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A Christmas Carol  
Charles Dickens-A Christmas Carol-Title page-First edition 1843.jpg
First edition frontispiece and title page (1843)
Author Charles Dickens
Original title A Christmas Carol in Prose: Being a Ghost Story of Christmas
Illustrator John Leech
Country England
Language English
Genre(s) Novella
Parable
Social criticism
Ghost story
Morality tale
Christmas fiction
Fairy tale
Publisher Chapman & Hall
Publication date 19 December 1843
Media type Print
Preceded by Martin Chuzzlewit
Followed by The Chimes

A Christmas Carol[note 1] is a novella by English author Charles Dickens first published by Chapman and Hall and first released on 19 December 1843. The story tells of sour and stingy Ebenezer Scrooge's ideological, ethical, and emotional transformation after the supernatural visitations of Jacob Marley and the Ghosts of Christmases Past, Present, and Yet to Come. The novella met with instant success and critical acclaim.

The book was written and published at a time when Britain was experiencing a nostalgic interest in its forgotten Christmas traditions, and at the time when new customs such as the Christmas tree and greeting cards were being introduced. Dickens's sources for the tale appear to be many and varied but are principally the humiliating experiences of his childhood, his sympathy for the poor, and the Christmas stories of Washington Irving.

The tale was pirated immediately, was adapted several times to the stage, and has been credited with restoring the holiday to one of merriment and festivity in Britain and America after a period of sobriety and sombreness. A Christmas Carol remains popular, has never been out of print,[1] and has been adapted to film, opera, and other media.

Contents

Context

In the middle 19th century, a nostalgic interest in pre Cromwell Christmas traditions swept Victorian England following the publications of Davies Gilbert's Some Ancient Christmas Carols (1822), William B. Sandys's Selection of Christmas Carols, Ancient and Modern (1833), and Thomas K. Hervey's The Book of Christmas (1837). That interest was further stimulated by Prince Albert's introduction of the Christmas tree in 1841, the first Christmas card in 1843, and a revival in carol singing.[2][3] Hervey's study on Christmas customs attributed their passing to social change and the urbanization of England.[4][3]

Dickens's Carol was one of the single greatest influences in rejuvenating the old Christmas traditions of England, but, while it brings to the reader images of light, joy, warmth, and life it also brings strong and unforgettable images of darkness, despair, coldness, sadness and death.[2] Scrooge himself is the embodiment of winter, and, just as winter is followed by spring and the renewal of life, so too is Scrooge's cold, pinched heart restored to the innocent goodwill he had known in his childhood and youth.[5][6]

Sources

Dickens was not the first author to celebrate the Christmas season in literature, but it was he who superimposed his secular vision of the holiday upon the public. The forces that impelled Dickens to create a powerful, impressive, and enduring tale were the profoundly humiliating experiences of his childhood, the plight of the poor and their children during the boom decades of the 1830s and 1840s, and Washington Irving's stories of the traditional old English Christmas.[7]

Whilst Dickens's humiliating childhood experiences are not directly limned in Carol, his conflicting feelings for his father as a result of those experiences are principally responsible for the dual personality of the tale's protagonist, Ebenezer Scrooge. In 1824, Dickens's father was imprisoned in the Marshalsea and twelve-year-old Charles was forced to take lodgings nearby, pawn his collection of books, leave school, and accept employment in a blacking factory. The boy had a deep sense of class and intellectual superiority and was entirely uncomfortable in the presence of factory workers who referred to him as "the young gentleman". He developed nervous fits. When his father was released at the end of a three month stint, young Dickens was forced to continue working in the factory, which only grieved and humiliated him further. He despaired of ever recovering his former happy life. The devastating impact of the period wounded him psychologically, coloured his work, and haunted his entire life with disturbing memories. Dickens both loved and demonized his father, and it was this psychological conflict that was responsible for the two radically different Scrooges in the tale – one Scrooge, a cold, stingy, and greedy semi-recluse, and the other Scrooge, a benevolent, sociable man whose generosity and goodwill toward all men earn for him a near-saintly reputation.[8] It was during this terrible period in Dickens's childhood that he observed the lives of the men, women, and children in the most impoverished areas of London and witnessed the social injustices they suffered.[9][10]

