'A Tale of Two Cities' Quotes

Charles Dickens - Classic Novel, French Revolution

A Tale of Two Cities is a dense classic, often studied in classrooms. Charles Dickens published the work late in his career as a popular novelist in Victorian England. The backdrop of A Tale of Two Cities is the French Revolution; and a whole myriad of colorful characters are in attendance (as is usual for the works of Charles Dickens).

Here are a few quotes from the literary master.

Quotes from Book 1

  • "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way--in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only."
    - Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities, Book 1, Chapter 1
     
  • "Jerry, say that my answer was, 'RECALLED TO LIFE.'"
    - Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities, Book 1, Chapter 2
     
  • "Eighteen years! Gracious Creator of day! To be buried alive for eighteen years!"
    - Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities, Book 1, Chapter 3
     
  • "She had laid her head upon my shoulder, that night when I was summoned out--she had a fear of my going, though I had none--and when I was brought to the North Tower they found these upon my sleeve. 'You will leave me them? They can never help me to escape in the body, though they may in the spirit.' Those words I said. I remember them very well.'"
    - Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities, Book 1, Chapter 6
     
  • "If, when I tell you, dearest dear, that your agony is over, and that I have come here to take you from it, and that we go to England to be at peace and at rest, I cause you to think of your useful life laid waste, and of our native France so wicked to you, weep for it, weep for it! And if, when I shall tell you of my name, and of my father who is living, and of my mother who is dead, you learn that I have to kneel to my honoured father, and implore his pardon for never having for his sake striven all day and lain awake and wept all night, because the love of my poor mother hid his torture from me, weep for it, weep for it! Weep for her, then, and for me! Good gentlemen, thank God! I feel his sacred tears upon my face, and his sobs strike against my heart. O, see! Thank God for us, thank God!"
    - Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities, Book 1, Chapter 6
     
  • "All through the cold and restless interval, until, dawn, they once more whispered in the ears of Mr. Jarvis Lorry--sitting opposite the buried man who had been dug out, and wondering what subtle powers were forever lost to him, and what were capable of restoration--the old inquiry: 'I hope you care to be recalled to life?"
    - Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities, Book 1, Chapter 6

    Quotes from Book 2

    • "But indeed, at that time, putting to death was a recipe much in vogue with all trades and professions, and not least of all with Tellson's. Death is Nature's remedy for all things, and why not Legislation's? Accordingly, the forger was put to Death; the utterer of a bad note was put to Death; the unlawful opener of a letter was put to Death; the purloiner of forty shillings and sixpence was put to death; the holder of a horse at Tellson's door, who made off with it, was put to Death; the coiner of a bad schilling was put to Death; the sounders of three-fourths of the notes in the whole gamut of Crime, were put to Death. Not that it did the least good in the way of prevention--it might almost have been worth remarking that the fact was exactly the reverse--but, it cleared off (as to this world) the trouble of each particular case, and left nothing else connected with it to be looked after."
      - Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities, Book 2, Chapter 1
       
    • "I won't be gone again, in this manner. I am as rickety as a hackney-coach, I'm as sleepy as laudanum, my lines is strained to that degree that I shouldn't know, if it wasn't for the pain in 'em, which was me and which was somebody else, yet I'm none the better for it in pocket; and it's my suspicion that you've been at it from morning to night to prevent me from being better for it in the pocket, and I won't put up with it, Aggerawayter, and what do you say now!"
      - Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities, Book 2, Chapter 1
       
    • "Waste forces within him, and a desert all around, this man stood still on his way across a silent terrace, and saw for a moment, lying in the wilderness before him, a mirage of honorable ambition, self-denial, and perseverance. In the fair city of this vision, there were airy galleries from which the loves and graces looked upon him, gardens in which the fruits of life hung ripening, waters of Hope that sparkled in his sight. A moment, and it was gone. Climbing to a high chamber in a well of houses, he threw himself down in his clothes on a neglected bed, and its pillow was wet with wasted tears."
      - Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities, Book 2, Chapter 5
       
    • "I have sometimes sat alone here of an evening, listening, until I have made the echoes out to be the echoes of all the footsteps that are coming by and by into our lives."
      - Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities, Book 2, Chapter 6
    • "It is extraordinary to me that you people cannot take care of yourselves and your children. One or the other of you is forever in the way."
      - Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities, Book 2, Chapter 7

    • "I know it all, I know it all. Be a brave man, my Gaspard! It is better for the poor plaything to die so, than to live. It has died in a moment without pain. Could it have lived an hour as happily?'" Book 2, Chapter 7

    • "Repression is the only lasting philosophy. The dark deference of fear and slavery, my friend, will keep the dogs obedient to the whip, as long as this roof shuts out the sky,'" Book 2, Chapter 9

    • "Good-night! I look to the pleasure of seeing you again in the morning. Good repose! Light Monsieur my nephew to his chamber there! And burn Monsieur my nephew in his bed, if you will." Book 2, Chapter 9

    • "There is no harm at all done. I have not proposed to the young lady, and, between ourselves, I am by no means certain, on reflection, that I ever should have committed myself to that extent. Mr. Lorry, you cannot control the mincing vanities and giddiness of empty-headed girls; you must not expect to do it, or you will always be disappointed. Now, pray say no more about it. I tell you, I regret it on account of others, but I am satisfied on my own account. And I am really very much obliged to you for allowing me to sound you, and for giving me your advice; you know the young lady better than I do; you were right, it never would have done." Book 2, Chapter 12

    • "The time will come, the time will not be long in coming, when new ties will be formed about you--ties that will bind you yet more tenderly and strongly to the home you so adorn--the dearest ties that will ever grace and gladden you. O Miss Manette, when the little picture of a happy father's face looks up in yours, when you see your own bright beauty springing up anew at your feet, think now and then that there is a man who would give his life, to keep a life you love beside you!" Book 2, Chapter 13

