NOTES ON ISSUE 7: GLOSSARY
…a small part of his income was derived from the
pilotage of timid women (mostly of a full habit and past the middle term of
life) from Tellson’s side of the tides to the opposite shore.
Here, “full habit” presumably refers to the mode of dress of the timid, middle-aged women Mr. Cruncher conveys across traffic. Women’s clothing in both the 18th and 19th centuries tended to be extensive and somewhat impeding, inevitably including full skirts, large hats, etc. Middle-aged, timid women would not walk briskly at the best of times, and in multiple petticoats they would be even further encumbered.
…they were bawling and hissing round a dingy hearse and dingy mourning coach, in which mourning coach there was only one mourner, dressed in the dingy trappings that were considered essential to the dignity of the position.
In driven funeral processions, the hearse would be followed by mourning carriages, in which the friends and relations of the deceased followed the body to burial. As the Dictionary of Daily Wants (1859) directs, “In going to funeral, the nearest relatives of the deceased occupy the carriages nearest the hearse” and “[t]he same order prevails in returning” (450). In the procession witnessed by Jerry Cruncher, the fact that there is only one mourning coach, and only one mourner inside it – not to mention that this mourner seems to have put on his sorrow for the occasion (“dressed in the dingy trappings that were considered essential to the dignity of the position”) – suggests either that the deceased had scarcely any relations, or that he will scarcely be missed. The whole affair is “dingy” to the extent that it is black, though the word also suggests shabbiness. Black was of course the color of mourning; and just as carriages in a funeral procession were put in order according to the relationship of the mourners to the deceased, attire and deportment were regulated according to degree of intimacy. The Dictionary of Daily Wants (1859) offers the following guidelines for
MOURNING, ETIQUETTE OF. – The various degrees of relationship which the living bear to the dead, regulate the depth of the mourning worn, and the length of time that it is to be retained. Mourning for a husband in the widow’s cap and crape is usually extended over twelve months, and after that period the wearer may either adopt a half mourning, or put by mourning altogether, without appearing singular or wanting in feeling. In cases of this kind, the wearing of mourning beyond the prescribed interval depends, as a matter of course, greatly upon sentiment, the degree of affection which subsisted between the parties, the length of time which the marriage existed, &c. Mourning for parents is usually worn with crape for six months, afterwards without crape for the same period. For a brother or sister, six months; but in many cases for a longer period. For an uncle or aunt, three months; the same for a first or second cousin. Male attire, however, is not subject to very stringent rules; black is always expensive wear, and sometimes a person’s pursuits and avocations will not permit him to wear it. The most prominent article in mourning with males, is the hat. For this purpose hatbands of cloth are now made of various depths, as required. For a wife, the hatband should, in the first months of mourning reach to the extreme verge of the hat, and be gradually reduced in depth as time passes by. For a parent, the hat-band should reach to within two inches of the crown, and so in proportion according to the degree of relationship…. During the first few weeks for very near relatives, it is customary to observe comparative seclusion, balls, theatres, concerts, parties, &c., being alike unvisited. Custom, in general, only exacts the adoption of mourning from the relatives of deceased persons, but there are occasions when friendship may evince a proper delicacy in such a matter, not only out of respect to the departed, but in consideration of the survivors. Thus, if a person be going to visit a family, with the members of which he is on the terms of the closest intimacy, and who have recently experienced a heavy bereavement, such visitor, instead of appearing in coloured clothes, should dress in black. (692)
It is thus appropriate that the single mourner in the funeral
procession should be dressed in “dingy trappings” for the occasion,
though the relationship of this mourner to the deceased remains unspecified,
and is somewhat compromised when he bails out of the mourning carriage before
reaching the cemetery.
“…Old Bailey Spi-i-ies!”
The Old Bailey spy whose funeral procession Jerry Cruncher pursues turns out to be Roger Cly, one of the spies who informed – together with the man named Barsad – against Darnay at his trial. Just as Darnay’s trial is based on that of Francis Henry de la Motte (see Issue 3, glossary part 3 of 4, for a more detailed account of de la Motte’s trial), the figure of Barsad is based on de la Motte’s accomplice, Lutterloh, who informed against him. Roger Cly is based on a spy named Roger who also participated in the de la Motte trial.
