A Tale of Two Cities occupies a central place in the canon of Charles Dickens's works. This novel of the French Revolution was originally serialized in the author's own periodical All the Year Round.Weekly publication of chapters 1-3 of Book 1 began on April 30, 1859. In an innovative move, Dickens simultaneously released installments of the novel on a monthly basis, beginning with all of Book 1in June and concluding with the last eight chapters of Book 3 in December. Dickens took advantage of the novel's serial publication to experiment with characterization, plot, and theme. He describedthe work in a letter to his friend John Forster, cited in Rudi Glancy's A Tale of Two Cities: Dickens's Revolutionary Novel, as "a picturesque story rising in every chapter, with characters true tonature, but whom the story should express more than they should express themselves by dialogue." The novel that emerged from his experimentation is now regarded as one of Dickens's most popular and mostinnovative works.
Dickens's work was very popular with the reading public when it was first published. One review in the magazine Athenaeum stated that A Tale of Two Cities had attracted the praiseof a hundred thousand readers. On the other hand, a whole set of critics, most notably Sir James Fitzjames Stephen writing in Saturday Review, criticized the novel precisely for its popularity. "Mostof the critics writing in the intellectual and literary journals of the day considered popular success a good reason to condemn a work," explains Glancy. "If the public liked it, they certainly couldnot be seen to approve of it at all." Modern critical opinion, however, has given the novel an important place among Dickens's most mature works of fiction.
A Tale of Two Cities Summary
Book One:Recalled to Life
On a cold November night in 1775, Mr. Jarvis Lorry, who works for Tellson's Bank, tells a messenger who stops his mail coach to return with the message, "Recalled to Life," in A Tale...