'It was the best of times, it was the worst of times ...'
Dickens's story of the French aristocrat Charles Darnay and dissolute barrister Sydney Carton, drawn together by the love of the same woman, reaches its memorable climax in the bloody cauldron of Paris during the Terror. The book was first published in 1859, a time when revolution threatened many European countries and some feared that Britain too might succumb. Dickens was passionately alive to the social injustice that fed revolt, but equally aware of how ideals soured as anarchy and violence spread. In A Tale of Two Cities, Dickens evokes the early hopes and eventual horror of the French Revolution with unforgettable intensity, from Monsieur Mannette traumatised by long years of imprisonment in the Bastille to Madame Defarge, the incarnation of implacable vengeance. This novel also contains some of Dickens’s most chilling scenes and memorable lines: ‘It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to, than I have ever known’.
Commemorating the 200th anniversary of Charles Dickens's birth
With their labyrinthine plots, evocative settings and unforgettable characters, the novels of Charles Dickens have delighted generations of readers. To celebrate the 2012 bicentenary of his birth, The Folio Society presents a selection of new editions of his works, based on the celebrated 1930s Nonesuch editions and featuring original illustrations by artists including Dickens’s long-term collaborator ‘Phiz’. Each volume includes an introduction specially commissioned from an esteemed writer. They also feature individual new binding designs, with a quote from the novel blocked in gold on the front.
Read more about the life and work of Charles Dickens
Dickens was a one man powerhouse of creativity. For ordinary mortals just one of his many jobs would have been sufficient, (let alone a family of ten children). Yet despite his tours and editorial responsibilities, he wrote fifteen novels, three works of nonfiction and numerous shorter works. No wonder he should be called 'the great inimitable'.
From his pen flowed a seemingly inexhaustible series of characters who have enchanted generations of readers, whether we laugh at his comic creations or suffer alongside his heroes and heroines.
When the first serialisations of Bleak House and Oliver Twist appeared, readers thronged docksides and railway stations waiting for them to be unloaded. Today, the popularity of Dickens for TV series suggests his appeal is as strong as ever. It is Dickens's exceptional eye for character and voice, which keeps the books fresh, even though the milieu of workhouse and industry has changed. Mr Pickwick remains as funny as when he first stood to deliver his lecture on the Theory of Tittlebats and young Pip trembling on the Kent marshes as the escaped convict looms out of the mist, just as compelling an image.