Thursday, October 29, 2009

A TALE OF TWO CITIES - history lesson

Jean-Jacques Rosseau (1712-1778), philosopher, writer, and composer of the eighteenth-century Enlightenment, whose political philosophy influenced the French Revolution and the development of modern political and educational thought. This "Age of Sensibility" featured an increased focus on subjectivity and introspection. He believed in a social utopia, of humans returning to natural harmony, being made free of vices and sharing a natural equality and a general will.

These ideas appealed to many people, including some of the people instrumental in the events leading to the French Revolution. In a country where a wealthy minority indulged their selves while hundreds of thousands suffered from severe poverty and inflation, people yearned for a basic equality, natural or government ordained. Later the idea of a utopian government changed to “the will of the people”. Maximillien Robespierre, who played an important part in the middle to later events in the Revolution and was one of the architects of the Terror, was deeply influenced by Rousseau's writings.

Maximilien Fran├žois Marie Isidore de Robespierre (1758 –1794) is one of the best-known and most influential figures of the French Revolution. He was instrumental in the period of the Revolution commonly known as the Reign of Terror, which ended with his arrest and execution in 1794.

The Reign Of Terror (1793 –1794), also known as The Terror was a period of violence that occurred four years and two months after the onset of the French Revolution, incited by conflict between rival political factions, the Girondins and the Jacobins, and marked by mass executions of "enemies of the revolution." Estimates vary widely as to how many were killed, with numbers ranging from 16,000 to 40,000; in many cases, records were not kept, or if they were, they are considered likely to be inaccurate. Most were killed by the use of the guillotine.

Charles Dickens (1812-1870) is the author of short stories, plays, novellas, novels, both nonfiction and fiction, and a great lover of the theatre. During his lifetime Dickens became known the world over for his remarkable characters, his mastery of prose in the telling of their lives, and his depictions of the social classes. Some considered him the spokesman for the poor, his stories creating an awareness of the oppressed and the have-nots. In 1836, he married Catherine Hogarth, daughter of the editor of the Evening Chronicle. They had ten children and were separated in 1858.

Much of his work first appeared in periodicals and magazines in serialized form. The practice lent his stories a particular rhythm, punctuated by one cliffhanger after another to keep the public eager for the next installment: Bleak House (1852–53), Hard Times (1854) and Little Dorrit (1857).

In 1858, Dickens undertook a series of public readings. Major works, A Tale of Two Cities (1859); and Great Expectations (1861) soon followed and would prove resounding successes with both his critics and his fans. During this time he was also the publisher, editor, and contributor to the journals Household Words (1850–1859) and All the Year Round (1858–1870). Between 1868 and 1869, Dickens gave a series of "farewell readings" in England, Scotland, and Ireland, until he collapsed. After further provincial readings were cancelled, he began work on his final novel, The Mystery of Edwin Drood. On June 8, 1870, Dickens suffered a stroke at his home, and he died on June 9.

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