…after shedding his cloak, hat, long hatband, white pocket-handkerchief, and other symbolical tears.
A long hatband, white handkerchief, and black cloak were all appropriate mourning attire for a man. As the Dictionary of Daily Wants (1859) notes, the hat is the “most prominent article” in male mourning, the largeness of the hatband varying according to the degree of intimacy between the mourner and the deceased. Furthermore, “[p]ocket handkerchiefs used during the period of mourning should be white, not coloured” and “[l]ittle or no jewelry should be displayed when persons are in deep mourning, the somberness of the one, and the ostentation of the other, [being] incongruous” (692). The “symbolical tears” of the mourner add, in this instance, to the irony and general ridiculousness of his flight. Whatever they may lack in sincerity, however, they are perfectly correct according to funeral etiquette.
…while the tradesmen hurriedly shut up their shops; for a crowd in those times stopped at nothing, and was a monster much dreaded.
In the 18th century, and especially in the early 1780s (this portion of A Tale of Two Cities is set in 1781), mobs were of considerable concern to London authorities. Mobbing had become a critical form of protest against government policies in the capital city, and 1780 is famous for the Gordon Riots, when a group of some 30,000-50,000 people, led by Lord George Gordon, overran the streets of London. The cause was partly Parliament’s inattention to an anti-Catholic petition presented by the Protestant Association; but the mob was amplified by those with general anti-government sentiments and those who merely wanted an opportunity for violence and looting. Several of the London prisons were damaged during the Gordon Riots, which lasted for several days; the Bank of England was also assaulted; and more than 400 people were killed (Johnson 31-2).
…with a chimney-sweep driving the hearse … and with a pieman, also attended by his cabinet minister, driving the mourning coach. A bear-leader, a popular street character of the time, was impressed as an additional ornament…
A chimney-sweep, or chimney-sweeper, was literally a sweeper of chimneys. Children were often employed as sweeps because their small size made them better able to fit inside the chimneys they were cleaning (until the invention in 1805 of a long-handled brush for reaching soot inside the chimney-tops, boys were employed to climb up and manually clean these portions of the chimneys) (Oxford English Dictionary). Thus, the chimney-sweeper driving the hearse may or may not be an adult. A pieman, on the other hand, is a kind of itinerant victualler, offering meat, fish, or fruit pies for sale (Sanders 105); and his “cabinet minister” is a facetious name for the person supervising his efforts (a cabinet minister being an advisor or counselor). A “bear-leader” is a man who leads and accompanies a performing bear. Both he and his bear are “impressed” by the crowd – meaning forcibly enlisted – as “additional ornaments” in the procession.
Its destination was the old church of Saint Pancras, far off in the fields. It got here in course of time; insisted on pouring into the burial-ground; finally, accomplished the interment of the deceased Roger Cly in its own way, and highly to its own satisfaction.
St. Pancras’ churchyard was, in the late 18th century, “far off in the fields” above London. Though the area has long since been absorbed by the metropolis, Pancras was still a village in the 1780s. Harrison’s New and Universal History, Description and Survey of … London (1776) gives this account of Pancras (and its church and churchyard) as it appeared at about the time of Roger Cly’s funeral procession:
PANCRAS … is a small hamlet situated about a mile and a half north of London, in the road to Highgate. The church, which is the most distinguished building in it, is a plain Gothic structure, and consists only of a low square tower, without a spire. It is dedicated to St. Pancras, a young Phrygian nobleman, who suffered martyrdom under the emperor Dioclesian, for his strict adherence to Christianity. Divine service is only performed in this church the first Sunday in the month; notwithstanding which, the living is very valuable, and is in the gift of the dean and chapter of St. Paul’s. The church-yard contains a prodigious number of tomb-stones, the chief part of which are erected in the memory of Roman Catholics, it being the principal place of interment for those people in the neighborhood of London.
