Meet Sydney Carton, a Man Famous for his Death

Warning! Contains spoilers.

An interview with the late Sydney Carton, who was a resident of London at the end of the 18th century. Before moving briefly to Paris, Mr. Carton spent most of his time in the local pubs and taverns, and frequenting the residence of a Dr. and Lucie Manette. For his full story, see Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities.

Victoria: Mr. Carton, thanks for giving us your time. For starters, tell us a little about yourself, and why you’re famous.

Sydney: I hardly think I am worth your time. I will therefore skip over the explanation of who I am and what I did before my death—it is not worth discussing.

Victoria: How about why you’re famous, then.

Sydney: I am famous for my death, though Heaven knows I should not be.

Victoria: What do you mean?

Sydney: My life was an utter waste, and my death made me famous. I did not die to gain fame. Quite the opposite, in fact. That writer, Dickens, he made my story much too public. It should not have been disclosed.

Victoria: Why?

Sydney: I died in the place of another, so that he could go on living.

Victoria: That would be Charles Darnay, right? Tell us more about that.

Sydney: There is nothing to tell—truly. I was nothing, an incorrigible drudge, and Darnay’s wife loved him. So I died in his place.

Victoria: From what I’ve heard, you loved his wife, Lucie. Is that correct?

Sydney: Lucie was an angel, the last dream of my soul. I died for Darnay, for Lucie’s sake.

Victoria: But that makes no sense, Mr. Carton. Wasn’t Darnay condemned to death by guillotine? You would have had a shot with Lucie after he was dead. You would have been the consoling shoulder to cry on, the one she relied on for support.

Sydney: I was not worthy of such a post—nor should Lucie have been made to put up with me as such. Do you not understand? I did nothing with my life. It was full of low companions and low habits that I scorned, even while I yielded to them. I was a wretch who crept along the streets. Was I to degrade such an angel with my filth? No; I could not.

Victoria: But you died for her.

Sydney: Yes, I died for her. And I see now that my death was my salvation.

Victoria: How?

Sydney: I finally did something worth while. My life did not end in drudgery and filth, but in hope, and in purpose. It was a far, far better thing that I did, than I had ever done. Asa result, it was a far, far better rest that I went to than I had ever known.

Victoria: What do you mean by “rest?”

Sydney: “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.” That is from the Gospel of Saint John.

Victoria: Mr. Carton, you told me earlier that your life was not worth mentioning. But the verse you quoted seems to say otherwise. Would you rather that Dickens didn’t tell your story?

Sydney: Not for the sake of my life. But for the sake of my death, perhaps it is best that the story was told. I was hopeless, yet I found hope. I would have others discover this same hope.

Question: If you could have coffee with one of Dickens’ characters, who would it be? Post a comment!

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3 thoughts on “Meet Sydney Carton, a Man Famous for his Death

  1. Very interesting! I would rather read about Dicken’s characters than talk to them, but I’m glad you had a conversation with one of them. It was great fun. val

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