Sydney Carton and The Seamstress

Sol Eytinge

Wood engraving, approximately 10 cm high by 7.5 cm wide (framed)

Frontispiece for Dickens's A Tale of Two Cities and Great Expectations in the Ticknor & Fields (Boston, 1867) Diamond Edition.

In this full-page dual character study in the compact American publication, a bearded Jacobin, arms crossed as if waiting, regards the couple, who seem oblivious to the context of their meeting, their impending execution at la place de la guillotine. Apparently they are already on the platform, if we may judge by the myriad of anonymous heads in the left-hand register. Perhaps inserted for the sake of irony, the spires of a Gothic church tower rise in the background, the only distinct feature of the urban setting. For Eytinge, a student of human nature, nothing must distract the reader from the focus of the scene, the moment of tenderness in the face of certain death, and so the illustrator has omitted even the instrument of their execution to realize Carton, dressed in the fashion of the young Marquis Ste. Evremonde, Charles Darnay (with whom he has exchanged clothes) and the simply dressed seamstress, her her tumbling down her back.