Cover image for A tale of two cities
A tale of two cities
Dickens, Charles, 1812-1870.
Publication Information:
Oxford ; New York : Oxford University Press, c1949..
Physical Description:
xvi, 358 pages : illustrations ; 20 cm.
General Note:
Reprint. Originally published as part of the New Oxford illustrated Dickens, 1949.
Reading Level:
720 Lexile.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR UG 9.7 27.0 719.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
X Adult Fiction Open Shelf
X Adult Fiction Classics
X Adult Fiction Open Shelf

On Order



Dickens' classic tale of England and France during the time of the French Revolution is illustrated with reproductions of the original engravings.

Author Notes

Charles Dickens, perhaps the best British novelist of the Victorian era, was born in Portsmouth, Hampshire, England on February 7, 1812. His happy early childhood was interrupted when his father was sent to debtors' prison, and young Dickens had to go to work in a factory at age twelve. Later, he took jobs as an office boy and journalist before publishing essays and stories in the 1830s.

His first novel, The Pickwick Papers, made him a famous and popular author at the age of twenty-five. Subsequent works were published serially in periodicals and cemented his reputation as a master of colorful characterization, and as a harsh critic of social evils and corrupt institutions. His many books include Oliver Twist, David Copperfield, Bleak House, Great Expectations, Little Dorrit, A Christmas Carol, and A Tale of Two Cities.

Dickens married Catherine Hogarth in 1836, and the couple had nine children before separating in 1858 when he began a long affair with Ellen Ternan, a young actress. Despite the scandal, Dickens remained a public figure, appearing often to read his fiction. He died in 1870, leaving his final novel, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, unfinished.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 2

Library Journal Review

Dickens's preeminent and most overtly political novel, set against the backdrop of the French Revolution, radiates with relevance 150 years after its initial publication through two-time Audie Award winner Simon Vance's exceptional reading. Vance's ability to embody myriad voices and seamlessly transition between narration and alternating dialects and accents accentuates the linguistic and narrative vivacity of the text. Because of both the novel's canonized status and Vance's meticulous interpretation of it, recommended for all libraries, particularly those emphasizing the English classics. [With bonus PDF ebook; audio clip available through A musical version of Tale, with words, lyrics, and book by Jill Santoriello, opens on Broadway this month.--Ed.]--Christopher Rager, Pasadena, CA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

School Library Journal Review

Gr 9 Up-Charles Dickens's classic tale of one family's suffering during the French Revolution is brought to life in this audio adaptation. The voice of Audie Award-winning narrator Simon Vance sets the tone for the characters and creates the Dickensesqe mood of the times when the rich and the poor were far apart and no one was exempt from the ensuing wrath during the Revolution. Vance's stone varies from soothing to animated while creating different voices for the characters and using appropriate accents. A bonus feature on the last CD is an e-book in pdf format that can be printed or used as a read-along while listening to the audio. This easily navigated feature would be particularly helpful for struggling readers.-Jeana Actkinson, Bridgeport High School, TX (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



