Charles Darnay was established in England as a higher teacher of the French language who was conversant with French literature. In this age, he would have been a Professor; in that age, he was a Tutor.

In the 18th century, modern languages like French were not officially taught at the universities of Oxford and Cambridge, where a gentleman’s education traditionally required instruction in ancient languages – Latin and Greek. King George I established professorships of Modern History and Modern Languages at both Oxford and Cambridge as early as 1724, but these professors were not language instructors themselves; instead, they were responsible for hiring subordinate instructors who could teach language skills. Modern languages were considered a practical acquirement for students who intended to enter certain professions – the diplomatic service, for example. Instruction in modern languages at the chief English universities was thus a kind of freelance and ad hoc affair, and Charles Darnay (as a teacher of French language and literature) would be – despite all apparent merit – merely a tutor.

Such masters were not at that time easily found; Princes that had been, and Kings that were to be, were not yet of the Teacher class, and no ruined nobility had dropped out of Tellson’s ledgers, to turn cooks and carpenters.

King Louis-Phillippe, who reigned in France after the July Revolution of 1830, was the son of the Duc d’Orléans; during the Reign of Terror, he found refuge in Switzerland and taught mathematics (Sanders 98). Carlyle makes reference to him in The French Revolution: “Brave young Orléans Egalité [the Duc d’Orléans became known as Egalité (“Equality”) during the French Revolution], deprived of all, only not deprived of himself, is gone to Coire in the Grisons, under the name of Corby, to teach Mathematics” (681). Many aristocrats emigrated during the Revolution and lived in reduced circumstances abroad.

A certain portion of his time was passed at Cambridge, where he read with undergraduates as a sort of tolerated smuggler who drove a contraband trade in European languages, instead of conveying Greek and Latin through the Custom-house.

Darnay’s “trade” in European languages is “contraband” because the traditional curriculum at Cambridge was concerned with the ancient languages, Latin and Greek. Instruction in modern languages was available from instructors who worked on a part-time, ad hoc basis. For example, in the 1760s, French instruction was available at a coffee house next to Emmanuel College in Cambridge (Maxwell 457). Darnay would have held such a position – associated with the university, but not in an official capacity.

The actual “Custom House,” in London, was located on the Thames, and dealt with imported goods of a more tangible kind.

Harrison’s New and Universal History, Description and Survey of … London (1776) gives this illustration of the Custom House, together with the following account of its condition, appearance, and function in the late 18th century:

THE CUSTOM-HOUSE … is a very spacious edifice, erected for the receipt of his majesty’s customs on goods imported and exported…. In antient times the business of the Custom-House was transacted in a more irregular manner at Billingsgate: but in the year 1559, an act being passed that goods should not be any where landed but in such places as were appointed by the commissioners of the revenue, this was the spot pitched upon for the entries into the port of London, and here a Custom-house was ordered to be erected. This first building was destroyed by the [Great Fire] of London [of 1666]: after which it was rebuilt by king Charles II in a more magnificent and commodious manner, at the expense of £10,000. But that being also destroyed in the same manner, in 1718, the present structure was erected in its stead…. It is substantially built with brick and stone, and has underneath, and on each side, large warehouses for the reception of goods on the public account. It is 189 feet in length; the middle of it is 27 feet deep, and the wings considerably more. The center stands back from the river; the wings approach much nearer to it, and the building is judiciously and handsomely decorated with the orders of architecture. Under the wings is a colonnade of the Tuscan order, and the upper story is ornamented with Ionic columns and pediments. It consists of two floors, in the uppermost of which is a magnificent room 15 feet high, that runs almost the whole length of the building: this is called the Long Room; and here sit the commissioners of the customs, with their officers and clerks. The different parts of the building are properly disposed and sufficiently enlightened; and the entrances are so well contrived as to answer all the purposes for which it was erected.

The business transacted at the Custom-House is under the management of nine commissioners, whose authority extends over all the ports of England. Each of these commissioners has a salary of £1000 per annum, and hold their places by patent from the king; as do also several of the principal officers under them. (492)

…making a grand clearance among Mr. Stryver’s papers before the setting in of the long vacation. The clearance was effected at last; the Stryver arrears were handsomely fetched up; everything was got rid of, until November should come with its fogs atmospheric and fogs legal, and bring grist to the mill again.

The annual “long vacation,” when the legal activity of the courts was suspended, ran from July to October; Michaelmas Term – the first term after the vacation – began at the beginning of November (Ford and Monod xx).

Sydney was none the livelier and none the soberer for so much application. It had taken a deal of extra wet-toweling to pull him through the night; a correspondingly extra quantity of wine had preceded the toweling; and he was in a very damaged condition, as he now pulled his turban off and threw it into the basin in which he had steeped it at intervals for the last six hours.

Carton’s remedy – the application of a wet towel – is still practiced today. Such a bandage helps constrict throbbing blood vessels (Camlot, Treating a Hangover).