Dickens in 1842

Dickens was keenly touched by the lot of poor children in the middle decades of the 19th century. In early 1843, he toured the Cornish tin mines where he saw children working in appalling conditions. The suffering he witnessed there was reinforced by a visit to the Field Lane Ragged School, one of several London schools set up for the education of the capital's half-starved, illiterate street children.[11] Inspired by the February 1843 parliamentary report exposing the effects of the Industrial Revolution upon poor children called Second Report of the Children's Employment Commission, Dickens planned in May 1843 to publish an inexpensive political pamphlet tentatively titled, "An Appeal to the People of England, on behalf of the Poor Man's Child" but changed his mind, deferring the pamphlet's production until the end of the year.[12] He wrote Dr. Southwood Smith, one of four commissioners responsible for the Second Report, about his change in plans: "[Y]ou will certainly feel that a Sledge hammer has come down with twenty times the force – twenty thousand times the force – I could exert by following out my first idea." The pamphlet would become A Christmas Carol.[13]

In a fund-raising speech on 5 October 1843 at the Manchester Athenæum (a charitable institution serving the poor), Dickens urged workers and employers to join together to combat ignorance with educational reform,[14][15] and realized in the days following that the most effective way to reach the broadest segment of the population with his social concerns about poverty and injustice was to write a deeply felt Christmas narrative rather than polemical pamphlets and essays.[16][17] It was during his three days in Manchester, he conceived the plot of Carol.[18][16]

The descriptions of long-abandoned English Christmas customs and traditions in Washington Irving's The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent. attracted Dickens,[19] and the two authors shared the belief that the staging of a nostalgic English Christmas might restore a social harmony and well-being lost in the modern world.[20] In "A Christmas Dinner" from Sketches by Boz (1833), Dickens had approached the holiday in a manner similar to Irving, and, in the Pickwick Papers (1837), he offered an idealized vision of an 18th century Christmas at dingley Dell.[20] In the Pickwick episode, a Mr. Wardle relates the tale of Gabriel Grub, a lonely and mean-spirited sexton, who undergoes a Christmas conversion after being visited by goblins who show him the past and future – the prototype of A Christmas Carol.[21][22]

Other likely influences were a visit made by Dickens to the Western Penitentiary in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in April 1842;[23] the decade-long fascination on both sides of the Atlantic with spiritualism;[9] fairy tales and nursery stories (which Dickens regarded as stories of conversion and transformation);[24] contemporary religious tracts about conversion;[24] and the works of Douglas Jerrold in general, but especially "The Beauties of the Police" (1843), a satirical and melodramatic essay about a father and his child forcibly separated in a workhouse,[23] and another satirical essay by Jerrold which may have had a direct influence on Dickens's conception of Scrooge called "How Mr. Chokepear keeps a merry Christmas" (Punch, 1841).[1]

Plot

The Ghost of Christmas Present

The tale begins on Christmas Eve seven years after the death of Ebenezer Scrooge's business partner Jacob Marley. Scrooge is established within the first stave (chapter) as a greedy and stingy businessman who has no place in his life for kindness, compassion, charity, or benevolence. After being warned by Marley's ghost to change his ways, Scrooge is visited by three additional ghosts – each in its turn – who accompany him to various scenes with the hope of achieving his transformation.

The first of the spirits, the Ghost of Christmas Past, takes Scrooge to the scenes of his boyhood and youth which stir the old miser's gentle and tender side by reminding him of a time when he was more innocent. The second spirit, the Ghost of Christmas Present, takes Scrooge to several radically differing scenes (a joy-filled market of people buying the makings of Christmas dinner, the family feast of Scrooge's near-impoverished clerk Bob Cratchit, a miner's cottage, and a lighthouse among other sites) in order to evince from the miser a sense of responsibility for his fellow man. The third spirit, the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come, harrows Scrooge with dire visions of the future if he does not learn and act upon what he has witnessed. Scrooge's own neglected and untended grave is revealed, prompting the miser to aver that he will change his ways in hopes of changing these "shadows of what may be."

In the fifth and final stave, Scrooge awakens Christmas morning with joy and love in his heart, then spends the day with his nephew's family after anonymously sending a prize turkey to the Crachit home for Christmas dinner. Scrooge has become a different man overnight, and now treats his fellow men with kindness, generosity, and compassion, gaining a reputation as a man who embodies the spirit of Christmas. The story closes with the narrator confirming the validity, completeness, and permanence of Scrooge's transformation.