There is a vulgar tradition that this church is of greater antiquity than St. Paul’s cathedral; but this is an evident mistake, for the church of St. Pancras, termed the mother of St. Paul’s, was situated in the city of Canterbury, and was changed from a Pagan temple to a Christian church by St. Austin the monk, in the year 598, when it was dedicated to St. Pancras.
The hamlet or parish of Pancras is very extensive, and the buildings in it are widely dispersed. There are only a few houses near the church; one of which has been long noted for a mineral spring, but it was formerly much more frequented than at present. (571)
This illustration, a “View of the Church of St. Pancras,” agrees with the description given above (the church, a plain Gothic structure with a square tower, lacks a spire, though it seems to possess a weather-vane). To reach this churchyard, the funeral procession probably follows Fleet Street (where Mr. Cruncher first encounters it), turns north into Fetter Lane, then west onto Holborn, north onto Grays Inn Lane and Highgate Road, and afterwards onto the New Road (the “New Road from Paddington to Islington”). This passage can be traced on Thornton’s map of London (1784), though St. Pancras’ itself is just beyond the upper limits of the map.
Click on map for larger view
In the late 18th and early 19th centuries, the literary associations
of St. Pancras’ churchyard were enhanced by the Romantics: According to
Baedeker’s London and Its Environs (1908), William Godwin and
Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin were both buried there, and “it is said that
[the Romantic poet Percy] Shelley first met his second wife, Mary Godwin [later
Mary Shelley, author of Frankenstein], at her mother’s grave
in this churchyard” (273).
…and thence to the plundering of public-houses. At last, after several hours, when sundry summer-houses had been pulled down, and some area railings had been torn up, to arm the more belligerent spirits, a rumour got about that the Guards were coming.
Public houses are places of public resort, usually for lodging or refreshment, such as pubs, taverns, or inns; summer-houses are simple structures in parks or gardens intended to provide a shady place for rest or leisure outdoors (and thus delicate enough to succumb to the maltreatment described); and area railings are those around the “area” – “an enclosed court, [especially] a sunken court, shut off from the pavement by railings, and approached by a flight of steps, which gives access to the basement of dwelling-houses” (OED). The Guards, rumored to be on their way, are military forces. They were often called in to control London riots (Sanders 105).
Whether his meditations on mortality had touched his liver, or whether his general health had been previously at all amiss … he made a short call upon his medical advisor – a distinguished surgeon – on his way back.
Jerry’s “liver,” in its possible susceptibility to “meditations on mortality,” is a kind of figurative organ. The liver is frequently associated with disposition or temperament, frequently identified as the source of love or the more violent passions. Together with the brain and heart, it is often used metaphorically to represent the vital functions of the body (OED).
“…my wenturs goes wrong tonight…”
When Mr. Cruncher, who tends to pronounce “w” like “v,” insists that his “wenturs” are going wrong, he is describing his “ventures” – the pursuits of “a honest tradesman.”
…taking a bite out of his bread and butter, and seeming to help it down with a large invisible oyster out of his saucer.
Mr. Cruncher’s gesture – of “seeming to help [his bread and butter] down with a large invisible oyster out of his saucer” – is apparently one of swift slurping. The gesture of eating an oyster, which would be consumed directly from the shell, would resemble a drink taken from a saucer (an oyster shell, opened, is somewhat saucer-shaped). The comparison also conveys a sense of exceeding dispatch: Oysters, according to the Dictionary of Daily Wants (1859), “should be eaten the moment they are opened, for if not eaten when absolutely alive their flavour and spirit are lost” (741). Mr. Cruncher, according to his table manners, seems to be in some haste to nourish himself.
“If I don’t, you’ll have short commons to-morrow,” returned that gentleman, shaking his head.
“Commons,” in this sense, are provisions – rations, food. The threat of “short commons” is the threat of an insufficiency.
“…a jinte of meat or two…”
Jerry’s “jinte” of meat is a “joint” – “[o]ne of the portions into which a carcass is divided by the butcher, consisting of one or more bones (e.g. that of the leg or shoulder) with the meat thereon; esp[ecially] as cooked and served at table” (OED).
“When you go to Rome, do as Rome does.”
