings that they gave him to wear. He readily responded to his daughters drawing her arm through his, and took–and kept–her hand in both his own.

pg. 56: The prisoner had got into a coach, and his daughter had followed him, when Mr. Lorry's feet were arrested on the step by his asking, miserably, for his shoemaking tools and the unfinished shoes.

Once they get going, Mr. Lorry has one last question for Dr. Manette.

pg. 57: "I hope you care to be recalled to life?"

And the old answer:

"I can't say."

Chapter 1: Five Years Later

It turns out A Tale of Two Cities is sorted into books within a book? And the chapter count resets with each book? So the titles for this set of rants are probably gonna look a bit weird. Whoops.

In the year 1780, Dickens brings us to Tellson's Bank in England.

pg. 61: It was very small, very dark, very ugly, very incommmodious.

"Commodious" is probably my favorite adjective of all time, because it sounds like it should be awful but it's really the Victorian equivalent of "totally rad."

But yes, Tellson's. We get a brief overview of English justice circa 1780.

pg. 62: But indeed, at that time, putting to death was a recipe much in vogue with all trades and professions, and not least of all with Tellson's. Death is Nature's remedy for all things, and why not Legislation's? Accordingly, the forger was put to Death; the utterer of a bad note was put to Death; the unlawful opener of a letter was put to Death; the purloiner of forty shillings and sixpence was put to Death; the holder of a horse at Tellson's door, who made off with it, was put to Death; the coiner of a bad shilling was put to Death; the sounders of three-fourths of the notes in the whole gamut of Crime were put to Death. Not that it did the least good in the way of prevention–it might almost have been worth remarking that the fact was exactly the reverse–but, it cleared off (as to this world) the trouble of each particular case, and left nothing else connected with it to be looked after. Thus, Tellson's, in its day, like greater places of business, its contemporaries, had taken so many lives, that, if the heads laid low before it had been ranged on Temple Bar instead of being privately disposed of, they would probably have excluded what little light the ground floor had, in a rather significant manner.

And as for the employees of Tellson's...

pg. 63: When they took a young man into Tellson's London house, they hid him somewhere till he was old. They kept him in a dark place, like a cheese, until he had the full Tellson flavour and blue-mould upon him. Then only was he permitted to be seen, spectacularly poring over large books, and casting his breeches and gaiters into the general weight of the establishment.

The messenger from the first few chapters, Jerry Cruncher, is employed by Tellson's as an odd-job guy.

pg. 63: The scene was Mr. Cruncher's private lodging in Hangingsword Alley, Whitefriars: the time, half-past seven of the clock on a windy March morning, Anno Domini seventeen hundred and eighty. (Mr. Cruncher himself always spoke of the year of our Lord as Anna Dominoes: apparently under the impression that the Christian era dated from the invention of a popular game, by a lady who had bestowed her name upon it.)

Makes sense.

Mr. Cruncher hates his wife because she prays for him. Mr. Cruncher strikes me as kind of a douchebag. They have a son, also named Jerry, who doesn't do much in this chapter beyond exist, but he may become important later and I'd hate to have missed him if that were the case.

Chapter 2: A Sight

Mr. Cruncher is sent on a mission by Tellson's to go to the Old Bailey and be ready to carry messages for Mr. Lorry. On this day, a man is on trial for treason. If convicted, he'll be drawn and quartered. What's that like, you ask?

pg. 69: "Ah!" returned the man, with a relish; "he'll be drawn on a hurdle to be half hanged, and then he'll be taken down and sliced before his own face, and then his inside will be taken out and burnt while he looks on, and then his head will be chopped off, and he'll be cut into quarters. That's the sentence."


The courtroom is packed with onlookers who are less concerned with treason and more concerned with getting to see someone drawn-and-quartered, because this is the pre-internet age and they need to get their entertainment somewhere. Among the crowd is Mr. Lorry, Dr. Manette, and Miss Manette, along with a gentleman in a wig staring at the ceiling who I swear to you will become important later on in the chapter.

On trial is Charles Darnay, "a young man of about five-and-twenty" (pg. 70) accused of giving the king of France information on England's movements within Canada.

Chapter 3: A Disappointment turns dialogue into narrative in a way that reads quite well, and is one of the reasons I encourage you to pick this book up and read it on your own because quite frankly re-typing the whole thing and posting it here with a little note saying "THIS IS GOOD" feels a bit like cheating.

Anyway, the Attorney-General presents the argument that Charles Darnay is a scoundrel and a ne'er-do-well and a traitor. He calls a witness to the stand, John Barsad, and his testimony I will quote extensively because seriously this is hilarious.

pg. 75-76: Had he ever been a spy himself? No, he scorned the base insinuation. What did he live upon? His property. WHere was his property. He didn't precisely remember where it was. What was it? No business of anybody's. Had he inherited it? Yes, he had. From whom? Distant relation. Very distant? Rather. Ever been in prison? Certainly not. Never in a debtors' prison? Didn't see what that had to do with it. Never in a debtors' prison–Come, once again. Never? Yes. How many times? Two or three times. Not five or six? Perhaps. Of what profession? Gentleman. Ever been kicked? Might have been. Frequently? No. Ever kicked downstairs? Decidedly not; once received a kick on the top of a staircase, and fell downstairs of his own accord. Kicked on that occasion for cheating at dice? Something to that effect was said by the intoxicated liar who committed the assault, but it was not true. Swear it was not true? Positively. Ever live by cheating at play? Never. Ever live by play? Not more than other gentlemen do. Ever borrow money of the prisoner? Yes. Ever pay him? No. Was not this intimacy with the prisoner, in reality a very slight one, forced upon the prisoner in coaches, inns, and packets? No. Sure he saw the prisoner with these lists? Certain. Knew no more about the lists? No. Had not procured them himself, for instance? No. Expect to get anything by this evidence? No. Not in regular government pay and employment to lay traps? Oh dear no. Or to do anything? Oh dear no. Swear that? Over and over again. No motives but motives of sheer patriotism? None whatever.

