Read With Me, A Tale of Two Cities, Book II, Chapters XII-XIII

Previously: Book II, Chapters X-XI | Coming Soon: Book II, Chapter XIV

Welcome to the twelfth week of this read-with-me project. This week we read Chapter XII: The Fellow of Delicacy and Chapter XIII: The Fellow of No Delicacy. This section was first released in a magazine called All the Year Round on Saturday, July 16th 1859.

The story so far…
Previously we heard from two men who had intentions to marry Lucie Manette. The first, Charles Darnay, went to see her father and the news of his attentions disturbed him greatly. The second man, Mr Stryver announced his attentions to Sydney Carton who was somewhat silent on his opinions of the subject.

In this section…
The first chapter, ‘The Fellow of Delicacy’, is concerned with Mr Stryver’s proposal to Miss Lucie. Rather than go to the family, he announces his intentions to their friend Mr Lorry, who does his best to dissuade Mr Stryver.

The following chapter is titled ‘The Fellow of No Delicacy’, which offers a nice counterpoint to the first. It is also interesting that they have this commonality in terms of title as they were published together on the same day.

This chapter follows Sydney and is a lot more interesting to me than the previous. As a reader, I have very little interest in Mr Stryver. You may wish to note that this blog is not called StryverManetteDarnay.

Sydney is depicted as a restless wanderer and he walks through the city, seldom to be found asleep in his bed. It’s a powerful description which draws your attention, as Dicken’s compares him to a ghost.

“[He] haunted that neighbourhood”

When we talk of Dickens and ghosts it’s impossible not to think of his most famous ghost story, A Christmas Carol. Published in 1843, sixteen years before A Tale of Two Cities, Sydney’s restlessness seems to mimic those poor souls that are bound to walk the earth, finding no rest anywhere. This is the fate that Marley is trying to save Scrooge from. Therefore it is suggested that Sydney is, or at least, Sydney considers himself to be as bad as Scrooge.

He eventually finds himself at the Manette residence and has a conversation between himself and Lucie. Unlike his “friend”, Stryver, who encourages his lifestyle Lucie, shows some concern for his health. This shows that Lucie may truly see his anguish rather than the drunken fop that the others see. As he was previously compared to a ghost, it is almost as though Lucie can see ghosts because she can see Sydney.
Sydney shares quite a bit of his anguish with Lucie and does it in a beautifully eloquent manner.

“I wish you to know that you have been the last dream of my soul. In my degradation I have not been so degraded but that the sight of you with your father, and of this home made such a home by you, has stirred old shadows that I thought had died out of me. Since I knew you, I have been troubled by a remorse that I thought would never reproach me again, and have heard whispers from old voices impelling me upward, that I thought were silent for ever. I have had unformed ideas of striving afresh, beginning anew, shaking off sloth and sensuality, and fighting out the abandoned fight. A dream, all a dream, that ends in nothing, and leaves the sleeper where he lay down, but I wish you to know that you inspired it.”

It is curious that while Sydney is one man who has not announced intentions to marry Lucie, he is the only one to speak to her and to speak to her in this manner. At this moment, he is vulnerable, and he allows her to see that. His pain and anguish are transformed as he admits than Lucie makes him feel, makes him human, and it is exactly why I love this book so much.

While Lucie cries at his admissions, he proclaims himself unworthy of her tears. This reminds us no only of the low opinion of himself, but of his high opinion of Lucie.

This chapter has so much depth of emotion stands in stark opposition to the previous. Despite the emotion, Sydney is not making a marriage proposal, not because he does not love Lucie because that is obvious but, because he does not think of himself as being worthy. How can you not love Sydney at this moment?

What about you… Are you reading along with A Tale of Two Cities, and if so, what did you think of this section?

Dates for your diary:
Chapter XIV on the 23rd of July (Post: 25th of July)
Chapter XV on the 30th of July (Post: on the 1st of August)
Chapter XVI on the 6th of August (Post: 8th of August)

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