Publication

Dickens began Carol in October 1843,[25] and completed the book in six weeks with the final pages written in the beginning of December.[26] As the result of a feud with his publisher over the meager earnings on previous novel, Martin Chuzzlewit,[27] Dickens declined a lump-sum payment for the tale, chose a percentage of the profits in hopes of making more money thereby, and published the work at his own expense.[26] High production costs however brought him a mere £230 rather than the £1,000 he expected – and needed, as his wife was once again pregnant.[27][28][note 2]

First edition cover

Bound in red cloth with gilt-edged pages,[25][26] the book was published in London by Chapman and Hall, and released on 19 December 1843.[note 3] Four expensive, hand-coloured etchings and four black and white wood engravings by John Leech accompanied the text.[26] Production was not without problems. The drab olive endpapers were replaced for the second printing with yellow endpapers, but, once replaced, clashed with the title page which was then redone.[12][29]

Modestly priced at five shillings,[26] the first run of 6,000 copies sold out by Christmas Eve and the book continued to sell well into the New Year.[12][30] By May 1844, a seventh edition had sold out. In all, twenty-four editions ran in its original form.[31] In spite of the disappointing profits for the author, the book was a huge artistic success with most critics responding positively.[30]

Critical reception

The book received immediate critical acclaim. The Athenaeum declared it, "A tale to make the reader laugh and cry—to open his hands, and open his heart to charity even toward the uncharitable [...] a dainty dish to set before a King."[32] Poet and editor Thomas Hood wrote, "If Christmas, with its ancient and hospitable customs, its social and charitable observances, were ever in danger of decay, this is the book that would give them a new lease. The very name of the author predisposes one to the kindlier feelings; and a peep at the Frontispiece sets the animal spirits capering [...]".[32]

William Makepeace Thackeray in Fraser's Magazine (February 1844) pronounced the book, "a national benefit and to every man or woman who reads it, a personal kindness. The last two people I heard speak of it were women; neither knew the other, or the author, and both said, by way of criticism, 'God bless him!'" Thackeray wrote about Tiny Tim, "There is not a reader in England but that little creature will be a bond of union between the author and him; and he will say of Charles Dickens, as the woman just now, 'GOD BLESS HIM!' What a feeling this is for a writer to inspire, and what a reward to reap!".[32]

Even the caustic critic Theodore Martin (who was usually virulently hostile to Dickens), spoke well of the book, noting it was "[...] finely felt, and calculated to work much social good".[33] A few critics registered their complaints. The New Monthly Magazine, for example, thought the book's physical magnificence kept it from being available to the poor and recommended the tale be printed on cheap paper and priced accordingly. The religious press generally ignored the tale but, in January 1884, Christian Rembrancer thought the tale's old and hackneyed subject was treated in an original way and praised the author's sense of humour and pathos.[34] Dickens later noted that he received "by every post, all manner of strangers writing all manner of letters about their homes and hearths, and how the Carol is read aloud there, and kept on a very little shelf by itself".[35] After Dickens's death, Margaret Oliphant deplored the turkey and plum pudding aspects of the book but admitted that in the days of its first publication it was regarded as "a new gospel" and noted that the book was unique in that it actually made people behave better.[33]

Americans were less enthusiastic. Dickens had wounded their national pride with American Notes for General Circulation and Martin Chuzzlewit, but Carol was too compelling to be dismissed, and, by the end of the American Civil War, copies of the book were in wide circulation.[36] The New York Times published an enthusiastic review in 1863 noting that the author brought the "old Christmas […] of bygone centuries and remote manor houses, into the living rooms of the poor of today" while the North American Review believed Dickens’s "fellow feeling with the race is his genius"; and John Greenleaf Whittier thought the book charming, "inwardly and outwardly".[37]

For Americans, Scrooge’s redemption may have recalled that of the United States as it recovered from war,[38] and the curmudgeon’s charitable generosity to the poor in the final pages a reflection of a similar generosity practiced by Americans as they sought solutions to poverty.[39] The book's issues are detectable from a slightly different perspective in Frank Capra's It's a Wonderful Life (1946) and Scrooge is likely an influence upon Dr. Seuss's How the Grinch Stole Christmas! (1957).[40]

