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A Tale of Two Cities

Charles Dickens

A Tale of Two Cities (1859) is the second historical novel by Charles Dickens. The plot centres on the years leading up to the French Revolution and culminates in the Jacobin Reign of Terror. The story touches upon Dr. Alexandre Manette's 1757 imprisonment, but the actual story timeline begins in 1775. The first issue of Dickens's literary periodical All the Year Round appearing April 30, 1859, contained the first of thirty-one weekly installments of the novel, which ran until November 26, 1859.

The opening – "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times..." – and closing – "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." – of the book are among the most famous lines in English literature.

The book tells, first and foremost, the story of Charles Darnay and Sydney Carton, who look similar but are very different in their personalities. Darnay is a romantic French aristocrat; Carton is a cynical English barrister. Both fall deeply in love with the same woman, Lucie Manette.

Other major characters include Dr. Manette (Lucie's father), who was unjustly imprisoned in the infamous Bastille for many years under a lettre de cachet, and Madame Defarge, a female revolutionary with an implacable grudge against the aristocratic Evrémonde dynasty.

The title reflects the way in which the setting alternates between London and Paris. Two of the 45 chapters are set in both countries, nineteen in England and 24 in France. They tell of the shameless corruption, abuse and inhumanity of the French nobles towards the peasantry. The masses, oppressed for centuries, rise up at last and destroy their masters, becoming themselves just as evil and corrupt.

(From Wikipedia, description text under GNU Free Documentation License (GFDL))

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