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.

“In the name of that sharp female newly born and called La Guillotine, why did you come to France?”

The guillotine, named after its inventor (Dr. Joseph Ignace Guillotin), is the famous instrument of execution used by the French Republic; it was especially active during the Reign of Terror. Carlyle describes the advent of the “newly born” guillotine (though proposed much earlier, it was not put into use until 1792) as follows:

For, lo, the great Guillotine, wondrous to behold, now stands there; the Doctor’s Idea has become Oak and Iron; the huge cyclopean axe “falls in its grooves like the ram of the Pile-engine,” swiftly snuffing out the light of men! (513)

From this point onward in The French Revolution, the guillotine appears more and more frequently, the Doctor’s “Idea” quickly becoming emblematic:

The Guillotine, we find, gets always a quicker motion, as other things are quickening. The Guillotine, by its speed of going, will give index of the general velocity of the Republic. The clanking of its huge axe, rising and falling there, in horrid systole-diastole, is portion of the whole enormous Life-movement and pulsation of the Sansculottic System! (667-8)

It is for this that Doctor Guillotin, “respectable practitioner,” is introduced, early in The French Revolution, as a man

…doomed by a satiric destiny to the strangest immortal glory that ever kept obscure mortal from his resting-place, the bosom of oblivion! Guillotin can … in all cases of medical police and hygiène be a present aid: but, greater far, he can produce his “Report on the Penal Code”; and reveal therein a cunningly devised Beheading Machine, which shall become famous and world-famous. This is the product of Guillotin’s endeavours, gained not without meditation and reading; which product popular gratitude or levity christens by a feminine derivative name, as if it were his daughter: La Guillotine! “With my machine, Messieurs, I whisk off your head (vous fais sauter la tête) in a twinkling, and you have no pain”; – whereat they all laugh. Unfortunate Doctor! For two-and-twenty years he, unguillotined, shall hear nothing but guillotine, see nothing but guillotine; then dying, shall through long centuries wander, as it were, a disconsolate ghost, on the wrong side of Styx and Lethe; his name like to outlive Caesar’s. (121)

The few words that he caught from this man’s lips, first made it known to Charles Darnay that the king was in prison, and that the foreign ambassadors had one and all left Paris.

King Louis XVI was imprisoned in the Temple beginning on August 13, 1792, and foreign ambassadors in France did, upon this instigation, leave Paris. As Carlyle describes it in The French Revolution, “French Royalty vanishes within the gates of the Temple: these old peaked Towers … do cover it up…. Foreign Ambassadors, English Lord Gower have all demanded passports; are driving indignantly toward their respective homes” (502). However, if the imprisonment of the King were enough to set ambassadors packing – an act expressive of European disapprobation for France – the execution of Louis XVI early in the following year had even more pronounced effects: England, disgusted, expelled the French embassy in Britain:

At home [in France] this Killing of a King has divided all friends; and abroad it has united all enemies. Fraternity of People, Revolutionary Propagandism; Atheism, Regicide; total destruction of social order in this world! All Kings, and lovers of Kings, and haters of Anarchy, rank in coalition; as in a war for life. England signifies to Citizen Chauvelin, the Ambassador or rather Ambassador’s-Cloak, that he must quit the country in eight days. Ambassador’s-Cloak and Ambassador, Chauvelin and Talleyrand, depart accordingly. Talleyrand … thinks it safest to make for America.... England has cast out the Embassy: England declares war…. (600)

The horrible massacre, days and nights long, which, within a few rounds of the clock, was to set a great mark of blood upon the blessed garnering time of harvest…

The “horrible massacre” to which Dickens alludes here is the “September massacre” or “September massacres” of September 2-6, 1792, in which Parisian mobs stormed the Prisons of the Abbaye, La Force, Châtalet, and the Conciergerie, slaughtering over 1,000 prisoners (most of whom had been arrested as royalist sympathizers, aristocrats, emigrants, etc.) (Carlyle 529, 537). The massacres were partly the result of a public panic over the Prussian invasion of France, and some modern historians contend that they were directed mainly against criminal prisoners suspected of being part of a counter-revolution (possibly in collusion with the foreign invaders) (Maxwell 469). Carlyle, however, tends to emphasize the relation of this panic over Prussian invasion to the old conflict between revolutionary commoners and the toppled aristocracy:

At Paris, by lying Rumour which proved prophetic and veridical, the fall of Verdun [to Prussian forces] was known some hours before it happened. It is Sunday the second of September; handiwork hinders not the speculations of the mind. Verdun gone (though some still deny it); the Prussians in full march, with gallows-ropes, with fire and faggot! Thirty-thousand Aristocrats within our own walls; and but the merest quarter-tithe of them yet put in Prison! Nay there goes a word that even these will revolt. (524)

Dickens does not describe the causes of the September massacres, and this decontextualization has the effect of representing the massacres as the result of an irrational, vengeful kind of revolutionary malice. However, though Dickens gives an oversimplified version of the historical events in question, his September massacres are fictionally consistent with his representation of the French Revolution at large, and foreshadow the brutality of the coming Reign of Terror.

