Bastille Day – Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity

Bastille Day Fireworks

Photo by Paris Perfect

It’s just about that time again when France celebrates French National Day, or Bastille Day, on July 14th. This historic celebration dates back to 1880 and commemorates the birth of the French Republic and modern France. Similar in spirit to Independence Day on the 4th of July in America and Canada Day on July 1st, Bastille Day features patriotic events, parades and one of the most outstanding fireworks displays you’ll ever see.

Bastille Day, the French national holiday, commemorates the storming of the Bastille, which took place on 14 July 1789 and marked the beginning of the French Revolution. The Bastille was a prison and a symbol of the absolute and arbitrary power of Louis the 16th’s Ancient Regime. By capturing this symbol, the people signaled that the king’s power was no longer absolute: power should be based on the Nation and be limited by a separation of powers.

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…

These famous lines, which open A Tale of Two Cities, hint at the novel’s central tension between love and family, on the one hand, and oppression and hatred, on the other.
(to find out more, click here for SparkNotes, Important Quotations Explained)

Character Sydney Carton played by Ronald Colman, "A Tale Of Two Cities" 1935 MGM
Ronald Colman as Sydney Carton
Photo by Ted Allan – © 1978 Ted Allan – Image courtesy

A Tale of Two Cities (1859) is a novel by Charles Dickens, set in London and Paris before and during the French Revolution. With well over 200 million copies sold, it ranks among the most famous works in the history of literary fiction.

The novel depicts the plight of the French peasantry demoralised by the French aristocracy in the years leading up to the revolution, the corresponding brutality demonstrated by the revolutionaries toward the former aristocrats in the early years of the revolution, and many unflattering social parallels with life in London during the same time period. It follows the lives of several characters through these events. The 45-chapter novel was published in 31 weekly installments in Dickens’s new literary periodical titled All the Year Round. From April 1859 to November 1859, Dickens also republished the chapters as eight monthly sections in green covers. All but three of Dickens’s previous novels had appeared only as monthly instalments. The first weekly instalment of A Tale of Two Cities ran in the first issue of All the Year Round on 30 April 1859. The last ran thirty weeks later, on 26 November.

A Tale of Two Cities, a 1935 black-and-white MGM film starring Ronald Colman, Elizabeth Allan, Reginald Owen, Basil Rathbone and Edna May Oliver. It was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture.