By Charles Dickens, Richard Maxwell (editor)
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Extra info for A Tale of Two Cities (Penguin)
As arbitrary imprisonment had become the exemplary abuse of monarchical power, so droit du seigneur was the exemplary abuse of aristocratic power; A Tale’s plot links these two formative transgressions. The droit du seigneur probably never existed; at the very least, it was not a live practice during the eighteenth century and the evidence for its medieval existence lies in the close interpretation of obscure documents. In addition, the tales of the Bastille and of lettres de cachet which circulated in the late eighteenth century were occasionally distorted by rumour or self-promotion.
He is drawn to it, we are led to infer, partly because he cannot hide from himself that he belongs to the Evrémondes, that cursed race, and partly because he has had to keep this information secret: now it will be proclaimed, now he will face the burden of his inheritance. The third member of the trio is Sydney Carton. He is not only the great intellectual condenser within this novel; he is also the most reticent, the most secretive, of its characters. 13); his sensual excesses are apparently abominable.
The narrator usually stresses his (supposedly) noble origin and his promising career before his arrest. He shows that he was arrested by an unjust conspiracy. The conspirators use lettres de cachet, warrants which were sometimes left blank so that their possessors could commit to prison the individuals of their choice. The prisoner finds himself in a dark, unhealthy cell, where the names of other victims of despotism are frequently written on the walls (or where, perhaps, he writes his own name).
A Tale of Two Cities (Penguin) by Charles Dickens, Richard Maxwell (editor)