“Find out some respectable woman with a little property – somebody in the landlady way, or lodging-letting way – and marry her, against a rainy day.”

A landlady, or a lady in the “lodging-letting way,” would be a woman possessed of some property and a steady income. In the 18th century, as in Dickens’ time, the legal position of women was limited, and a woman’s property became her husband’s upon marriage. A woman’s legal circumstances are detailed in the Dictionary of Daily Wants (1859) under

MARRIED WOMEN, LEGAL POSITION OF. – When a woman becomes married, her individuality, in a legal point of view, becomes merged in that of her husband. She is relieved of the responsibility, and indeed disabled from performing any contract, or effecting any act as a sole and independent person. She is, also, to a certain extent, absolved from moral responsibility, provided she act under the direction of her husband. A married woman, except under certain conditions, cannot exercise a separate and independent control over monies, houses, lands or other possessions, it being held in law that those which belong to her belong by a still stronger claim to her husband. (664)

Thus, if Carton were to marry a landlady, he would be marrying a certain amount of regularly-remunerative property, together with a person capable of managing it without assistance. Stryver, well apprized of the laws concerning marital property, takes a savvy view of landladies.

Mr. Stryver … resolved to make [Lucie’s] happiness known to her before he left town for the Long Vacation…. [T]hey could then arrange at their leisure whether he should give her his hand a week or two before Michaelmas Term, or in the little Christmas vacation between it and Hilary.

Mr. Stryver, sure of the success of his suit, plans to woo and win Lucie before leaving, in July, for the Long Vacation. He anticipates setting a wedding date for late October (a week or two before the beginning of Michaelmas Term in November), or in the “little Christmas vacation” between late November (the end of Michaelmas Term) and mid-January (the beginning of Hilary Term) (Ford and Monod xx).

He called himself for the plaintiff, there was no getting over his evidence, the counsel for the defendant threw up his brief, and the jury did not even turn to consider. After trying it, Stryver C.J. was satisfied that no plainer case could be.

In the imaginary trial to which Stryver subjects his cause (the wooing of Lucie Manette), he assumes every part in turn. As plaintiff (a plaintiff is “the party who brings a suit into a court of law; a complainant, prosecutor; opposed to defendant” [Oxford English Dictionary]), Stryver puts his case so much to his own satisfaction that his imaginary opponent throws up his prepared statement of the facts (his “brief”) in dismay; the jury (normally consisting, in England, of 12 people for civil or criminal trials [OED]) does not even bother to deliberate concerning the outcome of the case; and the chief justice (in the person of Stryver himself, “C.J.”) is easily convinced.

Accordingly, Mr. Stryver inaugurated the Long Vacation with a formal proposal to take Miss Manette to Vauxhall Gardens; that failing, to Ranelagh….

Mr. Stryver hopes to woo Lucie by taking her to one or another of two public resorts. Vauxhall Gardens, extremely popular in the 18th century, remained open until 1859 (Baedeker 382) – the very year A Tale of Two Cities appeared. Harrison’s New and Universal History, Description and Survey of … London (1776) gives us a description of the resort’s attractions at about the time of Stryver’s proposed visit:

VAUXHALL GARDENS … are very spacious and handsome. The principal gravel walk is planted on each side with very lofty trees, which form a fine vista; it leads from the great gate, and is terminated by a landscape of the country, a beautiful lawn of meadow ground, and a grand Gothic obelisk.

On the right hand of this walk, a little after entering the gardens, is a square, which, from the number of trees planted in it, is called the Grove. In the center of this grove is a magnificent orchestra of Gothic construction, ornamented with carvings, niches, &c. the dome of which is surmounted with a plume of feathers, the crest of the Prince of Wales. At the back part of this orchestra is a very fine organ, and at the foot of it are seats and desks for the musicians, placed in a semi-circular form, with a vacancy left in the front for the musical performers.

In most of the pavilions are pictures, painted from the designs of Mr. Hayman and Mr. Hogarth, on subjects admirably adapted to the places. But there are in the grand pavilion four pictures of Hayman’s own hand, from the historical plays of Shakespear[e], which are universally admired.

At some distance are several noble vistas of very tall trees, where the spaces between each are filled up with very neat hedges; and within are planted a variety of flowers and sweet smelling shrubs.

Some of the walks terminate in views of ruins, others in a prospect of the adjacent country; and some of them are adorned with painted representations of triumphal arches. Here are also several statues, particularly one in fine white marble of the great artist Mr. Handel in the character of Orpheus singing to his lyre, executed by the ingenious Mr. Roubiliac.

The entertainments of this place are opened by a concert of instrumental musick at six o’clock; and several songs are performed by the most able hands, with sonatas or concertos between each, till the close of the entertainment, which is generally about ten o’clock.

As a provision against rainy weather, there is a very handsome rotunda, in which is an orchestra, with an organ; so that a wet evening does not prevent the customary entertainments of the place.