    • "But, there were other echoes, from a distance, that rumbled menacingly in the corner all through this space of time. And it was now, about little Lucie's sixth birthday, that they began to have an awful sound, as of a great storm in France with a dreadful sea rising." Book 2, Chapter 21

    • "Seven prisoners released, seven gory heads on pikes, the keys of the accursed fortress of the eight strong towers, some discovered letters and other memorials of prisoners of old time, long dead of broken hearts--such, and such-like, the loudly echoing footsteps of Saint Antoine escort through Paris streets in mid-July, one thousand seven hundred and eighty-nine. Now, Heaven defeat the fancy of Lucie Darnay, and keep these feet far out of her life! For, they are headlong, mad, and dangerous; and in the years so long after the breaking of the cask at Defarge's wine-shop door, they are not easily purified when once stained red." Book 2, Chapter 21

    • "From such household occupations as their bare poverty yielded, from their children, from their aged and their sick crouching on the bare ground famished and naked, they ran out with streaming hair, urging one another, and themselves, to madness with the wildest cries and actions. Villain Foulon taken, my sister! Old Foulon taken, my mother! Miscreant Foulon taken, my daughter! Then, a score of others ran into the midst of these, beating their breasts, tearing their hair, and screaming, Foulon alive! Foulon who told the starving people they might eat grass! Foulon who told my old father that he might eat grass, when I had no bread to give him! Foulon who told my baby it might suck grass, when these breasts were dry with want! O mother of God, this Foulon! O Heaven, our suffering! Hear me, my dead baby and my withered father: I swear on my knees, on these stones, to avenge you on Foulon!" Book 2, Chapter 22

    • "For scores of years gone by, Monseigneur had squeezed and wrung it, and had seldom graced it with his presence except for the pleasures of the chase--now, found in hunting the people; now, found in hunting the beasts, for whose preservation Monseigneur made edifying spaces of barbarous and barren wilderness. No. The change consisted in the appearance of strange faces of low caste, rather than in the disappearance of the high-caste, chiseled, and otherwise beatified and beatifying features of Monseigneur." Book 2, Chapter 23

    • "For the love of Heaven, of justice, of generosity, of the honour of your noble name, I supplicate you, Monsieur heretofore the Marquis, to succour and release me. My fault is that I have been true to you. Oh, Monsieur heretofore the Marquis, I pray you be true to me!'" Book 2, Chapter 24

    • "The Loadstone Rock was drawing him, and he must sail on, until he struck. He knew of no rock; he saw hardly any danger. The intention with which he had done what he had done, even although he had left it incomplete, presented it before him in an aspect that would be gratefully acknowledged in France on his presenting himself to assert it. Then, that glorious vision of doing good, which is so often the sanguine mirage of so many good minds, arose before him, and he even saw himself in the illusion with some influence to guide this raging Revolution that was running so fearfully wild." Book 2, Chapter 24

    • "Five paces by four and a half, five paces by four and a half, five paces by four and a half. He made shoes, he made shoes, he made shoes. The ghosts that vanished when the wicket closed. There was one among them, the appearance of a lady dressed in black, who was leaning in the embrasure of a window, and she had a light shining upon her golden hair, and she looked like...Let us ride on again, for God's sake, through the illuminated villages with the people all awake!" Book 3, Chapter 1

    • "The wives and mothers we have been used to see since we were as little as this child, and much less, have not been greatly considered? We have known their husbands and fathers laid in prison and kept from them, often enough? All our lives, we have seen our sister-women suffer, in themselves and in their children, poverty, nakedness, hunger, thirst, sickness, misery, oppression and neglect of all kinds?'" Book 3, Chapter 3

    • "It was the popular theme for jests; it was the best cure for headache, it infallibly prevented the hair from turning grey, it imparted a particular delicacy to the complexion, it was the National Razor which shaved close: who kissed La Guillotine, looked through the little window and sneezed into the sack. It was the sign of the regeneration of the human race. It superseded the Cross. Models of it were worn on breasts from which the Cross was discarded, and it was bowed down to and believed in where the Cross was denied." Book 3, Chapter 4

    • "I call myself Samson of the firewood guillotine. See here again! Loo, loo, loo; Loo, loo, loo! And off her head comes! Now, a child. Tickle, tickle; Pickle, pickle! And off its head comes! All the family!'" Book 3, Chapter 5

    • "I am the resurrection and the life, saith the Lord: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: and whosoever liveth and believeth in me, shall never die." Book 3, Chapter 9

    • "If it had pleased God to put it in the hard heart of either of the brothers, in all these frightful years, to grant me any tidings of my dearest wife--so much as to let me know by a word whether alive or dead--might have thought that He had not quite abandoned them. But, now I believe that the mark of the red cross is fatal to them, and that they have no part in His mercies. And them and their descendants, to the last of their race, I, Alexandre Manette, unhappy prisoner, do this last night of the year 1767, in my unbearable agony, denounce to the times when all these things shall be answered for. I denounce them to Heaven and to earth.'" Book 3, Chapter 10

    • "Then tell the Wind and Fire where to stop, but don't tell me." Book 3, Chapter 12

    • "If you remember the words that passed between us, long ago, you will readily comprehend this when you see it. You do remember them, I know. It is not in your nature to forget them. I am thankful that the time has come, when I can prove them. That I do so is no subject for regret or grief. If it had been otherwise, I never should have used the longer opportunity. If it had been otherwise" Book 3, Chapter 13

    • "It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known.'" Book 3, Chapter 15