Monday, September 21, 2009

Pictures for a Thousand Words (Pictures from Dickens' Tale of Two Cities)

I am scanning my vintage copies of Tale of Two Cities so I can let them go to other owners for the move. It's truly fascinating to see so many different interpretations of the same subject. Her are some favourites.
1) From the Folio Edition, Illustrated by Richard Sharpe. I'm in love with the almost fantastical take on historical clothing in these, and the exaggerated facial expressions. Think this is my favourite set of TOTC illustrations. This is Sydney Carton, working late into the night to research cases for Stryver, his employer. Stryver is a blustering and argumentative man, which serves him well in the courtroom, but he is not able to analyze evidence for a case. This is a task at which his schoolmate, Sydney Carton excels. Carton's work makes Stryver's reputation and fortune, but his own life is lost in drink and self-loathing.

2)Don't know what to think of this one by Tom Fogherty from People from Dickens. This is, of course, Sydney Carton confessing his love to a rather uncomfortable looking Lucie Manette. She is rather uncomfortable in the scene. She's never felt at ease with him, and he knows it, but he opens himself to her completely. On one hand, I like the colour of this image. On the other hand, the Victorian-ness of it makes me a tad queasy.

3) The Revolutionaries torture and hang a farmer generale at the beginning of the revolution. He has told the peasants that they are to eat grass if they hunger. The impoverished suburb of Saint Antoinne has its revenge on him at the storming of the Bastille. When they finally kill him it is written as a mercy. This rather graphic depiction captures the horror of the moment, and the dichotomy in the book between empathy for the peasants and horror at their increasing violence. It is by Rowland Wheelwright.

4) Madame Defarge is described as a Tigress of a woman, attractive in a wild and fiery sense. She is the antithesis of Lucie Manette. Though their families have both been ruined by the excesses and sadism of the aristocracy, Lucie overcomes this through her love for her mentally broken father. Madame Defarge is consumed by her desire to avenge her murdered and violated siblings. She knits the names of those whom she will denounce to the revolution. Most illustrators draw Madame Defarge as an ogress, ignoring that the text describes her as attractive. Gedo does not in this illustration, but he does not capture her ferocity.

6) Miss Pross is Lucie's nurse, and she and a family friend, Mr. Lorry are left in charge of her mentally unstable father while Lucie is on her honeymoon. Doctor Manette again lapses into madness upon learning that his new son in law is the scion of the aristocratic family that imprisoned him in the Bastille for eighteen years. Doctor Manette falls back on the one thing his jailors would allow him: a humble cobbler's bench and shoemaking tools. These tools kept him linked to reality for two decades in solitary confinement, and so he resorts to them when he feels himself losing sanity. Upon his recovery, Miss Pross and Lorry destroy his shoemaking tools in hopes that their absence will prevent his future detatchment. This scene is illustrated a lot, but It's one of my favourite representations of Miss Pross. By F. M. Blakie.

More to come....


Gina said...

Cool post! Please let me know if you haven't had any offers yet on that Folio Edition. I'd be VERY interested.


Scrabcake said...

Thanks for your comment. I actually rediscovered that copy. I'd forgotten how beautiful and quirky the pictures were and decided to keep it. Sorry! But I am getting rid of the other ones that aren't the A. Dixon copy, so if you want any of those you're welcome although they are kind of beat-up. So fun to find another TOTC geek!

Gina said...

No problem. I don't blame you a bit for wanting to keep that one! And I did a bit of scouting around and found that ABEBooks had a couple of reasonably priced copies, so I can get one of those. I'm just grateful to you for letting me know all these fascinating illustrations are out there, as my copy isn't illustrated at all. ATOTC geeks unite! :-)