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A Tale of Two Cities

A Tale of Two Cities

Charles Dickens

Update: 2020-04-22

Chapter 1 The Period

  • It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom,
  • it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch o_ncredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it wa_he spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us,
  • we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were al_oing direct the other way—in short, the period was so far like the presen_eriod, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received,
  • for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.
  • There was a king with a large jaw and a queen with a plain face, on the thron_f England; there were a king with a large jaw and a queen with a fair face,
  • on the throne of France. In both countries it was clearer than crystal to th_ords of the State preserves of loaves and fishes, that things in general wer_ettled for ever.
  • It was the year of Our Lord one thousand seven hundred and seventy-five.
  • Spiritual revelations were conceded to England at that favoured period, as a_his. Mrs. Southcott had recently attained her five-and-twentieth blesse_irthday, of whom a prophetic private in the Life Guards had heralded th_ublime appearance by announcing that arrangements were made for th_wallowing up of London and Westminster. Even the Cock-lane ghost had bee_aid only a round dozen of years, after rapping out its messages, as th_pirits of this very year last past (supernaturally deficient in originality)
  • rapped out theirs. Mere messages in the earthly order of events had latel_ome to the English Crown and People, from a congress of British subjects i_merica: which, strange to relate, have proved more important to the huma_ace than any communications yet received through any of the chickens of th_ock-lane brood. France, less favoured on the whole as to matters spiritua_han her sister of the shield and trident, rolled with exceeding smoothnes_own hill, making paper money and spending it. Under the guidance of he_hristian pastors, she entertained herself, besides, with such human_chievements as sentencing a youth to have his hands cut off, his tongue tor_ut with pincers, and his body burned alive, because he had not kneeled dow_n the rain to do honour to a dirty procession of monks which passed withi_is view, at a distance of some fifty or sixty yards. It is likely enoug_hat, rooted in the woods of France and Norway, there were growing trees, whe_hat sufferer was put to death, already marked by the Woodman, Fate, to com_own and be sawn into boards, to make a certain movable framework with a sac_nd a knife in it, terrible in history. It is likely enough that in the roug_uthouses of some tillers of the heavy lands adjacent to Paris, there wer_heltered from the weather that very day, rude carts, bespattered with rusti_ire, snuffed about by pigs, and roosted in by poultry, which the Farmer,
  • Death, had already set apart to be his tumbrils of the Revolution. But tha_oodman and that Farmer, though they work unceasingly, work silently, and n_ne heard them as they went about with muffled tread: the rather, forasmuch a_o entertain any suspicion that they were awake, was to be atheistical an_raitorous.
  • In England, there was scarcely an amount of order and protection to justif_uch national boasting. Daring burglaries by armed men, and highway robberies,
  • took place in the capital itself every night; families were publicly cautione_ot to go out of town without removing their furniture to upholsterers’
  • warehouses for security; the highwayman in the dark was a City tradesman i_he light, and, being recognised and challenged by his fellow-tradesman who_e stopped in his character of “the Captain,” gallantly shot him through th_ead and rode away; the mall was waylaid by seven robbers, and the guard sho_hree dead, and then got shot dead himself by the other four, “in consequenc_f the failure of his ammunition” after which the mall was robbed in peace;
  • that magnificent potentate, the Lord Mayor of London, was made to stand an_eliver on Turnham Green, by one highwayman, who despoiled the illustriou_reature in sight of all his retinue; prisoners in London gaols fought battle_ith their turnkeys, and the majesty of the law fired blunderbusses in amon_hem, loaded with rounds of shot and ball; thieves snipped off diamond crosse_rom the necks of noble lords at Court drawing-rooms; musketeers went into St.
  • Giles’s, to search for contraband goods, and the mob fired on the musketeers,
  • and the musketeers fired on the mob, and nobody thought any of thes_ccurrences much out of the common way. In the midst of them, the hangman,
  • ever busy and ever worse than useless, was in constant requisition; now,
  • stringing up long rows of miscellaneous criminals; now, hanging a housebreake_n Saturday who had been taken on Tuesday; now, burning people in the hand a_ewgate by the dozen, and now burning pamphlets at the door of Westminste_all; to-day, taking the life of an atrocious murderer, and to-morrow of _retched pilferer who had robbed a farmer’s boy of sixpence.
  • All these things, and a thousand like them, came to pass in and close upon th_ear old year one thousand seven hundred and seventy-five. Environed by them,
  • while the Woodman and the Farmer worked unheeded, those two of the large jaws,
  • and those other two of the plain and the fair faces, trod with stir enough,
  • and carried their divine rights with a high hand. Thus did the year on_housand seven hundred and seventy-five conduct their Greatnesses, and myriad_f small creatures—the creatures of this chronicle among the rest—along th_oads that lay before them.