The fifth monthly part of A Tale of Two Cities

Time again to showcase the latest of Phiz’s illustrations that would now be available to the public:

The Accomplices

This one, “The Accomplices” came as a bit of a shock if only to see a moment of comedy again, when the last few weeks have been increasingly sombre and bloody. I recall our discussions of the murder of the bench at the time, and it seems Phiz has definitely decided to emphasise the humour and absurdity of the scenario, while Dickens’s text perhaps leaves more scope for exploring the darker psychology of the moment.


The next illustration, along with “the Spy’s funeral” in an earlier part,  is again a typical Phiz drawing that does him more credit than some of the weaker drawings we’ve seen thus far. This is “The Sea Rises”:

The Sea Rises

I love the dynamics of this scene; you can see the motion of the crowd, that sense of a wave of people rushing in a torrent, with a bizarrely calm and serene aristocrat in the middle like a rock among the storm. 


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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 (

3 thoughts on “The fifth monthly part of A Tale of Two Cities

  1. “The Accomplices” is exactly why I posted about how the whole scene struck me as humorous. The collection I was using (before I trekked to the UK) had Phiz’s illustrations. Your post made me wonder though, how much of the actual chapter would have struck me as funny where it not for Phiz. It’s hard to say, chicken before the egg and all, but I think maybe it would have seemed more sombre, more heart-felt, were it not for this illustration. Lorry’s wig is teetering on the verge of falling off and his expression is classic, “gulp,” if you know what I mean. Those things made me crack up before I really gave the chapter itself a chance to win me over to what these two were actually doing, namely destroying something that is an old man’s crutch so that he might grow (and be psychosis free.) Nevertheless, it’s some pretty great work on the part of Phiz, who most bloggers agreed, is sometimes lacking in his artistic renderings.

    • Phiz’s involvement with this story fascinates me. The pairing of Phiz and Boz on previous stories has been rightly celebrated whereas his work for 2 cities has been criticised: what changed? Occassionally we encounter a picture that is under par, but actually on the whole most pictures are fine or fantastic, so is the bigger problem here a growing discrepancy between Phiz’s style and the evolution of Dickens as a writer? It’s a little simplistic to divide his works into light fiction and heavy stuff (not that that hasn’t stopped people before), but certainly we are encouraged to consider his later novels as weightier stories than the days of Pickwick and co. You mention chicken and egg, so is it that Dickens’s changing style created this divide between his work and Phiz’s illustrations, or, is it Dickens’s decision to use different illustrators for many of his later works that encouraged, and still encourages, us to see them as more serious works? I’m thinking in particular of the vast difference in tone of Phiz’s comic illustrations that tend to render characters as caricatures, and the more realistically rendered drawings of Marcus Stone for Great Expectations and Our Mutual Friend.

      • The authors of the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography entry on ‘Phiz ‘ (Hablot Browne) note that the 1840s and 1850s were his great decades and that after that point etching and Browne’s caricaturial style were no longer in favour. Dickens apparently looked for more modern illustrators like Marcus Stone whose realist technique was more suited to the present mood. If you compare the Marcus Stone illustrations of Our Mutual Friend with those of Frederic Leighton for George Eliot’s Romola as an example of 1860s illustrations they are quite similar whereas Phiz looks back to a much earlier tradition of caricature.

        Having said all that, I think the second illustration in part 5, of the frenzied mob surrounding the serene and composed aristocrat is full of energy and menace which could quite easily tip over into extreme violence.

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