The second monthly part of A Tale of Two Cities

It seems like we’ve been doing this for a long time already, and yet we’re only up to the second monthly part! However much you like Dickens, reading his work in the original format takes stamina. You can see signs already of how organisation is slipping – for the first few weeks it was clearly stated that the first monthly part would be available on a specific date – 31 May. But this week we are told, rather vaguely, that the second part will be published alongside the July magazines. Writing a novel, editing a journal, and overseeing the monthly editions of the novel obviously set Dickens working at a furious pace. Anyway, here are the illustrations from month 2 (thanks again to The Victorian Web):

The Shoemaker

 “The Likeness”



The most noticeable aspect here is the similarity in subject – both pictures show Carton and Darnay (although, given the way they dominate this month’s part, it would be hard to avoid them). That said, when you review the month’s writing as a whole, there is little alternative for illustration (the plot would have stretched from the trial up to the gathering at the Manette’s house). Certainly the trial is an obvious moment to illustrate, and the moment at which the likeness is revealed is arguably the most dramatic point. As for the second illustration, as I see it there are three alternatives Phiz could have depicted: Carton and Darnay in the pub, Carton and Stryver later that night,  or perhaps an illustration of the Manette’s house with all in attendance. What might these moments, if illustrated, have offered to the reader; how might characters have been represented or interpreted?

Though “The Likeness” is a busier picture, I prefer “Congratulations”; in particular Phiz’s rendering of Carton and Darnay so as to show both their similarities and differences; the first in their most basic physical traits, and the second in their bearing and dress. Job well done.


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About Pete Orford

I'm an English lecturer at the University of Buckingham, with a research background in both Dickens and Shakespeare; I am also a father of three, with a research background in dinosaurs and moshi monsters. I'm Chief Investigator for The Drood Inquiry (

5 thoughts on “The second monthly part of A Tale of Two Cities

  1. Having been away, I’ve just caught up by reading two episodes — chapters 7 to 9 — in one sitting. Is this cheating? I suspect that some of ATYR’s original readers did this, putting a weekly part aside when they were busy or away and then catching up at a later date, or waiting until the next monthly part appeared.
    As to these two episodes, I was once again struck, as others, by the way this story is jumping about in space and time, and the introduction of still more characters. Chapter 7 seems to be nothing but new people until we spot Madame Defarge at the end. (I can’t find it now, but earlier someone — was it you, Pete? — listed the characters who’d appeared so far, and how many chapters they’d appeared in. Mme D’s score is going up.) So there’s still a sense that we don’t know whose story is central, although by the end of episode 10 one might begin to suspect Darnay is going to be pretty important.
    Thanks, Pete, for interesting comments on the illustrations. I’m reading the novel in an old second-hand Chapman & Hall edition (oddly, bound in with Oliver Twist and The Uncommercial Traveller), with the occasional visit to the DJO website, and these illustrations appear quite close to each other in the book. There’s only one illustration earlier than these two, “The Shoemaker”: does this mean that’s all there was in the first monthly part?

    • Thank you. There were two illustrations in the first monthly part, the other one being “The Night Mail” (you can see it in an earlier blog for the first monthly part, along with the cover illustration).

      I think you’re probably right that Victorian readers may well have caught up, much as we do now (my mother is a world champion at taping almost entire series because she hasn’t gotten round to watching episode two and doesn’t want to skip ahead). That said, would there have been situations where a reader missed an instalment and had to either borrow their friend’s, or get a brief summary of events, or even plough on and try to figure out for themselves what they’ve missed? given the way this story has jumped about, I wouldn’t like to think how confusing it would be just to skip an instalment!

      I might have to update the character list in a week or two to see how it compares. We’ve certainly been getting a lot of Darnay to make up for lost time, with the Manettes stepping into the background somewhat. It’s always easier to spot the protagonist when Dickens names his books after them – David Copperfield never had this problem…

  2. Thanks so much for posting these illustrations from the second monthly part, Pete. I love how Phiz illustrates Carton’s personality with a jaunty bend of the knee, a half-slouch and a smirk.

    It’s interesting to think about the length of TOTC (31 parts) in comparison with Hard Times, the last novel Dickens serialised in the pages of his journal. Hard Times was fantastically short – only 20 parts, between 1 April and 12 August 1854 – so I wonder if the original readers of TOTC were expecting a similarly pithy length. It’s intriguing to try to imagine not knowing quite how long the novel was going to be. At Week 10, some loyal readers of HW may have imagined that TOTC was half-way through.

    • Thanks Ben. It’s an interesting point about the open-endedness of the book. The adverts at the end of the early editions of ATYR state that ATOTC will be published in 8 monthly parts, so eagle-eyed readers could do the maths and come up with 32, but this is fairly understated compared to the elaborate amount or pre-amble at the start of the story – book one, chapter one etc…

      It’s easy to forget the simple psychology at work when you are holding a book – you are presented with a very physical reminder of how long it is and where the end is, and you are always aware of where you are (just beginning, about halfway through, nearly at the back of the book etc). but all of this is taken away from us when we are reading it in instalments, and the sense of the overall structure is far more fragile and tenuous.

      • D’oh! I hadn’t noticed the little mention of eight monthly parts! I will try to save face by claiming that original readers of AYR may not have noticed it either…

        Yes, I was thinking exactly the same about the sense of a book’s length and your reading progress that comes with a single volume edition. Perhaps it’s just me, but I often feel a little thrill when I see my bookmark is roughly at the half-way point of a long book, so it’s interesting to think about reading a novel without that experience of length and progress.

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