This expression, used by Jerry to insist that his wife behave
as he does (he says, “I’m your Rome, you know”), means that
one ought to accept the rules or the mode of conduct of one’s host. The
phrase is attributed first to Saint Ambrose, who advised Saint Augustine as
follows: “Si fueris Romae, Romano vivito more; si fueris alibi, vivito
sicut ibi” (“When you are in Rome live in the Roman style;
when you are elsewhere live as they live elsewhere”). The saying exists
not only in English, but also in French (“À Rome comme à
Rome”) and Spanish (“Cuando a Roma fueras, haz como vieras”
appears, for instance, in Don Quixote) (Benham 869b).
“Do you call yourself a mother, and not know that a mother’s first duty is to blow her boy out?”
Mrs. Cruncher’s duty, according to her husband – the duty of “blow[ing] her boy out” – is to feed young Jerry. The expression, however, may be anachronistic. A “blow-out” was a slang term, beginning in the 19th century, for “a feast or a feed” (OED); thus, Mr. Cruncher seems to be using an expression that would not yet be current in 1781 (Maxwell 458).
He was in no uneasiness concerning his getting into the house again, for it was full of lodgers, and the door stood ajar all night.
The Crunchers apparently live in a lodging-house, where rooms could be rented for specified intervals by anyone with sufficient means and inclination; the door would be left open to accommodate those who chose to come home at odd hours. The Dictionary of Daily Wants (1859) gives this account of
LODGERS AND LODGINGS. – … If lodgings are taken for a certain and specified time, no notice to quit is necessary. If the lodger, however, continues after the expiration of the term, he becomes a regular lodger, unless there is an agreement to the contrary. If he owes rent, the housekeeper can detain his goods whilst on the premises, or distrain, as a landlord may distrain the goods of a tenant. No distinction exists between lodgers and other tenants as to the payment of their rent, or the turning them out of possession; they are also similarly circumstanced, with regard to distress for rent, as householders. The rent of weekly tenants should be paid weekly, for if it is once allowed to run to a quarter, the tenant cannot be forced to quit without a quarter’s notice…. Furnished lodgings are usually let by the week, on payment of a fixed sum, part of which is considered as rent for the apartment, and part for the use of the furniture…. Persons renting furnished apartments frequently absent themselves, without apprising the housekeeper, perhaps with the rent in arrear. If there is probable reason to believe that the lodger be left, on the second week of such absence the householder may send for a police constable, and, in his presence, enter the lodger’s apartments, and take out the property of the latter, and secure it until application is made for it. He may then enter upon the possession of the apartment; and if, after fourteen days’ notice given by advertisements in the London Gazette, the lodger does not pay the arrears of rent, the householder may sell the property to satisfy his claim, reserving any surplus money, and such goods as it may not be necessary to sell, and must keep them ready for delivery to the lodger when he shall demand them. (646)
These remarks illustrate the extent to which a lodging house
is composed of tenants who report to no one but themselves, and come and go
at their own convenience.
The honoured parent steering Northward, had not gone far, when he was joined by another disciple of Izaak Walton, and the two trudged on together.
Since Mr. Cruncher goes “fishing,” it is appropriate that he should be joined by “another disciple of Izaak Walton”: Izaak Walton (1593-1683) wrote an early fishing manual known as The Compleat Angler, or, The Contemplative Man’s Recreation: Being a Discourse of Fish and Fishing for the Perusal of Anglers (1653).
Within half an hour from the first starting, they were beyond the winking lamps, and the more than winking watchmen, and were out upon a lonely road.
Starting from Hanging-sword Alley (the location of the Cruncher residence), which lies just south of Fleet Street, half an hour’s swift walk would take Jerry to the “lonely” stretches of Highgate Road above the built-up part of London. The “more than winking watchmen” whom he passes were nearly proverbial in 18th-century London. Before the Metropolitan Police Act of 1829, watchmen were appointed by each city ward; but since these posts tended to go to the oldest and most infirm men available, and since these men “were not obliged to pursue criminals beyond the boundaries of a particular ward,” they were “notorious for their inadequacy” (Sanders 106).
