A Classics Challenge – June Prompt

This month’s prompt for the Classics Challenge is to create a visual tour using quotes from the book you are reading; a series of images that closely represents how you see the scene or description. It doesn’t have to absolutely follow the text but it must reflect the mood.

I’ve been reading Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities and so there are many scenes I could choose from, varying from London to Paris, from calm and peaceful scenes to trial scenes and scenes of violence, revolution and death by guillotine.

But I’ve decide to concentrate on the place described by Dickens as Doctor Manette’s house in London, the house he lived in with his daughter, Lucie after he was released from the Bastille in Paris.

The quiet lodgings of Doctor Manette were in a quiet street corner not far from Soho Square.

Soho Square illustration is South-west Corner of Soho Square in 1816. From an aquatint in John B. Papworth's Select Views of London

I was intrigued by it being described as a quiet street corner – in Soho. But the Soho of 1780 was rather different from what it later became, so I had to alter my mental picture of it. This view of Soho Square is from about 50 years after the events in the book, but it shows the rural nature of London at that time.

I wondered about the location of the Manettes’ lodging house, just where was it? And then I founnd this plan (see illustration below) showing the location of Soho Square, coloured in green. Just below the Square are Greek Street and Rose Street. It has been conjectured that Dr Manette’s house was No.1 Greek Street with its courtyard in Rose Street.  In 1895 Rose Street was changed to Manette Street after Dicken’s character:

Soho Square

However that may or may not been, at that time Soho was very much in the countryside:

A quainter corner than the corner where the doctor lived, was not to be found in London. There was no way through it, and the front windows of the doctor’s lodgings commanded a pleasant little vista of street that has a congenial air of retirement on it. There were few buildings then, north of the Oxford-road, and forest trees flourished, and wild flowers grew, and the hawthorn blossomed, in the now vanished fields.

Hawthorn Blossom
Hawthorn bushes

Somewhat different from the London scene these days!

Doctor Manette occupied two floors of the house, with a courtyard at the back:

where a plane-tree rustled its green leaves

It was where Lucie, Mr Lorry from Tellson’s Bank and Charles Darney sat under the tree talking and drinking wine and where Lucie and her father sat when she told him she was going to marry Darney:

Plane Tree - from Wikimedia © Copyright David Hawgood

I could just imagine the scene:

Never did the sun go down with a brighter glory on the quiet corner in Soho, than one memorable evening when the  Doctor and his daughter sat under the plane-tree together. Never did the moon rise on a milder radiance over great London, than on that night when it found them still seated under the tree, and shone upon their faces through its leaves.


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