From Gillen D'Arcy Wood's Introduction to A Tale of Two Cities When Dickens expressed to A. H. Layard his fear of revolution in Britain in 1855, he only echoed many dozens of commentators over the preceding six decades, who wondered why mob violence could not simply cross the English Channel and turn the streets of London into a bloodbath of class retribution. The textbook historian's answer points to the bloodless coup of 1688, the so-called Glorious Revolution, which saw the tyrant James II forced into exile, and William and Mary inaugurate a form of managerial rule in Britain, a constitutional, "mixed" monarchy where many absolute powers of the Crown were ceded to Parliament. With the consolidation of that legislative body, however unrepresentative, Britain's nobility insured itself against the apocalyptic disaster that was to befall their French counterparts. The divergent tale of the two cities thus begins in 1688. But as a novelist, Dickens, who loved Paris and traveled there often, offers more intuitive, closely observed reasons for the untranslatable quality of that city's Revolution. In an 1856 article for his weekly magazine, Household Words , he calls Paris "the Moon," and describes a culture of spectacle implicitly alien to his London readers. On the grand Parisian boulevards, Dickens watches the upper classes put on "a mighty show." Later, he takes coffee and a cigar at one of Paris's ubiquitous cafés, and participates in a kind of collective voyeurism unfamiliar to the English capital: The place from which the shop front has been taken makes a gay proscenium; as I sit and smoke, the street becomes a stage, with an endless procession of lively actors crossing and re-crossing. Women with children, carts and coaches, men on horseback, soldiers, water-carriers with their pails, family groups, more soldiers, lounging exquisites, more family groups (coming past, flushed, a little late for the play). . . . We are all amused, sitting seeing the traffic in the street, and the traffic in the street is in its turn amused by seeing us ("Railway Dreaming," pp. 373-374). Paris is a society of spectacle, a glamorous outdoor "stage" where citizens are both actors and audience. Later in the article, however, Dickens describes a more sinister aspect of this culture of display when he is jostled by the crowds at the Paris morgue, whose "bodies lie on inclined planes within a great glass window, as though Holbein should represent Death, in his grim Dance, keeping a shop, and displaying his goods like a Regent Street or boulevard linen-draper" (p. 375). Dickens is unnerved here, as he was at Horsemonger Lane, by a society that places no restraints on visibility, even to preserve the solemnity of the dead. It is a short step in Dickens's imagination from the peep-show atmosphere of the Paris morgue in 1856 to the ritual slaughter in the Place de la Révolution during Robespierre's "Reign of Terror" of 1793-1794. A Tale of Two Cities shows the dark side of urban theatricality, that a public appetite for glamorous "show" can rapidly degenerate into an insatiable hunger for "scenes of horror and demoralization." The essentially theatrical quality of Parisian social life produces a theatrical Revolution. At the revolutionary "trials" at the Hall of Examination, Madame Defarge, we are told, "clapped her hands as at a play." There is something uniquely Parisian, too, in the spectacle of the liberation of the Bastille (with only seven prisoners inside) and in the rituals of the Terror itself, as the tumbrils roll daily to the guillotine watched by knitting ladies, who take up seats in their favored spots each morning as if at a sideshow or circus. As Dickens describes it, even the victims of the Terror cannot escape the theatrical atmosphere of the proceedings. Among the condemned, "there are some so heedful of their looks that they cast upon the multitude such glances as they have seen in theatres, and in pictures." Contrast this with Charles Darnay, who, on trial for his life earlier in the novel, disdains "the play at the Old Bailey": He "neither flinched from the situation, nor assumed any theatrical air in it." Our hero disappoints us on occasion, but here, by resisting being converted into a spectacle, he defends the most important social principle of the novel: the dignity of the private citizen in the face of the howling mob. Excerpted from A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

Table of Contents

Preface to the First Edition
Book 1 Recalled to Life
1 The Periodp. 11
2 The Mailp. 13
3 The Night Shadowsp. 16
4 The Preparationp. 19
5 The Wine-Shopp. 27
6 The Shoemakerp. 34
Book 2 The Golden Thread
1 Five Years Laterp. 45
2 A Sightp. 49
3 A Disappointmentp. 53
4 Congratulatoryp. 62
5 The Jackalp. 66
6 Hundreds of Peoplep. 70
7 Monseigneur in Townp. 78
8 Moneigneur in the Countryp. 84
9 The Gorgon's Headp. 88
10 Two Promisesp. 95
11 A Companion Picturep. 100
12 The Fellow of Delicacyp. 103
13 The Fellow of No Delicacyp. 107
14 The Honest Tradesmanp. 111
15 Knittingp. 118
16 Still Knittingp. 125
17 One Nightp. 132
18 Nine Daysp. 136
19 An Opinionp. 140
20 A Pleap. 145
21 Echoing Footstepsp. 147
22 The Sea Still Risesp. 155
23 Fire Risesp. 158
24 Drawn to the Loadstone Rockp. 163
Book 3 The Track of a Stormp. 175
1 In Secretp. 175
2 The Grindstonep. 183
3 The Shadowp. 187
4 Calm in Stormp. 190
5 The Wood-Sawyerp. 194
6 Triumphp. 198
7 A Knock at the Doorp. 202
8 A Hand at Cardsp. 206
9 The Game Madep. 214
10 The Substance of the Shadowp. 222
11 Duskp. 232
12 Darknessp. 234
13 Fifty-twop. 240
14 The Knitting Donep. 247
15 The Footsteps Die Out For Everp. 255