He had a strong idea that the coffin he had seen was running after him [and was] … fearful of its coming hopping out … like a dropsical boy’s-kite without tail and wings.
The coffin which young Jerry imagines to be in pursuit of him looks, in his imagination, like a kite swollen to the point of three-dimensionality. A “dropsy” is a “morbid condition characterized by the accumulation of watery fluid in the serous cavities or the connective tissue of the body” (OED) – a swelling – and is described by the Dictionary of Daily Wants (1859) as follows:
DROPSY. – Dropsies, though generally regarded as special diseases, are in fact only affections consequent on some organic disease or state of high functional derangement, either of an inflammatory or febrile character; such as disease of the kidneys, liver, or intestines, or from scarlet fever, or it may result from debility; the immediate cause appearing to reside in some pressure on the veins and absorbents. The general symptoms of the dropsy are, loss of appetite, red tongue, dry skin, difficulty of breathing, cough, checked secretions, and either general or partial swelling, which on being pressed leaves pits in the cuticle; besides which there is much thirst and the skin is of an unnaturally pale colour. The treatment of the dropsy must depend upon the organ and the form of disease that has given rise to the dropsy, the two chief objects to be aimed at being first to equalize the circulation, and next to promote the absorption of the effused serum. (387)
A dropsical kite would be a sick
one indeed; and it would begin – swollen and missing its tail –
to resemble a coffin. Compare this illustration of a kite (taken from instructions
for making paper kites in the Dictionary of Daily Wants ) with
this illustration (below) of the coffin which pursues young Jerry (from the
first American edition of A Tale of Two Cities).
…on the wital subject of business?”
“Wital” is Mr. Cruncher’s pronunciation of “vital.”
“You have no more nat’ral sense of duty than the bed of this here Thames river has of a pile, and similarly it must be knocked into you.”
A pile is a beam, driven vertically into a riverbed or other marshy or unstable tract of land for the support of some structure above it – a pier, a bridge, a house, etc. (OED). Living in Hanging-sword Alley, which lies between Fleet Street and “this here Thames river,” Mr. Cruncher does not have to go far for his comparison.
“Father, … What’s a Resurrection-Man?”
A “resurrectionist” or “resurrection man” was an “exhumer or stealer of corpses” (OED); the corpses were mostly sold to medical practitioners as cadavers for dissection. An Act of 1540 had allowed only four cadavers a year (of executed criminals) to the Company of Barber Surgeons, which meant that medical schools were woefully under-stocked (“barbers” originally included surgeons and dentists; the Company of Barber-surgeons was incorporated by Edward IV in 1461, afterwards to be known as the Company of Barber
Surgeons [OED]). The result was the rise of “resurrection men,” who furnished cadavers illegally. “Resurrection” reached epidemic proportions in the late 18th century, and continued well into the 19th. In 1828, however, a Select Committee of Parliament acknowledged the severity of the problem, and in 1832, the Anatomy Act ensured a sufficient supply of cadavers to doctors and medical students (Sanders 37).
No vivacious Bacchanalian flame leaped out of the pressed
grape of Monsieur Defarge…
Bacchus is the god of wine, and a “Bacchanalian flame” would be one of raucous or festive intoxication. It is interesting to note that Carlyle, in The French Revolution, refers to the early activity of patriotic French women – the “Insurrection of Women” – as a “Maenadic” frenzy. (The Maenads were the Bacchantes, female followers of Bacchus; they were typically frenzied, orgiastic, and violent.) Thus, although Monsieur Defarge’s wine lacks the Bacchanalian flame, the reference to Bacchus may foreshadow Madame Defarge’s patriotic fervor.
They had the air of a rough tribunal; Jacques One and Two sitting on the old pallet-bed…
A tribunal is a judicial body, named for the original meaning of the word “tribunal” – a “raised semicircular or square platform in a Roman basilica, on which the seats of the magistrates were placed” (OED). The present tribunal, seated on a pallet-bed (which would be a bed of a poor and probably incommodious sort, perhaps a straw bed or a thin mattress [OED]), is indeed of a “rough” kind; yet the allusion to antiquity contained in the word is appropriate, and probably intentional: French patriots, during and after the French Revolution, adopted what they considered to be the political forms of classical antiquity, as well as some of the styles of dress associated with it. Dickens’ vocabulary here and elsewhere seems to foreshadow this development.
