A Wonderful fact to reflect upon, that every human creature is constituted to be that profound secret and mystery to every other. A solemn consideration, when I enter a great city by night, that every one of those darkly clustered houses encloses its own secret; that every room in every one of them encloses its own secret; that every beating heart in the hundreds of thousands of breasts there, is, in some of its imaginings, a secret to the heart nearest it! Something of the awfulness, even of Death itself, is referable to this. No more can I turn the leaves of this dear book that I loved, and vainly hope in time to read it all.
I haven’t read A Tale of Two Cities since I was a child and I used to collect those abridged classics with very cheap paper but pleasingly hard covers. They used to smell of importance somehow and I loved Little Women and Heidi, whilst cowering at Oliver Twist and Great Expectations. A Tale of Two Cities though had me in tears. Oh to be Sydney Carton and to be noble enough to speak the finest lines in literature- or so I believed then. Whether I shall believe the same to be true now, or whether age has weathered my judgement, the tale will surely tell!
At this moment though am listening to the mystery of the ‘recalled to life’ Dr Manette and wondering when we will journey to Paris. All seems muddy and anxious. Knowing what we do of French history, then the next packet to Calais seems a journey we should postpone surely, until Mme Guillotine has ceased her bloody perfomances!
This passage above is brilliant in its glancing impressionism. It anticipates Freudian psychology by decades and captures the essential exile of one human being from another. To paraphrase the title of Professor Julia Kristeva’s book, we are all strangers to ourselves!
Community is an illusory attempt therefore to ward off the approach of the grim reaper. We read on, ‘recalled to life’ like Dr Manette, guessing at the pages of another’s heart and our own, hoping for a tomorrow, bargaining for a next week, another month, a few years.
Russian Dolls on parade!
Dr Janet Lewison
The Woman in Black
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