Drawing to a close

So far I’ve shared the illustrations by Phiz that accompanied the first six monthly instalment that appeared alongside the weekly parts. With the story finishing next week (just three days to go!), the end advertisement is not for the seventh monthly part, but instead for the complete volume, with 16 illustrations by Phiz. Here then, are the remaining drawings, courtesy as usual of Victorian Web. Rest assured there are no spoilers, I promise: in fact, what’s interesting is that there are no illustrations from the last three weeks; I can only assume this is the consequence of Dickens plowing ahead with his story while leaving everyone else, his poor illustrator included, trailing behind.

Anyway, the first picture is ‘The Double Recognition’, referring back (seems so long ago now) to Miss Pross’s discovery of her brother, back in the days when she was just a minor comic character instead of heroic vanquisher of she-devils.

The Double Recognition

Bearing in mind the illustrations recently provided by Ben, its interesting to see how decidedly unstout Miss Pross appears. Otherwise it’s a well-depicted illustration, Barsad’s back to us maintaining the intrigue and allowing for our focus to rest upon the reactions of Pross and Cruncher, while still recognising the importance of the figure they are looking at by his position in centre frame.

The next picture is ‘After the Sentence’ which shows Manette in full melodramatic pose:

After the Sentence

I really like this one – if it weren’t so close to the end of the story I would vote for this one as a cover picture. Lucie is the stereotypical sacrificial virgin in white, Carton looks suitable dishevelled and manly while holding her (and simultaneously almost like a haunting devil come vampire – that’s a very exposed neck Lucie has there…), while down in the left-hand corner among the nonchalant French there is one in particular who, leaning against the pillar, recalls that earlier illustration of Carton way, way back in ‘Congratulations’ (month two). So what Phiz is doing here, I would humbly suggest, is showing the progress of Carton from disengaged rake on stage left to passionate hero on centre stage. Looking at this I’m dumbfounded how people can write off Phiz’s contributions to this story.

Though that’s not the last illustration Phiz draws for ATOTC, it is the last one taken chronologically from the plot: there is nothing depicting any of the later events. There is, however, one final drawing included and that is the frontispiece for the whole novel – and the image he chooses to sum up the story – Phiz’s last comment on A Tale of Two Cities? Why it’s Doctor Manette of course, ‘In the Bastille’:

In the Bastille


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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 (www.droodinquiry.com).

7 thoughts on “Drawing to a close

  1. I really like the reading of Phiz’s illustrations as revealing his response to the novel, as its first reader and critic. The suggestion of Carton’s vampirism here is fascinating given all the cannibalistic imagery of blood-thirst through the novel (anticipations of Twilight here with its wrangles over physically destructive or sacrificial love – probably, not!) I agree that the image Phiz selects for the frontispiece of Manette as solitary prisoner can be read as the scene that stays with/ haunts him. On that criteria I think I would have chosen an image of the citizens of Saint Antoine scrambling in the dust for spilt wine. Any other contenders for a haunting frontispiece image? If we have artists amongst us (I won’t try! – all my artwork comes out looking like a potato) perhaps someone would like to produce an image to become the frontispiece to the blog? . . .

    • Challenge accepted! I’ll just see if my sons will let me borrow their crayons, then I’ll set to work on my masterpiece. And Holly, a potato theme need not hold you back – you could call it A Tale of Two Chippies; perhaps a picture of Spudney and Miss Mashette defending themselves against Madame Defries?

  2. “So what Phiz is doing here, I would humbly suggest, is showing the progress of Carton from disengaged rake on stage left to passionate hero on centre stage.”

    Goodness, I’d never noticed that before! Good eye!

    • Thanks Gina! As with the text itself, so too with the illustrations it has been my tendency in the past to just give them a predominately cursory look before ploughing on with the story; enforced weekly (or monthly) breaks can allow us to take the time to savour not only Dickens’s words by Phiz’s illustrations too.

      • I just came across this really fascinating essay in All the Year Round, published in August 1867, which discusses the shift away from older book illustrators such as Cruikshank and Phiz, who were more concerned with (melo)dramatic moments of action, towards a more aesthetic approach, occupied with beauty and composition:


        The rest of the article discusses the work of Doré, particularly his illustrations for Don Quixote. The tone is fairly critical, but Doré is held up as preferable to the new ‘school’ of book illustrators who depict static scenes with great precision but little energy or emotion.

      • Ooh Ben, I like it! Better to have ‘pictures about something, imperfectly
        executed: while our own book-artists of the new school give us well-executed pictures about nothing.’

        I wonder what Dickens though about his old illustrators being praised in this way? The only book he produced after 1867 was of course The Mystery of Edwin Drood, where the illustrations by Luke Fildes are predominately in the new style.

        There’s a parallel here with the tendency not so long ago to praise Dickens’s later works for their critical merit while overlooking his earlier works as predominately popular or comic (which in turn reversed the initial fortunes and reception of the books where the earlier ones were held up as the best). Time and again we are reminded not to dismiss either text or picture for shallow concept or poor execution, ignoring the basic pleasure to be derived from them as readers.

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