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In Secret

“In Secret” is an English version of the French phrase “en secret,” which means “in solitary confinement” (Sanders 134).

…the dawning Republic One and Indivisible, of Liberty, Equality, Fraternity, or Death.

This “dawning Republic One and Indivisible” is the French Republic decreed on September 22, 1792 (following the King’s incarceration in August of that year, and preceding his execution in January of the following year). It is this Republic that officially replaced the monarchy in France. The slogan Dickens records here is likewise recorded in Carlyle’s French Revolution:

On all housetops flicker little tricolor Flags, their flagstaff a Pike and Liberty-Cap. On all housewalls, for no Patriot, not suspect, will be behind another, there stand printed these words: Republic one and indivisible, Liberty, Equality, Fraternity, or Death. (659)

The addition of “death” to the patriotic cry of the Revolution (“Liberty, Equality, Fraternity”) may foreshadow the Reign of Terror.

This universal watchfulness not only stopped him on the highway twenty times in a stage…

In revolutionary France, passports were required for travel even between places within France (Maxwell 466-7). The country at large, threatened with foreign invasion and wary of emigrants (many of whom, beyond being members of the calumniated nobility, had joined forces with foreign invaders), was on the alert.

The escort were two mounted patriots in red caps and tricolored cockades…

In addition to the bonnet rouge, or red “Phrygian” cap of liberty, the
patriots of the French Revolution wore tricolor cockades (a cockade is a knot of ribbons, or a rosette, “worn in the hat as a badge of office or party, or as part of a livery dress” [Oxford English Dictionary]). The tricolor appeared early in the Revolution – in 1789 – as a sign of patriotic opposition to the white flag of the French Bourbon kings (Sanders 135). Carlyle, in The French Revolution, gives an account of the first appearance of the tricolor as follows: “Women too are sewing cockades … of red and blue, our old Paris colours: these, once based on a ground of constitutional white, are the famed TRICOLOR” (152). This “tricolor” was ultimately adapted to the French flag (which is composed of bars – blue, white, and red).

…clattering at a heavy dragoon trot over the uneven town pavement…

A dragoon is a kind of cavalry soldier, the name “dragoon” deriving from the kind of weapon originally carried by mounted soldiers – a “dragon,” “so called from its ‘breathing fire’ like the fabulous dragon” (OED). In France, dragoons were ranked amongst the infantry from 1665 to 1784 (as the result of an edict of Louis XIV’s); but the revolutionary government promoted them to actual cavalry status in 1791 (OED). Thus, in 1792, the “heavy dragoon trot” of Darnay’s escort has – whether the escort is indeed affiliated with the national military or not – martial overtones.

…a farrier, making at him in a furious manner through the press, hammer in hand!

A farrier is one who shoes horses, and, sometimes, a horse-doctor also (OED). Such a man would be equipped with a hammer as the tool of his trade.

“Truly, a decree for selling the property of emigrants.” “When passed?” “On the fourteenth.” “The day I left England!”

After King Louis’ power of veto was suspended in early August, 1792, laws were passed – which the king had previously prevented – allowing the state to confiscate the property of emigrants. Darnay, apparently leaving England on the day the decree for selling emigrant property was announced, would not have heard of the laws passed against him. Carlyle discusses the legal position of emigrants and their property in a chapter entitled “Sansculottism Accoutered”:

[A]ll Emigrants are declared Traitors, their property become National; they are “dead in Law,” – save indeed that for our behoof they shall “live yet fifty years in Law,” and what heritages may fall to them in that time become National too!… And then if one fly, what steads it? Dead in Law; nay kept alive fifty years yet, for their accursed behoof! In this manner therefore it goes; … – and withal there is endless sale of Emigrant National-Property.... (623-626)

…the people, in a ghostly manner in the dead of the night, circling hand in hand round a shriveled tree of Liberty, or all drawn up together singing a Liberty song.

A “tree of liberty” is a “a tree (or a pole) planted in celebration of a revolution or victory securing liberty,” and is a word used “chiefly in reference to the French Revolution” (OED). Carlyle mentions a number of celebratory plantings of liberty trees in Paris – especially on the occasion of the “Feast of Pikes” (the first anniversary of the fall of the Bastille), July 14, 1790:

Or out, on the Earth’s breast itself, behold the Ruins of the Bastille. All lamplit, allegorically decorated; a Tree of Liberty sixty feet high; and Phrygian Cap on it, of size enormous, under which King Arthur and his round-table might have dined! In the depths of the background is a single lugubrious lamp, rendering dim-visible one of your iron cages, half-buried, and some Prison stones, – Tyranny vanishing downwards, all gone but the skirt: the rest wholly lamp-festoons, trees real or of pasteboard; in the similitude of a fairy grove; with this inscription, readable to the runner: “Ici l’on danse, Dancing Here.” (301)

By May, 1792, there were about 60,000 trees of liberty planted in France (Maxwell 468).

“Without doubt. You are consigned, Evrémonde, to the Prison of La Force.”

The Prison of La Force, destroyed in the 19th century, was originally the private residence of the Duc de la Force, and was not converted into a prison until 1780, shortly before the Revolution (Sanders 136). It was located just above the Rue Saint Antoine to the west of the Bastille, on the Rue Pavée; it is visible on this portion of the Plan de la Ville de Paris, Période Révolutionnaire, 1790-94, at the upper right.  (The red letters, though not very legible, read “Maison de la Force.”)

Click on map for larger view

Modern guidebooks still point out the site of La Force:

Next to the Lamoignon, on rue Pavée – so called because it was among the first Paris streets to be paved, in 1450 – was the site of La Force prison, where many of the Revolution’s victims were incarcerated, including the Princesse de Lamballe, who was lynched in the massacres of September 1792. Her head was presented on a stake to her friend Marie-Antoinette. (Baillie and Salmon 119)

By placing Darnay in La Force in late August, 1792, Dickens makes him immediately vulnerable to the terrible “September massacres” of September 2-6.



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