Background.

itemIt was the popular theme for jests; it was the best cure for headache, it infallibly prevented the hair from turning grey, it imparted a peculiar 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. is a quotation from A Tale of Two Cities (Book 3, Chapter 4 (Calm in Storm)).

A Tale of Two Cities is the twelfth novel by Charles Dickens, originally published in weekly installments between April 1859 and November 1859. It is one of two historical novels by Dickens (the other being Barnaby Rudge). The plot centres on the years leading up to the French Revolution and culminates in the Jacobean Reign of Terror.

 

 

Context.

This quotation is a description of the Guillotine, the notorious killing machine invented during and used extensively throughout the French Revolution and subsequent Reign of Terror of the mid-1790s. The machine was used to behead thousands, including King Louis XVI and his Queen, Marie-Antoinette. Guillotine executions were major spectator events during period with entertainment put on and even souvenirs sold.

Taken from the following passage in Book 3, Chapter 4 (Calm in Storm) of A Tale of Two Cities:

Above all, one hideous figure grew as familiar as if it had been before the general gaze from the foundations of the world—the figure of the sharp female called La Guillotine.

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 peculiar 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 It superseded the Cross.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.

It sheared off heads so many, that it, and the ground it most polluted, were a rotten red. It was taken to pieces, like a toy-puzzle for a young Devil, and was put together again when the occasion wanted it. It hushed the eloquent, struck down the powerful, abolished the beautiful and good.

 

 

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