Another instalment another death and another doppelganger; we discover that Monsieur the Marquis
is the twin of Darnay’s (as he is known inEngland), father. Darnay wonders if it is possible to distinguish them: “Can I separate my father’s twin brother, joint inheritor and next successor, from himself? Blurred identities, aliases, hooting owls, and a fortress-like chateau at the dead of night all continue the gothic strain we’ve been noting. What particularly interested me this week was the emphasis on the properties of the Marquis’s stony property.
The instalment opens with a sketch of the chateau, in which ‘stone’ is used 8 times. This family property is very differently described to the ancestral properties of English aristocrats I’ve seen. I’m thinking particularly of Audley Court, the country house of Braddon’s Lady Audley’s Secret (1862). Here the house is crumbling, with shaky doors and windows, suggesting the decline of the aristocracy and their vulnerability/openness to outsiders, like the less-than-a-lady heroine. By contrast, the Marquis’s house is seemingly impervious, its unyielding stones – like its owner – resisting a more gradual, organic process of class reform. Its future is more absolute:
If a picture of the château as it was
to be a very few years hence, and of fifty like it as
they too were to be a very few years hence, could
have been shown to him that night, he might
have been at a loss to claim his own from the
ghastly, fire-charred, plunder-wrecked ruins. As
for the roof he vaunted, he might have found
that shutting out the sky in a new way—to wit,
for ever, from the eyes of the bodies into which
its lead was fired, out of the barrels of a hundred
I loved the Dickensian virtuosity of transforming aristo property into bullets, so that these luxurious homes are literally the death of those who own them.
Reading this in AYR gives an incredible juxtaposition as the closing note from Jacques is immediately followed by an article, ‘Revolution at Florence, Exactly Described’ (Ben’s post last week gives some background to the Italian war of independence). This overlaying of current events with the unfolding narrative of French Revolution must have had a huge effect on how this instalment was first read.