I love how "gentleman" is a legitimate profession. I should like to be a gentleman myself when I grow up.

The next witness to be interrogated is Roger Cly.

pg. 76: He had never been suspected of stealing a silver teapot; he had been maligned respecting a mustard-pot, but it turned out to be only a plated one.

And after him comes Mr. Lorry, who testifies that Charles Darnay was among the passengers of the mail coach way back in the first Chapter 2, and that he was also among the passengers of the ship they took from France back to England when they rescued Dr. Manette.

After Mr. Lorry is Miss Manette, who gives her testimony reluctantly but confirms Charles Darnay was on that ship.

pg. 80: "He tried to explain to me how that quarrel had arisen, and he said that, so far as he could judge, it was a wrong and foolish one on England's part. He added, in a jesting way, that perhaps George Washington might gain almost as great a name in his tory and George the Third. But there was no harm in his way of saying this: it was said laughingly, and to beguile the time."

Any strongly marked expression of face on the part of a chief actor in a scene of great interest to whom many eyes are directed will be unconsciously imitated by the spectators. Her forehead was painfully anxious and intent as she gave this evidence, and, in the pauses when she stopped for the judge to write it down, watched its effect upon the counsel for and against. Among the lookers-on there was the same expression in all quarters of the court; insomuch, that a great majority of the foreheads there might have been mirrors reflecting the witness, when the judge looked up from his notes to glare at that tremendous heresy about George Washington.

Again with her forehead!

Dr. Manette is called to the stand to confirm this, but due to his trauma, cannot remember anything between being a prisoner and being at home with his daughter in England. For him, the circumstances of his rescue are a complete blank.

A final, unnamed witness is called to confirm Charles Darnay's presence at a precise time and location when the gentleman in the wig that we pointed out earlier interrupts the proceedings by, no joke, crumpling up a piece of paper and throwing it at the Attorney-General. He instantly becomes my favorite character. His name is Mr. Carton, and he would like to point out that he and Charles Darnay are essentially identical twins in terms of appearance. That being the case, how can anyone be sure beyond a reasonable doubt that it was Charles Darnay who committed treason, and not Mr. Carton?

While the jury is pondering this new development, the previous witnesses against Charles Darnay are slandered.

pg. 82: showing them how the patriot, Barsad, was a hired spy and traitor, and unblushing trafficker in blood, and one of the greatest scoundrels upon the earth since accursed Judas–which he certainly did look rather like.

Miss Manette nearly faints, because this is 1780 and a sprained ankle combined with a slight breeze was enough to kill a woman back then, if popular fiction is to be believed. Meanwhile, the jury recesses to think about things for a bit, and Mr. Carton approaches Charles Darnay.

pg. 85: Mr. Carton's manner was so careless as to be almost insolent. He stood, half turned from the prisoner, lounging with his elbow against the bar.


Mr. Carton asks Mr. Darnay what he's expecting. Turns out Mr. Darnay is expecting the worst, but Mr. Carton thinks things will turn out okay, and all but yawns as he says so because he is the most casual man in the world.

The jury returns and, surprise surprise, Charles Darnay is acquitted.

pg. 85: "If you had sent the message, 'Recalled to life,' again," muttered Jerry, as he turned, "I should have known what you meant, this time."


For more Dickens, check out the Rant of Two Cities tag. Alternatively, you can start from the beginning.

Date: 2012-01-07 04:02 pm (UTC)
redsixwing: Red-winged angel staring at a distant star. (Default)
From: [personal profile] redsixwing
Ah, Mr. Carton. He's one of the two characters that actually made me like the name "Sydney," which otherwise I'd have dismissed as an oddity.

Whoa whoa whoa. Who was sending Jerry messages about being recalled to life? Was there some kind of a conspiracy? Dun dun dunnn.

Date: 2012-01-07 10:27 pm (UTC)
redsixwing: Red-winged angel staring at a distant star. (Default)
From: [personal profile] redsixwing
Aw. I was hoping.

Date: 2012-01-07 04:39 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] ivorygates
They have a son, also named Jerry, who doesn't do much in this chapter beyond exist, but he may become important later and I'd hate to have missed him if that were the case.

This made me laugh immoderately.

I love Sydney Carton with the fire of a thousand suns. Especially when played by Ronald Colman.

That is all.

Date: 2012-01-12 01:08 am (UTC)
ivorygates: (1. STARGATE: DANIEL: sharp dressed man)
From: [personal profile] ivorygates


ambrmerlinus: Portrait of a young white man with a flowing blond mohawk, in profile. (Default)

February 2012

   1 2 34

Most Popular Tags

Style Credit

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags
Page generated Sep. 22nd, 2017 10:18 pm
Powered by Dreamwidth Studios