A man with a bloated face opened the strong wicket…

A wicket is a small gate or door, often “made in, or placed beside, a large one, for ingress and egress when the large one is closed” (OED).

He stuck the paper on a file, in an ill-humour, and Charles Darnay awaited his further pleasure for half an hour…

“File” is used here in its original sense – that of “a string or wire, on which papers and documents are strung for preservation and reference” (OED). This meaning was later extended to include “various other appliances for holding papers so that they can be easily referred to” (OED).

Tellson’s Bank, established in the Saint Germain Quarter of Paris, was in a wing of a large house, approached by a court-yard and shut off from the street by a high wall and a strong gate…

The Saint Germain Quarter, named for the Abbey of Saint-Germain-des-Prés, was a prosperous and fashionable quarter in the 18th century, as it was in Dickens’ time and still is in our own. One 19th-century guidebook notes that “the Quartier St. Germain [is] one of the aristocratic quarters of Paris, and the seat of the old noblesse” (Dickens's Dictionary of Paris 252-3); and this was certainly the case in 1792. As it turns out, we have seen Tellson’s house before: it is the house of “Monseigneur” – the Monseigneur who required three men to make his chocolate in an earlier chapter.

A mere beast of the chase flying from hunters, he was still in his metempsychosis no other than the same Monseigneur…

Metempsychosis refers to the “transmigration of the soul[;] passage of the soul from one body to another; esp[ecially] (chiefly in Pythagoreanism and certain Eastern religions) the transmigration of the soul of a human being or animal at or after death into a new body of the same or a different species” (OED). Monseigneur’s transformation seems, metaphorically, to comprehend the migration of his soul into a body of a separate species as well as a different class, for he is figured here as a “beast of the chase.” Dickens may be invoking, in this figure, the story of Acteon (Acteon surprised the goddess Diana while she was bathing, and she turned him into a stag; he was then set upon by his own dogs and torn to pieces). He may also be invoking Carlyle’s account of the first waves of aristocratic emigration in The French Revolution:

On the [English] Cliffs of Dover, over all the Marches of France, there appear, this autumn [1789], two signs on the Earth: emigrant flights of French Seigneurs; emigrant winged flights of French Game! Finished, one may say, or as good as finished, is the Preservation of Game on this Earth; completed for endless Time. (195)

Carlyle, having made much of aristocratic preserves of game (as Dickens himself does early in A Tale of Two Cities, referring to the “State preserves of loaves and fishes”), uses the same vocabulary to show how the tables have turned – how the hunters have become the hunted.

A place of business in London like Tellson’s place of business in Paris, would soon have driven the House out of its mind and into the Gazette.

The Gazette is the London Gazette, in which bankruptcies were required to be advertised. The OED describes this periodical as an official journal “issued by authority twice a week, and containing lists of government appointments and promotions, names of bankrupts, and other public notices. Hence sometimes used gen[erally] for the official journal of any government.” The OED likewise notes that the expression “to be in the gazette” means “to be published a bankrupt” and gives the following history of the paper that became the London Gazette:

The first official journal published in England was The Oxford Gazette, the first number of which appeared in Nov. 1665, when the Court was at Oxford on account of the plague. Nos. 22 and 23 were printed in London, and with No. 24 the title was changed to The London Gazette.

Appropriately, the word “gazette” is thought to derive from a coin of that name, “which may have been the sum paid either for the paper itself or for the privilege of reading it” (OED).

For, what would staid British responsibility and respectability have said to orange-trees in boxes in a Bank court-yard, and even to a Cupid over the counter?

Orange trees grown in pots or boxes were a prominent feature of French ornamental gardens in the 18th century; in fact, the “Orangerie” located behind the palace of Versailles was still maintained in Dickens’ time, as it is in our own: Baedeker’s Paris and Its Environs, published in the late 19th century, describes the Versailles Orangerie as filled with about 1,200 potted orange trees; these were “dispersed through the gardens in summer,” and one of them was “said to be upwards of 450 years old” (294). Baedeker also mentions an “Allée des Orangers” – an “avenue of orange-trees in tubs, on the side next the Rue de Rivoli … [which] now [in the late 19th century] diffuses its fragrance on the spot where a potato-field was planted during the reign of terror in 1793” (153).

Though orange trees in pots or boxes were common in French gardening, they were rare in England. This was partly due to the English climate (in which citrus trees are more difficult to grow), but apparently also partly due to an English prejudice against European frivolities. Indeed, the English Illustrated Dictionary of Gardening (c.1888) remarks that

…although, in Britain, oranges for fruit production cannot be grown in sufficient quantity to compete with countries where the trees grow freely outside, yet it is strange, considering the excellent quality of the fruit when properly cultivated [in hot-houses], to what an extent the trees are neglected in this respect in the great majority of English gardens, even in those where almost every other important kind of fruit is represented.

