“And yet I have had the weakness, and have still the weakness, to wish you to know with what a sudden mastery you kindled me, heap of ashes that I am, into fire.” What is the meaning of these words?
This quote has been pulled from Book II, Chapter 13, in which the dissipated Sydney Carton wanders the Soho neighborhood where Charles Darnay and Lucie dwell. With some resolution, Sydney finally decides to speak with Lucie. In a private conversation with her, he tells Lucie that she has awakened in him an old "fire" to desire to accomplish something in his life despite his conviction that all his ambition was gone in his "undeserving" dissipation, although he was weak enough, "And yet I have had the weakness," in his "degradation" to want her to know that she inspired in him "ideas of striving afresh."
As he sits with a solicitous Lucie who asks if there is nothing that she cannot do to "repay your confidence," (i.e. his confiding in her his feelings), Carton explains that he possesses a "blight" that prevents him for shaking off his "sloth and sensuality," his "wasted, drunken" life. But, if anyone could reawaken enough his desire to begin anew and live a fulfilling life, Lucie is the only one who capable of doing so. This is what he desires that she know.
Further, he requests that Lucie keep this confidence to herself, and Lucie pledges to do so. Before he departs, Carton chivalrously tells Lucie that if his "career were of that better kind" without drink and dissolution, if ever the occasion should arise in his "misdirected life" in which he could aid her and her family, "I would embrace any sacrifice for you and for those dear to you." Thus, unknowingly, he foreshadows his future actions.