Facts in A Tale of Two Cities

Facts Examples in A Tale of Two Cities:

"leap-frog..."   (Book the First: Recalled to Life - Chapter III)

Leap-frog is a game (predominantly a children’s game) requiring one player to bend down while another player leaps over him/her. The game has been known as “leap-frog” since the late 16th century in Europe though it may have been popular for even longer.

"sea-coal..."   (Book the First: Recalled to Life - Chapter IV)

Sea coal is a mineral coal that originates in coal seams on sea cliffs or in underwater deposits. It is of a higher quality than charcoal, which can cause a great deal of pollution. Consequently, sea coal is more expensive than charcoal.

"packet..."   (Book the First: Recalled to Life - Chapter IV)

“Packet” here is short for “packet ship.” A packet ship was a small boat that transported mail, as well as passengers and freight. They were heavily used during the time in which A Tale of Two Cities was set.

"Royal George Hotel..."   (Book the First: Recalled to Life - Chapter IV)

The Royal George Hotel is likely based on The Ship Hotel in Dover, or the Hotel and Ship Inn that faced the Granville Dock on Custom House Quay. It was eventually demolished in 1860 (one year after A Tale of Two Cities was published) in order to make room for a new portion of the railway.

"faintness of solitude and disuse...."   (Book the First: Recalled to Life - Chapter VI)

Dickens strongly opposed solitary confinement, especially as a means of punishment. He was appalled when he discovered the prevalence of this method during an 1842 visit to a Philadelphia prison. He attributed the popularity of solitary confinement to the ignorance of “those who devised this system of Prison Discipline, and those benevolent gentlemen who carry it into execution.”

"Hilary Term and Michaelmas..."   (Book the Second: The Golden Thread - Chapter V)

“Michaelmas”—or “Michaelmas Term”—and “Hilary Term” are the first and second terms at several prominent universities in the United Kingdom, with a term referring to a designated period of time during the academic calendar. Both are named after the feasts of saints that fall during the span of their terms:Michaelmas, which lasts from September or October to Christmas, commemorates the Feast of St. Michael and All Angels on September 29. Hilary Term, which lasts from January to March, refers to the Feast of St. Hilary of Poitiers on January 14.

"Sessions..."   (Book the Second: The Golden Thread - Chapter V)

“The Sessions” were meetings among legal officials to discuss and carry out court business. Mr. Stryver, as a prominent and successful lawyer, regularly participated in these meetings.

"Clerkenwell..."   (Book the Second: The Golden Thread - Chapter VI)

Clerkenwell is located in the London Borough of Islington in central London. During the time of A Tale of Two Cities, it was known for the manufacture of watches and clocks.

"Soho Square..."   (Book the Second: The Golden Thread - Chapter VI)

Dr. Manette’s home was likely based on the House of St. Barnabas—or, as it would have been known during the time of A Tale of Two Cities, the House of Charity. The House of St. Barnabas has been operated as a charity to support people experiencing homelessness since 1862. Its entrance faces Manette Street (named for Dr. Manette).

"Farmer-General..."   (Book the Second: The Golden Thread - Chapter VII)

French peasants, who were already starving, had to pay an exorbitant amount of taxes to government coffers. Farmers-General were responsible for “farming” these taxes and were widely distrusted. Among other offenses, Farmers-General were suspected of “fleecing,” which involved over-collecting taxes and keeping what was not paid to the government.

"the merry Stuart..."   (Book the Second: The Golden Thread - Chapter VII)

The “merry Stuart” refers to King Charles II from the royal House of Stuart, who figuratively “sold” England to France because he wanted England to convert to Roman Catholicism. The treaty, called the Treaty of Dover, required England to support France’s war with the Netherlands. In return, France provided a subsidy that freed King Charles II from his financial dependence on Parliament. The religious stipulations of the alliance were spelled out in a second treaty: the Secret Treaty of Dover.

