The New Philosophy: The Substance and the Shadow in A Tale of Two Cities

Part of the Palgrave Studies in Nineteenth-Century Writing and Culture book series (PNWC)


How does Dickens understand the events of the French Revolution? Given that the events are so much contested ground, such that what happens, and how and why it happens, are melded into often starkly contrasting and deeply ideologically inflected interpretations of the period, we should not think that Dickens’s position is likely to be either simple or naive.


French Revolution Conservative Account American Revolution British State Political Writing 
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  1. 4.
    Richard Price, Political Writings, ed. D. O. Thomas (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991), pp. 195–6.Google Scholar
  2. 5.
    Thomas Paine, Rights of Man, Common Sense, and other Political Writings, ed. Mark Philp (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995), p. 108, emphasis added.Google Scholar
  3. 8.
    See Dickens’s ‘The Flight’, in Dickens on France, ed. John Edmondson (Oxford: Signal, 2006), p. 9.Google Scholar
  4. 13.
    Edmund Burke, Reflections on the Revolution in France, ed. Conor Cruise O’Brien (Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1969), p. 195.Google Scholar
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    See Patrick Brantlinger, ‘Does Dickens Have a Philosophy of History? The Case of Barnaby Rudge’, DSA, 30 (2001), 59–74.Google Scholar
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    See Gary Kates, ‘From Liberalism to Radicalism: Tom Paine’s Rights of Man’, in Journal of the History of Ideas, 50 (1989), 569–87;CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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  11. which repeats the story of Lewis Goldsmith being at dinner with Mercier from Alfred Owen Aldridge, Man of Reason: The Life of Thomas Paine (London: Cresset Press, 1960), p. 266. The suggestion of earlier connections via Holcroft comes from the mentions of Mercier in William Godwin’s Diaries in the early 1790s, with Holcroft marrying one of Mercier’s daughters. Paine was also in London at the time and certainly met Godwin.Google Scholar
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    The role of the private affections (or, more accurately, the absence of a role in moral judgement for them) is a central theme in Godwin’s Enquiry Concerning Political Justice (London, 1793) for which Godwin was roundly attacked, especially after 1797. His concessionary defence is in his Thoughts Occasioned by the Perusal of Dr Parr’s Spital Sermon (London: G. G. and J. Robinson, 1802).Google Scholar
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    Albert Goodwin, The Friends of Liberty: The English Democratic Movement in the Age of the French Revolution (London: Hutcheson, 1979), p. 118.Google Scholar

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© Mark Philp 2009

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