espite Buchanan-Brown's assertion that Phiz was not much of a hand at "costume [i. e., pre-Victorian] pieces," the late eighteenth- century costumes of the characters in his plates for A Tale of Two Cities are, in the main, correct. However, in "Before the Tribunal" the beaver which the fashionably accoutered Charles Darnay holds in his left hand does not correspond to the early 70s. According to C. Willett Cunnington and Phillis Cunnington, the various styles of round hat at that period had in common a crown that was tall and a "brim small and generally rolled up on each side" (Handbook of English Costume in the Eighteenth Century, 23). In fact, Darnay's top hat looks more like the type known as "Lincoln and Bennett" worn by Englishmen at the time Dickens penned the novel and Phiz etched the plates, as opposed to the (then) "Old-fashioned beaver" (Handbook of English Costume in the Nineteenth Century, 223- 224). The caped great-coat which survives today as the Australian stockman's coat and the top-boots that Darnay wears in "Before the Tribunal" are certainly plausible, although the French top-boots that condemned and inquisitor alike wear present a minor problem. The prisoner, attired in fashions of English manufacture, would more likely be wearing English "jockey" boots with the "turned-over top sloping down to a point in front" as opposed to the "French turned-over top, cut straight round" (Handbook of English Costume in the Eighteenth Century, 230).
Mr. Lorry's somewhat unfashionable mode of dress, including a wig, in "After the Sentence," set almost twenty years after his initial appearance in the novel, in "The Shoemaker," is consistent with the tastes of an older, conservative bank-manager: the coat with close sleeves; small, round cuffs; the skirts ending just above the knee; the waistcoat with flapped pockets below the waist; the neckcloth; and the three-cornered hat so much in fashion for much of the century were becoming passČ by the 70s. Lucie's father, like the younger professional in "After the Sentence," Sydney Carton, is not wearing a wig, although this departure from earlier fashion did not become widespread until after the British government levied a tax on hair-powder in 75. Carton seems to be affecting a "Brutus" head — long hair "with a wind-blown, dishevelled appearance" (Handbook of English Costume in the Eighteenth Century, 247), named after J. L. David's hero of Republican Rome, as seen in "Brutus Condemning His Son" (78). The implied comparison of Sydney Carton and Lucius Junius Brutus is at once apt and ironic: although both represent the virtue of sacrifice, David depicted Brutus as a patriot capable of sacrificing both his sons to Republican principle. for as consul in 50 B. C. he was officially compelled to sentence his boys to death for conspiring to restore the Etruscan monarchy; the chivalric Carton, on the other hand, gives his own life to preserve the life of the man who has been his rival in love and thereby cheat the French Republic of an aristocrat who is an enemy of the state.
- A Tale of Two Cities (85) — the last Dickens's novel "Phiz" Illustrated
- Illustrations to A Tale of Two Cities: The Plates
Last modified 28 October 2005