This rotunda is 70 feet in diameter; in the center of which hangs a magnificent chandelier, containing 72 lamps in three rows. In the roof, which is arched and elliptic, are two small cupolas in a particular taste, each of which is ornamented with paintings: in the one are the figures of Apollo, Pan, and the Muses; and in the other Neptune, with the sea nymphs. Adjoining to the walls are ten three quarter columns, between which are four large beautiful paintings by Hayman….

When it grows dark, the garden near the orchestra is illuminated, almost in an instant, with about 1500 glass lamps, which glitter among the trees, and render it exceedingly light and brilliant: and of late years a very curious piece of machinery has been exhibited, soon after the lighting of the lamps, on the inside of one of the hedges near the entrance into the vistas. By removing a curtain is shewn a very beautiful landscape, illuminated by concealed lights, in which the principal objects are, a cascade or water-fall, and a miller’s house. The water is seen flowing down a declivity, and turning the wheel of the mill; and the liveliness of the representation, with the imitation of the noise of the water, have a very pleasant effect both on the eye and ear of the spectator.

Decent people are admitted into these gardens, on paying one shilling each person; and to add to the amusements of the place, every thing is provided in the most elegant manner for the entertainment of those who chuse to refresh themselves during the course of the evening. (512)

This illustration, from Thornton’s New, Complete, and Universal History ... of London (1784), gives us a “View of Vaux-Hall Gardens” as it appeared in the 1780s. The obelisk – at the end of an avenue of trees at the left of the illustration – is visible in the distance; also, on the right, we see the dome of the outdoor orchestra, which plays to a group of ladies and gentlemen seated below.

Ranelagh, in Chelsea (west of London proper, on the north bank of the Thames), was a popular resort during the reigns of George II and George III (1727-1820). It was

famous beyond any other place in London as the center of the wildest and showiest gaiety. Banquets, masquerades, fêtes, etc., were celebrated here in the most extravagant style. Kings and ambassadors, statesmen and literati, court beauties, ladies of fashion, and the demi-monde met and mingled at … Ranelagh…. This haunt of pleasure-seekers was closed in 1805, and every trace of it has long been obliterated. (Baedeker 368)

Thornton’s New, Complete, and Universal History … of London (1784) describes the resort as follows:

In this village [Chelsea] is also a celebrated place of public entertainment, called Ranelagh Gardens, where great numbers of the nobility and gentry spend their summer evenings. These gardens are delightfully situated, and are kept in the most regular and decent order; but the thing which chiefly attracts the attention is the amphitheatre. This is a circular building, the external diameter of which is 185 feet: round the whole is an arcade, and over that a gallery with a balustrade, which also runs round, except where the entrances break the continuity. The internal diameter is one hundred and fifty feet, and the architecture of the inside corresponds with that of the outside. In the center of the area, where the orchestra was at first designed, is a chimney having four faces, which in cold weather makes the place exceeding[ly] warm. The orchestra fills up the place of one of the entrances, and in it is an organ, with a good band of music, which is hired for the season. The entertainment consists of vocal and instrumental music by the best performers. The price of admittance is half a crown, for which, exclusive of the musical entertainments, the company are accommodated with tea and coffee. (477)

Thornton’s History furnishes this illustration of Ranelagh Gardens, which includes the amphitheatre described above.

…and bit the feather of a pen.

In the 18th century, the pens generally used were quill pens, which were made of feathers. By the time Dickens was writing A Tale of Two Cities, quills had been mostly superseded by steel pens (described by the Dictionary of Daily Wants [1859] as procurable “at the lowest possible price” and requiring “little or no care” [768]), but some people still used quills. The Dictionary of Daily Wants gives the following instructions for the preparation of quills:

QUILLS, TO PREPARE. – Immerse the quill, when plucked from the wing, in water almost boiling; leave it there till it becomes sufficiently soft; compress it, turning it on its axis with the back or blade of a knife. The immersion and compression must be continued till the quill is clear. When cold, and the membrane and greasy covering are entirely removed, it is immersed a last time to render it cylindrical, which is done by whirling it between the thumb and forefinger; it is then dried in a gentle temperature. (820)

Mr. Lorry’s pen, the feather of which he bites under Stryver’s interrogation, would have been prepared in this fashion.

…Mr. Stryver … carried his delicacy into Devonshire…

Mr. Stryver’s delicacy goes to a county in the southwest of England: Devonshire is bordered by the Bristol Channel to the north and the English Channel to the south, lying between the counties of Cornwall (to the southwest) and Somersetshire and Dorsetshire (to the east).

…and found Lucie at her work, alone.

Lucie’s work consists of sewing or needlepoint; the word itself (“work”) is a shortened or generalized form for various kinds of sewing, such as “drawn-work, fancy work, lace-work, open-work, etc.” (OED). Such work, putting periods of domestic leisure to use, was appropriate for young women in the 18th and 19th centuries.