‘Cartloads of Books’: some Sources for A Tale of Two Cities

  • Andrew Sanders


In his Preface to A Tale of Two Cities Dickens tells his readers of two distinct influences on the plot of his novel — Wilkie Collins’s drama The Frozen Deep and Thomas Carlyle’s The French Revolution. This essay will show that there were other published sources, some major, some minor, all of which went into the making of, in Dickens’s terms, an exceptionally carefully moulded narrative.


Freeze Deep French Revolution Fictional Relationship Dead Heart Black Flag 
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  1. 1.
    See Robert Louis Brannan’s detailed study, Under the Management of Charles Dickens: His Production of ‘The Frozen Deep’ (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1966).Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    See Carl R. Dolmetsch, ‘Dickens and The Dead Heart’, The Dickensian, 55 (September 1959) 179–87.Google Scholar
  3. See also Malcolm Morley, ‘The Stage Story of A Tale of Two Cities’, The Dickensian, 51 (December 1954) 34–40.Google Scholar
  4. 3.
    Walter Dexter (ed.), The Letters of Charles Dickens, Nonesuch Edition 3 vols (1938) vol. II, 21 August 1857.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Michael Slater, Dickens and Women (London: Dent, 1983) pp. 47–8.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    See Katharine M. Longley, ‘The Real Ellen Ternan’, The Dickensian, 81 (Spring 1985) 31.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    See Fred Kaplan (ed.), Charles Dickens’ Book of Memoranda (New York: New York Public Library, 1981) pp. 18–19.Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    See especially Dickens’s comments on the Eastern Penitentiary at Philadelphia (American Notes for General Circulation, 2 vols (1842) vol. I, pp. 238–9).Google Scholar
  9. 12.
    See J. H. S. Stonehouse (ed.), Catalogue of the Library of Charles Dickens (1935).Google Scholar
  10. 15.
    According to Charles Dickens the Younger in his Introduction to the Macmillan edition of A Tale of Two Cities (1902) p. xx.Google Scholar
  11. 17.
    See, for example, Michael Goldberg, Carlyle and Dickens (Athens, Ga.: University of Georgia Press, 1972),Google Scholar
  12. and William Oddie, ‘Dickens and Carlyle: The Question of Influence (University of Leicester Phd dissertation, 1972).Google Scholar
  13. 19.
    For Carlyle’s concept of Homeric epic and the shaping of The French Revolution see John Clubbe, ‘Carlyle as Epic Historian’, in James R. Kincaid and Albert J. Kuhn (eds), Victorian Literature and Society: Essays Presented to Richard D. Altick (Columbus, Ohio: Ohio State University Press, 1983) pp. 119–45.Google Scholar
  14. 21.
    Louis-Sébastien Mercier, Le Nouveau Paris, 6 vols (Paris, 1797): ‘Massacres de Septembre’, I.XVIII.Google Scholar
  15. Dr John Moore, A Journal during a Residence in France (Dublin, 1793).Google Scholar
  16. 22.
    The French Revolution: A History, 2 vols (London: Chapman & Hall, 1857) III. I.4, vol. II, p. 149. This was the edition in Dickens’s library at the time of his death.Google Scholar
  17. 24.
    John Forster, The Life of Charles Dickens, edited and annotated by J. W. T. Ley (1928) p. 731; Nonesuch Letters, III, 5 June 1860.Google Scholar
  18. 25.
    Louis-Sébastien Mercier, Le Tableau de Paris (1782–88) II.CLXXII.Google Scholar
  19. 26.
    ‘A “Revival” under Louis the Fifteenth’, All the Year Round, 30 (19 November 1859) 81–6.Google Scholar
  20. 29.
    J.-J. Rousseau, Confessions, Livre 4ième, Edition Pléiade, 4 vols (1964–8), vol. I, pp. 163–4.Google Scholar
  21. 38.
    Sir James Fitzjames Stephen, Saturday Review, 8 (17 December 1859) 741–3.Google Scholar
  22. 39.
    see Philip K. Skottowe, ‘The King against Darnay’, The Dickensian, 27 (Summer 1931) 179–81.Google Scholar

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© Andrew Sanders 1988

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  • Andrew Sanders

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