“the guard, horse and foot, surrounded the petitioner, and struck him blows. You hear?”
Both the cavalry (“horse”) and infantry (“foot”) are included in the military presence described here. Given that the phrase “horse and foot” is sometimes used figuratively, because it includes both divisions of an army, to mean “with all one’s might” (OED), the expression, as it is used here, may stress the excessiveness of the brutality directed against the petitioner.
“Monseigneur was the father of his tenants – serfs – what you will – he will be executed as a parricide. One old man says at the fountain, that his right hand, armed with a knife, will be burnt off before his face; that, into wounds which will be made in his arms, his breast, and his legs, there will be poured boiling oil, melted lead, hot resin, wax, and sulphur; finally, that he will be torn limb from limb by four strong horses. That old man says, all this was actually done to a prisoner who made an attempt on the life of the last King, Louis Fifteen. But how do I know if he lies? I am not a scholar.”
This punishment was in fact levied against a man who attempted to assassinate Louis XV in 1757 – Robert François Damiens. Damiens was apparently motivated by a conviction that killing the King would help stabilize the Catholic church, as Louis XV was then involved in a dispute with the Paris Parliament concerning church doctrine (the Catholic church was experiencing some upheaval at this time, partly as a result of the excommunication of groups like the Convulsionists, to whom Dickens alludes in a previous chapter). Only managing to wound Louis XV as he climbed into his carriage, Damiens made no attempt to escape or resist arrest, and was sentenced to quartering (quartering entails being cut into pieces or being torn apart by horses) in the Place de Grève (the traditional place of executions outside the Hôtel de Ville in Paris). He underwent the tortures described – the burning of his hand, the boiling oil, melted lead, hot resin, wax, and sulphur in his wounds – before being killed (Sanders 107).
Though Dickens seems to give this mode of execution a kind
of representative status, it was in fact a rare punishment revived for Damiens.
In 1610, Henri IV’s assassin had undergone the same set of penalties,
and since this previous assassin had also been motivated by religious controversy,
the revival of his sentence was in a sense symbolic – a way of suggesting
that Damiens, like Ravaillac before him, had been part of “a Jesuitical
and devout conspiracy” bent on regicide (Maxwell 459). Given the unusual
and symbolic nature of Damiens’ sentence, it is unlikely that Gaspard
would be subject to the same punishment, even though he is tried as a parricide
(a parricide is one who kills a parent or other sacred or reverenced person
[OED]). However, the impact of this fictional decision is significant,
for it emphasizes the feudal aspect of French government before the Revolution.
Just as Dickens draws, elsewhere, upon somewhat anachronistic concepts to illustrate
the feudal character of the late Marquis (e.g. the droit
de seigneur), his representation of Damiens’ punishment as a seemingly-standard
one emphasizes a tradition of feudal brutality that the French Revolution sought
to end. Where A Tale of Two Cities exaggerates, it often does so to
place special stress on the ancien in ancien régime.
Workmen dig, workmen hammer, soldiers laugh and sing; in the morning, by the fountain, there is raised a gallows forty feet high, poisoning the water.
The “gallows forty feet high” – an innovation on the existing gallows introduced in about 1775 – is, for Dickens, a symbol of aristocratic and monarchical brutality. In this, he follows Carlyle: After introducing the 40-foot gallows early in The French Revolution, Carlyle makes continual allusions it, and it becomes an evocative motif for the work as a whole.
