19: Interdisciplinary Studies in the Long Nineteenth Century, No 14 (2012)

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Popular Sentiments and Public Executions

Gail Marshall


This paper examines Dickens’s descriptions of public executions in his letters and early journalism as a context in which to read the final scene of A Tale of Two Cities (1859). It argues that despite his traumatised responses to public hangings, Dickens is able to use the site of the scaffold to articulate some fundamental human fears and dispositions. The paper compares Dickens’s response to the horrors of the French Revolution with Carlyle’s, and shows throughout how Dickens firmly repudiates Trollope's somewhat rueful dismissal of him as ‘Mr Popular Sentiment’.

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