"A Tale of Two Cities," Part 1

The French Revolution comes vividly to life in this novel by Charles Dickens: "A Tale of Two Cities," (1859)

Learn these word lists: Part 1, Part 2: Chapters 1-14, Part 2: Chapters 15-24, and Part 3.

Activities for this list:

definitions & notes only words
  1. sublime
    worthy of adoration or reverence
    Mrs. Southcott had recently attained her five-and- twentieth blessed birthday, of whom a prophetic private in the Life Guards had heralded the sublime appearance by announcing that arrangements were made for the swallowing up of London and Westminster.
  2. capitulate
    surrender under agreed conditions
    Reins and whip and coachman and guard, however, in combination, had read that article of war which forbade a purpose otherwise strongly in favour of the argument, that some brute animals are endued with Reason; and the team had capitulated and returned to their duty.
  3. conscience
    conformity to one's own sense of right conduct
    The Dover mail was in its usual genial position that the guard suspected the passengers, the passengers suspected one another and the guard, they all suspected everybody else, and the coachman was sure of nothing but the horses; as to which cattle he could with a clear conscience have taken his oath on the two Testaments that they were not fit for the journey.
  4. expeditiously
    with efficiency; in an efficient manner
    With those words the passenger opened the coach-door and got in; not at all assisted by his fellow-passengers, who had expeditiously secreted their watches and purses in their boots, and were now making a general pretence of being asleep.
  5. muse
    reflect deeply on a subject
    "That's a coincidence, too," the guard mused, "for I made the same of it myself."
  6. inexorable
    not to be placated or appeased or moved by entreaty
    My friend is dead, my neighbour is dead, my love, the darling of my soul, is dead; it is the inexorable consolidation and perpetuation of the secret that was always in that individuality, and which I shall carry in mine to my life's end.
  7. inscrutable
    of an obscure nature
any of the burial-places of this city through which I pass, is there a sleeper more inscrutable than its busy inhabitants are, in their innermost personality, to me, or than I am to them?
  8. evince
    give expression to
    The messenger rode back at an easy trot, stopping pretty often at ale- houses by the way to drink, but evincing a tendency to keep his own counsel, and to keep his hat cocked over his eyes.
  9. emaciated
    very thin especially from disease or hunger or cold
    Pride, contempt, defiance, stubbornness, submission, lamentation, succeeded one another; so did varieties of sunken cheek, cadaverous colour, emaciated hands and figures.
  10. evanescence
    the event of fading and gradually vanishing from sight
    Very orderly and methodical he looked, with a hand on each knee, and a loud watch ticking a sonorous sermon under his flapped waistcoat, as though it pitted its gravity and longevity against the levity and evanescence of the brisk fire.
  11. stolid
    having or revealing little emotion or sensibility
    The gentleman from Tellson's had nothing left for it but to empty his glass with an air of stolid desperation, settle his odd little flaxen wig at the ears, and follow the waiter to Miss Manette's apartment.
  12. funereal
    suited to or suggestive of a grave or burial
    It was a large, dark room, furnished in a funereal manner with black horsehair, and loaded with heavy dark tables.
  13. pecuniary
    relating to or involving money
    I pass my whole life, miss, in turning an immense pecuniary Mangle."
  14. besmirch
    smear so as to make dirty or stained
    Those who had been greedy with the staves of the cask, had acquired a tigerish smear about the mouth; and one tall joker so besmirched, his head more out of a long squalid bag of a nightcap than in it, scrawled upon a wall with his finger dipped in muddy wine-lees -- BLOOD.
  15. squalid
    foul and run-down and repulsive
    Those who had been greedy with the staves of the cask, had acquired a tigerish smear about the mouth; and one tall joker so besmirched, his head more out of a long squalid bag of a nightcap than in it, scrawled upon a wall with his finger dipped in muddy wine-lees -- BLOOD.
  16. brooding
    deeply or seriously thoughtful
    A narrow winding street, full of offence and stench, with other narrow winding streets diverging, all peopled by rags and nightcaps, and all smelling of rags and nightcaps, and all visible things with a brooding look upon them that looked ill.
  17. gallows
    an instrument from which a person is executed by hanging
    Depressed and slinking though they were, eyes of fire were not wanting among them; nor compressed lips, white with what they suppressed; nor foreheads knitted into the likeness of the gallows-rope they mused about enduring, or inflicting.
    One of the main themes of the book is imprisonment, and here is a direct symbol of that theme.
  18. effect
    act so as to bring into existence
    When this interchange of Christian name was effected, Madame Defarge, 
picking her teeth with her toothpick, coughed another grain of cough, and raised her eyebrows by the breadth of another line.
    "Effect" is often used as a noun, but here it is a verb. The main difference between this word and the verb "affect," is that affect means to influence (which could be accidental) but effect means to actively produce a result. HINT: As a verb, "effect" is rarely used; "affect" as a verb is far more common.
  19. repose
    a disposition free from stress or emotion
    Then she glanced in a casual manner round the wine-shop, took up her knitting with great apparent calmness and repose of spirit, and became absorbed in it.
  20. deprivation
    a state of extreme poverty
    The uncontrollable and hopeless mass of decomposition so engendered, would have polluted the air, even if poverty and deprivation 
had not loaded it with their intangible impurities; the two bad sources combined made it almost insupportable.
  21. incumbent
    necessary as a duty or responsibility; morally binding
    But, by this time she trembled under such strong emotion, and her face expressed such deep anxiety, and, above all, such dread and terror, that Mr. Lorry felt it incumbent on him to speak a word or two of reassurance.
  22. sagacity
    the ability to understand and discriminate between relations
    Whether he knew what had happened, whether he recollected what they had said to him, whether he knew that he was free, were questions which no sagacity could have solved.
  23. invariably
    without change, in every case
    He had a wild, lost manner of 
occasionally clasping his head in his hands, that had not been seen in him before; yet, he had some pleasure in the mere sound of his daughter's voice, and invariably turned to it when she spoke.
  24. reign
    a period during which something or somebody is dominant
    An unnatural silence and desertion reigned there.
  25. consign
    give over to another for care or safekeeping
    They were consigned to me, with him, at the -- " He dropped his voice, there was a flutter among the military lanterns, and one of them being handed into the coach by an arm in uniform, the eyes connected with the arm looked, not an every day or an every night look, at monsieur with the white head.

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