mitchellirons

rough notes

Vignettes : A Tale of Two Cities

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Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities.  The beginning of Book 1, Chapter 5, “The Wine Shop”:

A large cask of wine had been dropped and broken, in the street. The accident had happened in getting it out of a cart; the cask had tumbled out with a run, the hoops had burst, and it lay on the stones just outside the door of the wine-shop, shattered like a walnut-shell.

All the people within reach had suspended their business, or their idleness, to run to the spot and drink the wine. The rough, irregular stones of the street, pointing every way, and designed, one might have thought, expressly to lame all living creatures that approached them, had dammed it into little pools; these were surrounded, each by its own jostling group or crowd, according to its size. Some men kneeled down, made scoops of their two hands joined, and sipped, or tried to help women, who bent over their shoulders, to sip, before the wine had all run out between their fingers. Others, men and women, dipped in the puddles with little mugs of mutilated earthenware, or even with handkerchiefs from women’s heads, which were squeezed dry into infants’ mouths; others made small mud-embankments, to stem the wine as it ran; others, directed by lookers-on up at high windows, darted here and there, to cut off little streams of wine that started away in new directions; others devoted themselves to the sodden and lee-dyed pieces of the cask, licking, and even champing the moister wine-rotted fragments with eager relish. There was no drainage to carry off the wine, and not only did it all get taken up, but so much mud got taken up along with it, that there might have been a scavenger in the street, if anybody acquainted with it could have believed in such a miraculous presence.

Normally, I don’t have time for Dickens.  I find that the nature of his writing (i.e. his actual writing method) turns so many of his books into stories that introduce too many characters too fast and invariably ends with An Adventure to wrap it all up.  His prose-style is superb, but I think he loses the plot, literally, at the end of his texts.   Oh well, that’s serialized Victorian writing for you.  However, for all the faults I find in Dickens, the opening paragraphs to this chapter redeems him through-and-through.

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Written by mitchellirons

May 30, 2010 at 8:33 am

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