"All its people were poor..."   (Book the Second: The Golden Thread - Chapter VIII)

The poorest French peasants paid the highest tax rates during the time of A Tale of Two Cities. Conversely, French aristocrats paid very little or resisted taxation altogether. Unfair taxation was a key contributor to the advent of the French Revolution.

"the German ballad of Leonora?..."   (Book the Second: The Golden Thread - Chapter IX)

The German “Ballad of Leonora” was written by Gottfried Augustus Bürger in the early 1770s. Though written in German, the Ballad was translated into English in the 1790s. In the ballad, Leonora loses her lover to battle and longs for death; her lover miraculously appears to carry her off to their “marriage bed.” The bed, however, is a grave, and “‘Twas Death that clasp’d the maid.” Dickens’s simile suggests a similarly grim outcome for Monsieur Gabelle as he makes his escape on a “double-laden” galloping horse.

"fashion of the last Louis ..."   (Book the Second: The Golden Thread - Chapter IX)

The Marquis’s furniture dates back to the reign of King Louis XIV, somewhere between 1643 and 1715. The outdatedness of the Marquis’s furniture suggests not only his resistance to progress but also the prestige of his family name.

"drove a contraband trade in European languages..."   (Book the Second: The Golden Thread - Chapter X)

During the time of A Tale of Two Cities, modern languages (including French, English, Spanish, and Portuguese) were not included in a gentleman’s education. Charles Darnay is tolerated as a “smuggler who drove a contraband trade in European languages” because he does not focus on tutoring in Latin or Greek at Cambridge.

"wet-towelling ..."   (Book the Second: The Golden Thread - Chapter XI)

Recollection (especially recalling “to life”) is an important theme in A Tale of Two Cities. In this case, Dr. Manette begs Charles Darnay to not disclose his true identity because it will “recall” memories that might trigger the resurrection of Dr. Manette’s trauma-induced amnesia.

"Ranelagh..."   (Book the Second: The Golden Thread - Chapter XII)

Ranelagh Gardens was another popular pleasure garden during the time of A Tale of Two Cities. Ranelagh was located in Chelsea, which at the time was just outside of London.

"Vauxhall Gardens;..."   (Book the Second: The Golden Thread - Chapter XII)

Vauxhall Gardens was a popular pleasure garden in Kennington, which is located on the south bank of the River Thames in London. During the time of A Tale of Two Cities, Vauxhall Gardens was accessible only by boat.

"a poet sat upon a stool in a public place..."   (Book the Second: The Golden Thread - Chapter XIV)

Dickens alludes to the poet Dante, who reportedly perched on a stool in public, possibly to watch the construction of the Florence cathedral (which was constructed in 1296).

"heathen rustic..."   (Book the Second: The Golden Thread - Chapter XIV)

Dickens compares Jerry Cruncher to Charon, the ferryman of Hades who newly-deceased souls across the rivers Styx and Acheron to Hades in the Underworld. Charon required payment for passage, so some bodies were buried with a coin in their eyes or on their mouths. Jerry Cruncher, who digs up corpses to sell, also makes a profit from the dead.

" plane-tree..."   (Book the Second: The Golden Thread - Chapter XVII)

Plane-trees (of the genus platanus) are common in the streets and parks of London. Though the first plane-trees were likely planted around 1550, many of the larger ones currently living were planted in the 19th century. The trees likely prospered during periods of severe pollution because their bark regularly flakes, thus shedding harmful pollutants.

"Warwickshire..."   (Book the Second: The Golden Thread - Chapter XVIII)

Warwickshire is a county in the West Midlands of England. The county is most famous for being the birthplace of William Shakespeare, who grew up in Stratford-on-Avon.

"Foulon..."   (Book the Second: The Golden Thread - Chapter XXII)

The name “Old Foulon” refers to Joseph-François Foullon de Doué, who was a politician and the Controller-General of Finances for King Louis XVI. He is rumored to have told starving French peasants to “eat hay” and was widely despised. He attempted to flee after the French Revolution began, but he was captured and beheaded after three failed attempts at hanging him. The peasants stuffed his mouth with hay before parading his head through the streets on a pike.