Impact

Parley's Illuminated Library pirated the tale in January 1844,[21] and, though Dickens sued and won his case, the literary pirates simply declared bankruptcy. Dickens was left to pay £700 in costs.[21][41] The entanglements of the various suits Dickens brought against the publishers, his resulting financial losses, and the slim profits from the sale of Carol, greatly disappointed Dickens. He felt a very special affection for the book's moral lesson and its message of love and generosity. In his tale of a man who is given a second chance to live a good life, he was demonstrating to his readers that they, too, could achieve a similar salvation in a selfish world that had blunted their generosity and compassion.[21]

The novella was adapted for the stage almost immediately. Three productions opened on 5 February 1844 with one by Edward Stirling sanctioned by Dickens and running for more than forty nights.[42] By the close of February 1844, eight rival Carol theatrical productions were playing in London.[30] Stirling's version played New York City's Park Theater during the Christmas season of 1844 and was revived in London the same year.[43] Hundreds of newsboys gathered for a musical version of the tale at the Chatham Theater in New York City in 1844 but brawling broke out which was only quashed when offenders were led off by police to The Tombs. Even after order had been restored in the theater, the clamorous cries of one youngster drowned out the bass drum that ushered Marley onto the stage as he rose through a trap door.[44][note 4]

In the years following the book's publication, responses to the tale were published by W. M. Swepstone (Christmas Shadows, 1850), Horatio Alger (Job Warner's Christmas, 1863), Louisa May Alcott (A Christmas Dream, and How It Came True, 1882), and others who followed Scrooge's life as a reformed man – or some who thought Dickens had gotten it wrong and needed to be corrected.[45]

Dickens himself returned to the tale time and again during his life to tweak the phrasing and punctuation,[45] and capitalized on the success of the book by annually publishing other Christmas stories in 1844, 1845, 1846, and 1848.[46] The Chimes, The Cricket on the Hearth, The Battle of Life, and The Haunted Man and the Ghost’s Bargain were all based on the pattern laid down in Carol—a secular conversion tale laced with social injustice.[46] While the public eagerly bought the later books, the critics bludgeoned them.[46] One described The Battle of Life as "the worst ... the very worst", and Dickens himself questioned the story's worth.[47][note 5]

By 1849, Dickens was engaged with David Copperfield and had neither the time nor the inclination to produce another Christmas book.[48] Disappointed with those that followed Carol, he decided the best way to reach his audience with his 'Carol philosophy' was via public readings.[49] In 1853, Carol was the text chosen for his first public reading with the performance an immense success.[13] Thereafter, he read the tale in an abbreviated version 127 times,[49] until 1870 (the year of his death) when it provided the material for his farewell performance.[13][49]

Themes

Dickens wrote in the wake of British government changes to the welfare system known as the Poor Laws, changes which required among other things, welfare applicants to "work" on treadmills. Dickens asks, in effect, for people to recognise the plight of those whom the Industrial Revolution has displaced and driven into poverty, and the obligation of society to provide for them humanely. Failure to do so, the writer implies through the personification of Ignorance and Want as ghastly children, will result in an unnamed "Doom" for those who, like Scrooge, believe their wealth and status qualifies them to sit in judgement of the poor rather than to assist them.[50]

Some critics like Restad have suggested that Scrooge's redemption underscores what they see as the conservative, individualistic, and patriarchal aspects of Dickens's 'Carol philosophy', which propounded the idea of a more fortunate individual willingly looking after a less fortunate one. Personal moral conscience and individual action led in effect to a form of 'noblesse oblige' which was expected of those individuals of means.[39]

Legacy

Whilst the phrase 'Merry Christmas' was popularized following the appearance of the story,[51] and the name 'Scrooge' and exclamation 'Bah! Humbug!' have entered the English language,[52] Ruth Glancy argues the book's singular achievement is the powerful influence it has exerted upon its readers. In the spring of 1844, The Gentleman's Magazine attributed a sudden burst of charitable giving in Britain, to Dickens' novella; in 1874, Robert Louis Stevenson waxed enthusiastic after reading Dickens' Christmas books and vowed to give generously; and Thomas Carlyle expressed a generous hospitality by staging two Christmas dinners after reading the book.[53] In America, a Mr. Fairbanks attended a reading on Christmas Eve in Boston, Massachusetts in 1867, and was so moved he closed his factory on Christmas Day and sent every employee a turkey.[30] In the early years of the 20th century, the Queen of Norway sent gifts to London's crippled children signed "With Tiny Tim's Love"; Sir Squire Bancroft raised £20,000 for the poor by reading the tale aloud publicly; and Captain Corbett-Smith read the tale to the troops in the trenches of World War I.[54]

