The passenger booked by this history, was on the coach-step, getting in; the two other passengers were close behind him, and about to follow.

The preceding passage is from Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities, chapter 2. What does the term "booked by this history" mean? Please help. I failed to figure out the meaning in context by looking up in the dictionary the usual meaning of the word book.

  • 1
    Do you know what "this history" refers to? Can you add the preceding context?
    – Barmar
    Feb 20 at 17:07
  • 1
    @Barmar - I assume "this history" means "this story" etc.usf.edu/lit2go/22/a-tale-of-two-cities/109/…. Feb 20 at 17:12
  • 5
    TBH I take this to be a fairly convoluted way of saying "the passenger whose story is told in this book". Feb 20 at 17:33
  • 2
    The reader's attention has been directed to one particular passenger at the beginning of the chapter. It seems to be a (rather unusual) way of saying that it was this man who was getting into the coach. (I don't think it means that he had reserved his seat, since they're in the middle of the journey by now.) Feb 20 at 17:37
  • 1
    @Martin Smith So 'featured in this story'. Feb 20 at 19:22

3 Answers 3


There is nothing in the text to indicate whether any of the passengers had booked their journey or not.

On the other hand, a bit later, the man is referred to as "our booked passenger" - not "the booked passenger", but "our booked passenger". This makes it clear that "booked" and "booked in this history" mean "the subject of this story".

I have not encountered this meaning anywhere else, but I think it is an instance of the OED's sense:

I.2.a. transitive. To enter in a book or list; to record, register. Also figurative.

  • 1
    Nice play on words by Dickens. Feb 20 at 19:39
  • 1
    This. Garrett Stewart in "Death Sentences" similarly argues it's an authorial aside, a breaking of the fourth wall. The "booked passenger" means the character in the book, who Dickens, the author, has booked (ticketed) onto the coach. Dickens novels contain many such authorial asides. Conspiratorial whispers from the author to the reader, if you will.
    – MetaEd
    Feb 21 at 0:25
  • We can assume the passenger was booked on the coach. How else would the rider Jerry know he was on it? Feb 22 at 3:41
  • @TinfoilHat: even if so (and I dispute it: somebody knew he was intending to travel by that coach: that doesn't mean that he had necessarily booked in advance), it is irrelevant. because it doesn't explain "in this history"
    – Colin Fine
    Feb 22 at 10:35

From OED for the adjectival sense of "booked":

4.a. Of a seat, room, appointment, etc.: engaged or arranged in advance; reserved.

So I think it means the passenger who already has a reservation on the coach. "by this history" refers to the preceding recounting of the story; one of the passengers has a booking, the other two don't.

I didn't see anything in the earlier text that actually describes a passenger having a booking, so perhaps it's meant figuratively to refer to the passenger who was singled out in the preceding text.

  • 2
    i see absolutely nothing in the text to suggest that the passenger has a booking and the others not. I think that Martin Smith and Kate Bunting's comments are more accurate.
    – Colin Fine
    Feb 20 at 17:50
  • I also couldn't find it, but the writing style is archaic and I admit that I didn't understand much of it. This is just my best interpretation of this text.
    – Barmar
    Feb 20 at 17:54
  • But I've added a figurative sense.
    – Barmar
    Feb 20 at 17:55
  • I think not: the mail coach was already on its journey to Dover with three passengers with no suggestion of previous ticketing arrangements, while "this history" clearly means "this novel".
    – Henry
    Feb 21 at 16:30

Book means to move or travel rapidly.as in we booked along at a nice clip. In the present context the passengers moved rapidly to the coach step following the history which is the discovery of a "horse at a gallop." They were all alerted by this single incident.

  • They certainly did not. The text is all about the slow laborious movement through the mud. I have never encountered "book" in that sense, and it is not in the OED. I can only find it in Slang dictionaries such as slangdefine.org/b/booking-bdad.html, and in Wiktionary (where it is marked as slang). I think the chances that Dickens would have used in that sense are slight.
    – Colin Fine
    Feb 21 at 12:23

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