First published in 1859, during Dickens' mature period of writing, A Tale of Two Cities remains one of the greatest novels on the French Revolution. The two cities are Paris and London and the scene shifts from one to the other in a story of brutality, repression, hatred and revenge on the one hand and idealism, love and self-sacrifice on the other. The Marquis de St Evremonde, along with his brother, cruelly molests a peasant girl and mortally wounds her brother. Dr Manette is called to treat them, but is then confined in the Bastille for eighteen years to suppress his evidence. The fall of the dreaded prison secures his release, but he is ill and driven to madness. He is brought to England to convalesce and slowly regains his sanity. Darnay, a nephew of the Marquis who has renounced his family for their cruel practices, is now in England and falls in love with and marries Lucie, the doctor's daughter.
He makes a trip to Paris to rescue an old family retainer, but is recognized, arrested and sentenced to death. He is only saved by an act of reckless self-sacrifice by Sydney Carton, an English barrister come to no good, who loves Lucie and substitutes himself in the place of Darnay who is smuggled out of the country. Carton dies a courageous and peaceful death.