According to historian Ronald Hutton, the current state of observance of Christmas is largely the result of a mid-Victorian revival of the holiday spearheaded by A Christmas Carol. Hutton argues that Dickens sought to construct Christmas as a family-centered festival of generosity, in contrast to the community-based and church-centered observations, the observance of which had dwindled during the late 18th and early 19th centuries.[55] In superimposing his secular vision of the holiday, Dickens influenced many aspects of Christmas that are celebrated today in Western culture, such as family gatherings, seasonal food and drink, dancing, games, and a festive generosity of spirit.[56]

Adaptations

The story has been adapted to other media including film, opera, ballet, a Broadway musical (1979's Comin' Uptown, which featured an all African-American cast), a BBC mime production starring Marcel Marceau, and Benjamin Britten's 1947 chamber orchestra composition Men of Goodwill: Variations on 'A Christmas Carol.[1] Most recently it was adapted for the screen in 3-D with Disney's A Christmas Carol, directed by Robert Zemeckis and starring Jim Carrey.

References

Notes
  1. ^ The first edition title page in its entirety reads: A CHRISTMAS CAROL. / IN PROSE. / Being / A Ghost Story of Christmas. / BY / CHARLES DICKENS / WITH ILLUSTRATIONS BY JOHN LEECH. / LONDON / CHAPMAN & HALL, 186, STRAND. / MDCCCXLIII.
  2. ^ A year later, the profits were only £744 and Dickens was deeply disappointed (Kelly 17).
  3. ^ Following publication, Dickens arranged for the manuscript to be bound in red Morocco leather and presented as a gift to his solicitor, Thomas Mitton. In 1875, Mitton sold the manuscript to bookseller Francis Harvey reportedly for £50, who sold it to autograph collector, Henry George Churchill, in 1882, who, in turn, sold the manuscript to Bennett, a Birmingham bookseller. Bennett sold it for £200 to Robson and Kerslake of London which sold it to Dickens collector, Stuart M. Samuel for £300. Finally, it was purchased by J. Pierpont Morgan for an undisclosed sum. It is now held by the Pierpont Morgan Library, New York (Douglas-Fairhurst xxx) (Hearn cv,cvi).
  4. ^ Other media adaptations include film, a radio play, and a television version. In all there are at least 28 film versions of the tale. The earliest surviving one is Scrooge, or Marley's Ghost (1901), a silent British version.[1] Six more silent versions followed with one made by Thomas Edison in 1910. The first sound version was made in Britain in 1928. Albert Finney won a Golden Globe as Scrooge in a musical film in 1970 but critical consensus deems the 1951 version starring Alastair Sim the very best adaptation on film (Kelly 28). Other media adaptations include a popular radio play version in 1934 starring Lionel Barrymore, an American television version from the 1940s, and, in 1949, the first commercial sound recording with Ronald Colman (Standiford 171-3).
  5. ^ Dickens liked the title and once considered using it for another novel but chose A Tale of Two Cities instead (Douglas-Fairhurst xxvi).
Footnotes
  1. ^ a b c Douglas-Fairhurst viii
  2. ^ a b Kelly 10
  3. ^ a b Hearn xvi
  4. ^ Kelly 9
  5. ^ Kelly 11
  6. ^ Hearn xiv
  7. ^ Kelly 12
  8. ^ Kelly 14
  9. ^ a b Douglas-Fairhurst xiii