"dust he was..."   (Book the Second: The Golden Thread - Chapter XXIII)

The phrase “reflect that dust he was” alludes to the biblical book of Genesis 3:19, which details the fall of humanity after Eve eats the forbidden fruit from the Tree of Knowledge. God punishes Adam and Eve by condemning them to a hard life of farming: “Cursed is the ground because of you;/ In toil you will eat of it/ All the days of your life.” God explains that they will die and be returned to the earth, “For you are dust,/ And to dust you shall return.”

"faces of low caste..."   (Book the Second: The Golden Thread - Chapter XXIII)

The phrase “faces of low caste” suggests a parallel between the French Revolution and the Indian Rebellion of 1857, which took place two years before the publication of A Tale of Two Cities. The Indian Rebellion was an uprising that violently and unsuccessfully protested the rule of Britain’s East India Company in India. One of the primary causes of the rebellion involved Indian resentment against the British for imposing high taxes, forcing social reform based on Western European customs, and stripping the traditionally high-caste nobility of their land.

"low caste..."   (Book the Second: The Golden Thread - Chapter XXIII)

The noun “caste” refers to the Hindu class system, which restricts occupations (and access to higher-caste individuals) based on inherited rank or privilege. Outside of Hindu society, a caste system generally features strict social barriers based on inherited status.

"the king was tried, doomed, and beheaded;..."   (Book the Third: The Track of a Storm - Chapter IV)

King Louis XVI was executed by La Guillotine on the 21st of January, 1793, in “Revolution Square” (Place de la Révolution). The jury was nearly unanimous in its vote to condemn the king to death. The event initiated the Reign of Terror, which lasted until July of 1794.

"eleven hundred defenceless prisoners..."   (Book the Third: The Track of a Storm - Chapter IV)

Dickens refers to the September Massacres that took place in Paris for five days in early September, 1792. The revolutionaries were afraid that foreign armies would storm Paris and liberate prisoners who would join them in dismantling the republic. Radicals called for the preemptive execution of prisoners; as a result, more than 1200 prisoners (including women, children, and priests) were executed.

"Liberty, Equality, Fraternity, or Death..."   (Book the Third: The Track of a Storm - Chapter VII)

“Liberty, Equality, Fraternity” (in French: liberté, égalité, fraternité) is the motto of the French Republic and became the national motto of France after the revolution ended. Dickens’s addition of “or Death” indicates that the republic does not in fact promote liberty, equality, or fraternity; one must comply with the republic’s demands or face inevitable death.

"the armorial bearings of a Noble, and the letter E...."   (Book the Third: The Track of a Storm - Chapter X)

Armorial bearings (also called “coats of arms” or “heraldic arms”) indicated the rank of a member of the nobility. The original purpose of heraldic arms was for knights to identify one another in battle. The letter “E,” as we shall see, suggests that the two aristocrats may be Evremondes (Charles Darnay’s family), and furthermore may be connected to Dr. Manette’s lengthy imprisonment.

"instrument that was to terminate his life..."   (Book the Third: The Track of a Storm - Chapter XIII)

Although the guillotine is more recently associated with the French Revolution (and was nicknamed the “National Razor” of France), its invention far precedes the 18th century. A beheading machine called a “planke” was used in the Middle Ages in Germany and Flanders. The English—specifically Halifax in West Yorkshire—had used a sliding axe called the “Halifax Gibbet” for many centuries. La Guillotine may have been designed based on the more modern “mannaia” in Italy and the “Scottish Maiden” of Scotland, though primitive beheading machines were used in France for centuries.

"instrument that was to terminate his life..."   (Book the Third: The Track of a Storm - Chapter XIII)

The modern guillotine (also called the “louisette”) was designed by surgeon and physiologist Antoine Louis; however, it was named after physician Joseph Ignace Guillotin. Guillotin called for a more humane method of performing executions, which usually involved beheadings by sword or axe. The highly efficient guillotine soon became a national symbol for the French Revolution and was used extensively throughout the 18th and 19th centuries. The last execution by guillotine in France took place in 1977.