The forty-foot gallows is illustrated (above) in the Artist’s Edition (1893) of Carlyle’s French Revolution, in connection with its first appearance (when the hungry people of Paris present a “Petition of Grievances” to the King):
And so, on the 2nd day of May, 1775, these waste multitudes do here, at Versailles Château, in wide-spread wretchedness, in sallow faces, squalor, winged raggedness, present, as in legible hieroglyphic writing, their Petition of Grievances. The Château-gates must be shut; but the King will appear on the balcony, and speak to them. They have seen the King’s face; their Petition of Grievances has been, if not read, looked at. For answer, two of them are hanged, on a “new gallows forty feet high”; and the rest driven back to their dens – for a time. (30)
Therefore, when Sunday came, the mender of roads
was not enchanted (though he said he was) to find that madame was to accompany
monsieur and himself to Versailles.
Versailles, located southwest of Paris, is four leagues (or about 20 kilometers/12 miles) from the city (Tronchet 277, Baillie and Salmon 399). Louis XIII purchased the land and built an “uncouth hunting seat” there (Tronchet 277); and Louis XIV converted this rustic resort into the magnificent château that still stands, begun in 1673 and completed in 1680 (Tronchet 277). Louis XVI – whose court the mender of roads and the Defarges go to see – was the last to live in it.
At the commencement of the French Revolution, a number of significant events took place at Versailles, and Louis and his family were eventually forced to move out of it and into the Palais des Tuileries in Paris. Baedeker’s Paris and Its Environs (1878) gives the following account of some of the significant revolutionary and post-revolutionary events at Versailles:
It was at the meeting of the [three] Estates [the nobility, the clergy, and the commons] held here in 1789 that the “Tiers Etat” [the Third Estate, or common people] took the memorable step – the first on the way to the Revolution – of forming itself into a separate body, the Assemblée Nationale [the National Assembly]. A few months later the unfortunate Louis XVI saw the palace of Versailles sacked by a Parisian mob, which included many thousands of women (“les dames de la halle”), and since that period it has remained uninhabited….
The building [of the Palace of Versailles] dates from several different periods, and its style lacks uniformity. The central part is the original château of Louis XIII, built of brick and stone, and the wings were added by J.H.Mansart (d.1708) under Louis XIV. On the right rises the chapel with its pointed roof; adjoining it is a pavilion erected by Louis XV; and to the left of the court is a corresponding pavilion added by Louis XVIII. (278-80)
After Louis XVI was forced to decamp, the Versailles furniture
was sold, and the pictures were sent to the Louvre (Baillie and Salmon 403).
According to Baedeker, the château itself was nearly sold, and Napoleon
wouldn’t live in it because of the restoration costs; but King Louis Phillippe
saved Versailles in 1837, donating funds to convert it into a historical monument
(278-9). The building was much restored in the 20th century between World War
I and World War II, as the park and gardens – 4 square kilometers in extent
– were likewise. In 1961, a law was passed mandating the return of any
extant pieces of the furniture dispersed during the Revolution, and Versailles
is today one of the three most visited monuments in France (Baillie and Salmon
…for, soon the large-faced King and the fair-faced Queen came in their golden coach, attended by the shining Bull’s Eye of their Court, a glittering multitude of laughing ladies and fine lords; and in jewels and silks and powder and splendour…
The “shining Bull’s Eye” of the French Court refers to the Oeil de Boeuf (literally “bull’s eye” or “ox’s eye”) – a name used by Carlyle, in The French Revolution, to designate the group of courtiers surrounding the King and Queen at Versailles. The name comes from the “Salle de l’Oeil de Boeuf” – a small octagonal vestibule just outside the State Apartments at Versailles, so-called for its small round window (called an oeil de boeuf) (Sanders 107 and OED). An early use of the term “Oeil de Boeuf” in The French Revolution runs as follows: “The prophetic song of Paris and its Philosophes is audible enough in the Versailles Oeil-de-Boeuf; and the Oeil-de-Boeuf [meaning those who occupy the chamber of this name], intent chiefly on nearer blessedness, can answer, at worst, with a polite, ‘Why not?’” (27). Dickens’ conversion of the French phrase (“Oeil de Boeuf”) into its literal English equivalent (“Bull’s Eye”) not only adapts the facetiousness of his source text, but is also somewhat ominous. The English translation – Bull’s Eye – foreshadows the fate of the nobles constituting the Oeil de Boeuf: that of becoming a target.