Who was the worst writer in history

In times of upheaval - Charles Dickens and his Story from two cities

Charles John Huffham Dickens was born 200 years ago on February 7th in Landport, UK, the second of eight children of a naval paymaster. When he celebrated his 50th birthday with his friend and future biographer John Forster in 1862, it was Charles Dickens Oliver Twist(1837-39),a Christmas Story(A Christmas Carol, 1843) and David Copperfield(1849-50) and wrote a number of other books that are among the most successful and notable literary works of his time. Barely two years before his milestone birthday, he had finished the novel that was his most read during his lifetime and, with an estimated 200 million copies worldwide, is still the best-selling book ever written in English: A Tale of Two Cities. The German first edition of A story from two citiesAccording to at least some sources, it was published in 1862 and is celebrating a small one, namely its 150th birthday, in the shadow of the great Dickens anniversary.

"It was the best time, it was the worst time. It was the age of wisdom, it was the age of folly ..." - with these words Dickens begins his story from the time of the French Revolution, which came into being at one point in time , when all signs were pointing to change in his life. Dickens, a child from a humble background, had to help support the family at an early age, but then worked his way up from a legal assistant to a sought-after writer, journalist and editor of various periodicals on his own. His greatest journalistic achievement was that Daily News, of which he managed only 17 issues himself, but which, under the direction of his successors, became one of the leading daily newspapers in Great Britain. Dickens had grown into prestige and wealth and was a welcome guest in London's artistic circles.
When his marriage failed in 1858, the tide turned in many ways. Dickens got into the talk, was publicly taken into prayer for his behavior towards his wife and his love for a young actress, who at least at the time was a romantic but platonic affair. The relationship with his sister-in-law Georgina, who now ran her sister instead of Dickens' household, was also viewed with suspicion. Quarrels with the publishers, who refused to print a personal statement by Dickens in one of their other papers, sealed the end of the weekly newspaper in 1859 Household Wordsthat Dickens had been responsible for for nearly a decade. Dickens now concentrated more on his talent as an entertainer, went on reading trips that could at least temporarily distract him from his misery. At the same time he pushed a follow-up project: the weekly magazineAll The Year Round, in the April 30, 1859 to the Story from two citiesappeared.

In the Story from two citiesturns to Dickens Barnaby Rudge(1841) added a historical subject for the second time. Inspired by Thomas CarlylesThe French Revolution, which he claims to have read 500 times, Dickens puts the violent upheavals in France at the end of the 18th century at the center of his plot. In contrast to the famous socially critical novels of his earlier creative years, Dickens cannot depict the downside of industrialization in England in the early 19th century, which he had become acquainted with in his youth. Instead, he paints a portrait of two cities that have long been antipodes in the history of Europe: London and Paris. But in Dickens' description, the differences turn out to be gradual - "light" and "darkness" blur in the face of the social injustices that characterized life in both cities in the late 18th century. Dickens attributes the fact that in France, unlike in England, there was a bloody uprising to the misconduct of the French nobility. Some have therefore read the novel as a warning to the British aristocracy.

Dickens' story, which links the fates of three families from different backgrounds, begins before the Revolution, the approach of which is already heralded in narrative details. Charles Darnay has renounced his aristocratic family, which played an inglorious role in pre-revolutionary France. His uncle, the Marquis de Evrémonde, disregards his subordinates and kills, rapes or slander them at will. In England Darnay meets the young doctor's daughter Lucie Manette, whose father was also a victim of the Maquis. Of course nobody suspects anything of this connection; only when Darnay mentions his real name on the day of his marriage to Lucie does the shadows of the past return. A cry for help from his former servant lures Darnay to Paris, where he is arrested by the revolutionaries. Madame Defarge, the only survivor of a peasant family that the now murdered Marquis once willfully destroyed, wants to see his nephew die on the guillotine on her vengeance campaign in the slipstream of the revolution. It's good that the Manettes can count on the support of their friend Sydney Carton in their struggle for Darnay's life, who looks very much like Charles and who, out of silent love for Lucie, would "give his life to maintain a life you love. "

The quoted part of the sentence already contains an indication that the Story from two citiesNot only thematically but also stylistically clearly differs from Dickens' other works. Although it was initially published in sequels, which has certain peculiarities in the arc of suspense, otherwise there is little in common. The humorous descriptions typical of Dickens have given way to a certain pathos; gloomy images populated by caricatured characters give expression to the dehumanization on both sides of the revolutionary front. The horror scenarios are contrasted by allegories of the sacrificial death and the resurrection, in which, in addition to the historical, a biographical component probably also comes into play. Only those who love and are willing to make great sacrifices can change the world for the better, can, like Carton on the scaffold, redeem and find redemption: "What I do is something much, much better than I have ever done that The rest to which I go is far more blissful than I have ever known it. "

Juliane Schmidt-Wellenburg


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