  10. ^ Kelly 12
  11. ^ Hearn xxxii
  12. ^ a b c Glancy x
  13. ^ a b c Ledger 119
  14. ^ Kelly 15
  15. ^ Hearn xxxiii
  16. ^ a b Kelly 15
  17. ^ Douglas-Fairhurst xvi
  18. ^ Hearn xxxiv
  19. ^ Hearn xvii
  20. ^ a b Restad 137
  21. ^ a b c d Kelly 19
  22. ^ Slater xvi
  23. ^ a b Ledger 117
  24. ^ a b Douglas-Fairhurst xxiv
  25. ^ a b Slater 43
  26. ^ a b c d e Douglas-Fairhurst xix
  27. ^ a b Kelly 17
  28. ^ Douglas-Fairhurst xx,xvii
  29. ^ Douglas-Fairhurst xxxi
  30. ^ a b c d Douglas-Fairhurst xx
  31. ^ Glancy 17
  32. ^ a b c Kelly 18
  33. ^ a b Glancy xii
  34. ^ Hearn lvii
  35. ^ Glancy xi
  36. ^ Restad 136
  37. ^ Restad 136-7
  38. ^ Restad 138
  39. ^ a b Restad 139
  40. ^ Restad 166,169
  41. ^ Slater 44
  42. ^ Standiford 168
  43. ^ Standiford 169
  44. ^ Nissenbaum 124
  45. ^ a b Douglas-Fairhurst xxi
  46. ^ a b c Douglas-Fairhurst xxii
  47. ^ Douglas-Fairhurst xxiii
  48. ^ Douglas-Fairhurst xxvii
  49. ^ a b c Douglas-Fairhurst xxviii
  50. ^ Slater 1971 xiv
  51. ^ Cochrane 126
  52. ^ Standiford 183
  53. ^ Glancy xii-xiii
  54. ^ Glancy xiii
  55. ^ Hutton 196
  56. ^ Kelly 9,12
Works cited
  • Cochrane, Robertson (1996). Wordplay: origins, meanings, and usage of the English language. University of Toronto Press. p. 126. ISBN 0802077528. 
  • Dickens, Charles; Douglas-Fairhurst, Robert (ed.) (2006), A Christmas Carol and other Christmas Books, Oxford: Oxford University Press 
  • Dickens, Charles; Glancy, Ruth (1998) [1988], Christmas Books, Oxford World Classics, Oxford: Oxford University Press, ISBN 0-19-283345-5 
  • Dickens, Charles; Hearn, Michael Patrick (ed.) (2004), The Annotated Christmas Carol, W. W. Norton and Co., ISBN 0-393-05158-7 
  • Dickens, Charles; Kelly, Richard Michael (ed.) (2003), A Christmas Carol, Broadview Literary Texts, New York: Broadview Press 
  • Dickens, Charles; Slater, Michael (1971), The Christmas Books, New York: Penguin 
  • Ledger, Sally (2007), Dickens and the Popular Radical Imagination, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, ISBN 978-0-521-84577-9 
  • Glancy, Ruth F. (1985), Dickens's Christmas Books, Christmas Stories, and Other Short Fiction, Michigan: Garland, ISBN 082408988X 
  • Hutton, Ronald (1996), Stations of the Sun: The Ritual Year in England, Oxford: Oxford University Press, ISBN 0-19-285448-8 
  • Nissenbaum, Stephen (1996), The Battle for Christmas, New York: Vintage Books (Random House), ISBN 0-679-74038-4 
  • Rowell, Geoffrey (1993-12), Dickens and the Construction of Christmas, History Today, 43:12 
  • Restad, Penne L. (1995), Christmas in America: a History, Oxford: Oxford University Press, ISBN 0-19-510980-5 
  • Slater, Michael (2007), Charles Dickens, Oxford: Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-0-19-192352-8 
  • Standiford, Les (2004), The Man Who Invented Christmas: How Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol Rescued His Career and Revived Our Holiday Spirits, New York: Crown, ISBN 978-0-307-40578-4 

External links


Quotes

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Title page to the first edition

A Christmas Carol (1843) by Charles Dickens is a Victorian morality tale of an old and bitter miser, Ebenezer Scrooge, who undergoes a profound experience of redemption over the course of one evening.