Given that oranges were not impossible to grow in England, the general absence of English orangeries may imply an objection on aesthetic grounds. Indeed, since potted or boxed oranges were cultivated in hot-houses as ornamental trees (not as fruit trees) and moved outside only during the warmer parts of the year, they could be grown almost regardless of local climate. In any case, the English seemed to view the French as an authority in orange-production, and this suggests the extent to which the trees were cultivated in one country and not in the other. The Illustrated Dictionary of Gardening refers its readers to French textbooks as follows:

Some idea of the number of … cultivated varieties [of oranges], and their range of differences in size, form, colour, and taste of the fruits, may be obtained when it is stated that, in the “Histoire Naturelle des Orangers,” a folio work, by Risso and Poiteau (1818), there are no less than 109 plates. The literature on the subject is very considerable; but the most important work, besides the one just mentioned, is Gallesios’s “Traité du Citrus” (8 vo[lumes]), published at Paris, in 1811. (505)

Ironically, the orange is not a European fruit at all, but probably originated in Asia.

Bankruptcy must inevitably have come of this young Pagan, in Lombard-street, London, and also of a curtained alcove in the rear of the immortal boy, and also of a looking-glass let into the wall, and also of clerks not at all old who danced in public on the slightest provocation.

The “young Pagan” is Cupid, whom Tellson’s has whitewashed in an attempt to give him an appearance of greater respectability. According to classical mythology, Cupid is the son of Venus and Mercury, and is the god of love; he totes a bow and arrow for dealing out darts of love and passion (OED). Were Cupid to visit Lombard Street, London, he would find (according to a 19th-century guidebook) the following:

Lombard Street has been for ages the most noted street in London for banking and finance, and has inherited its name from the “Lombard” money-dealers from Genoe and Florence, who, in the 14th and 15th centuries, took the place of the discredited and persecuted Jews of “Old Jewry” as money-lenders. (Baedeker 120)

Lombard Street is visible on this portion of Thornton’s map of London (1784), just to the right of center, sloping toward the lower right; it is located under Cornhill, and the crease in the map runs through it. 

Click on map for larger view

On the opposite side of the court-yard, under a colonnade, was extensive standing for carriages – where, indeed, some carriages of Monseigneur yet stood. Against two of the pillars were fastened two great flaring flambeaux, and, in the light of these, standing out in the open air, was a large grindstone…

Tellson’s, lodged in the Quartier Saint Germain, is located near the Abbey of Saint-Germain-des-Prés (for which the Quarter is named); the Abbey, in turn, is adjacent to the Prison of the Abbaye, where the September massacres broke out on September 2, 1792. It is thus appropriate that the grindstone (to which the mob comes to sharpen its weapons) should be located so close to Mr. Lorry’s apartments.

The relationship of the Abbey of Saint-Germain-des-Prés to the Prison of the Abbaye is visible on this portion of the Plan de la Ville de Paris, Période Révolutionnaire, 1790-94 (below).  Though some of the lettering is difficult to make out, the complex which included the Abbey and the Prison is visible under the red “Tribunal du 6e Arrondissement” (at the left side of the map, under the Rue du Colombier). (The red lettering indicates a name imposed during the revolutionary period.) The Abbey is the large dark building visible under the “Tribunal” label; the Prison of the Abbaye is represented by the dark square at the bottom right corner of the complex (if you look carefully, you can make out the name – “Prison de l’Abbaye”).

Click on map for larger view

He opened, not only the glass window, but the lattice blind outside it…

A lattice blind is a window-screen “made of laths, or of wood or metal crossed and fastened together, with open spaces left between” (OED).

False eyebrows and false mustaches were stuck upon them…

Dickens’ source for the false mustaches of the mob is apparently Carlyle’s French Revolution, for references to such false hair do not appear in other sources. However, as Sanders puts it in his Companion to A Tale of Two Cities, “This would appear to be an extraordinary misreading of a passage in Carlyle” which runs as follows:

[The] Princess de Lamballe … too is led to the hell-gate; a manifest Queen’s-Friend. She shivers back, at the sight of bloody sabres; but there is no return: Onwards! That fair hind head is cleft with the axe; the neck is severed. That fair body is cut in fragments; with indignities, and obscene horrors of moustachio grands-lèvres, which human nature would fain find incredible, – which shall be read in the original language only…. Her head is fixed on a pike; paraded under the windows of the Temple; that a still more hated, a Marie Antoinette, may see. (530-1)

Since Carlyle does not give us the source-passage, the extent of the “indignities” and “obscene horrors of moustachio” is obfuscated somewhat. However, the mustaches fashioned by the Princess’ attackers were made, not from the hair of her head, but from her pubic hair. Dickens seems to have missed this point, perhaps taking the vagueness of Carlyle’s language for generality. Indeed, since Carlyle describes revolutionaries as “moustachioed” in other contexts – e.g. “six thousand strong, ‘in red night-cap, in tricolor waistcoat, in black-shag trousers, black-shag spencer, with enormous moustachios, enormous sabre, – in carmagnole complète” (685) – it is quite possible that Dickens took prominent mustaches for part of the usual patriotic outfit.