Well it’s 31 May, which, as the advertisements on the back page of ATYR have been telling us, means the first monthly volume of ATOTC would be available today. This offered any latecomers to the journal the opportunity to catch up with the previous instalments, as well as giving them time to pick up this week’s copy of ATYR and carry on reading! However it’s equally likely that readers of the weekly and monthly parts were distinct from one another – the publication of ATOTC in both formats was a gamble that didn’t quite pay off, with sales of the monthly volume proving disappointing, presumably because everyone was reading it in ATYR first.
The main addition in the monthly volume was the coverwork and two illustrations by Dickens’s long-time collaborater Hablot K. Browne (Phiz). For the first time, readers could see the characters they had been following for the last five weeks visualised. Sadly, this would be the last time Phiz and Boz would work together. In her biography of Phiz, Valerie Browne Lester notes how critics were somewhat damning of these illustrations, feeling that Phiz was increasingly out of date in his style.
The cover work gives, for the first time, clues as to the novel’s tone and structure, in contrast to the plain text that keeps us guessing in ATYR. We can see London and Paris at the top and bottom, and familiar scenes such as Dr Manette and the courtroom scene of this week, as well as portraits of (we assume) MM, and revolutionary scenes that offer weight to the various forebodings Dickens has included in his descriptions thus far of France.
So what do you think? Do the pictures convey the characters as you imagined them? Are they sufficiently interesting or was the initial criticism of them justified? Do they add to our enjoyment of the story – are they indeed worth a thousand words, even Dickens’s words? And are they the scenes you would expect to see illustrated? Personally I’m a little disappointed Phiz didn’t offer us a picture of the spilt wine in France…
(all these pictures are available from Victorian Web at http://www.victorianweb.org/art/illustration/phiz/pva109.html – but those wishing to avoid spoilers should beware of visiting this site while still reading the story as picture titles obviously can give clues to future plotlines!)