Contents

Sourced

  • I have endeavoured in this Ghostly little book, to raise the Ghost of an Idea, which shall not put my readers out of humour with themselves, with each other, with the season, or with me.
    • Introduction

Stave 1

  • Old Marley was as dead as a door-nail. Mind! I don't mean to say that I know, of my own knowledge, what there is particularly dead about a door-nail. I might have been inclined, myself, to regard a coffin-nail as the deadest piece of ironmongery in the trade. But the wisdom of our ancestors is in the simile; and my unhallowed hands shall not disturb it, or the Country's done for. You will therefore permit me to repeat, emphatically, that Marley was as dead as a door-nail.
  • Oh! But he was a tight-fisted hand at the grindstone, Scrooge! a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous, old sinner! Hard and sharp as flint, from which no steel had ever struck out generous fire; secret, and self-contained, and solitary as an oyster.
  • "Bah!" said Scrooge, "Humbug!"
  • I should have liked, I do confess, to have had the lightest license of a child, and yet to have been man enough to know its value.
  • "Merry Christmas! What right have you to be merry? What reason have you to be merry? You're poor enough." "Come, then," returned the nephew gaily. "What right have you to be dismal? What reason have you to be morose? You're rich enough."
  • "If I could work my will," said Scrooge indignantly, "Every idiot who goes about with 'Merry Christmas' on his lips, should be boiled with his own pudding, and buried with a stake of holly through his heart. He should!"
  • But I am sure I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come round — apart from the veneration due to its sacred name and origin, if anything belonging to it can be apart from that — as a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time; the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys.
Marley's Ghost visits Scrooge
  • "Why do you doubt your senses?" [asks Marley's Ghost] "Because," said Scrooge, "a little thing affects them. A slight disorder of the stomach makes them cheats. You may be an undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of an underdone potato. There's more of gravy than of grave about you, whatever you are!"
  • "Man of the worldly mind!" replied the Ghost, "do you believe in me or not?" "I do," said Scrooge. "I must. But why do spirits walk the earth, and why do they come to me?" "It is required of every man," the Ghost returned, "that the spirit within him should walk abroad among his fellowmen, and travel far and wide; and if that spirit goes not forth in life, it is condemned to do so after death. It is doomed to wander through the world — oh, woe is me! — and witness what it cannot share, but might have shared on earth, and turned to happiness!"
  • "You are fettered," said Scrooge, trembling. "Tell me why?" "I wear the chain I forged in life," replied the Ghost. "I made it link by link, and yard by yard; I girded it on of my own free will, and of my own free will I wore it. Is its pattern strange to you?" Scrooge trembled more and more. "Or would you know," pursued the Ghost, "the weight and length of the strong coil you bear yourself? It was full as heavy and as long as this, seven Christmas Eves ago. You have laboured on it since. It is a ponderous chain!"
  • "Business!" cried the Ghost, wringing its hands again. "Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence were all my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!"

Stave 2

  • "Who, and what are you?" Scrooge demanded. "I am the Ghost of Christmas Past." "Long Past?" inquired Scrooge: observant of its dwarfish stature. "No. Your past." Perhaps, Scrooge could not have told anybody why, if anybody could have asked him; but he had a special desire to see the Spirit in his cap; and begged him to be covered. "What!" exclaimed the Ghost, "Would you so soon put out, with worldly hands, the light I give? Is it not enough that you are one of those whose passions made this cap, and force me through whole trains of years to wear it low upon my brow!"
  • In came a fiddler with a music-book, and went up to the lofty desk, and made an orchestra of it, and tuned like fifty stomach-aches. In came Mrs. Fezziwig, one vast substantial smile.

Stave 3

  • "Gentlemen of the free-and-easy sort, who plume themselves on being acquainted with a move or two, and being usually equal to the time-of-day, express the wide range of their capacity for adventure by observing that they are good for anything from pitch-and-toss to manslaughter; between which opposite extremes, no doubt, there lies a tolerably wide and comprehensive range of subjects."
  • "I am the Ghost of Christmas Present," said the Spirit. "Look upon me!"
  • "God bless us every one!" said Tiny Tim, the last of all.
  • "There are some upon this earth of yours," returned the Spirit, "who lay claim to know us, and who do their deeds of passion, pride, ill-will, hatred, envy, bigotry, and selfishness in our name, who are as strange to us and all our kith and kin, as if they had never lived. Remember that, and charge their doings on themselves, not us."
  • "Will you decide what men shall live, what men shall die? It may be, that in the sight of Heaven, you are more worthless and less fit to live than millions like this poor man's child. Oh God. to hear the Insect on the leaf pronouncing on the too much life among his hungry brothers in the dust."

Stave 4

The Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come
  • "I am in the presence of the Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come?" said Scrooge. The Spirit answered not, but pointed onward with its hand. "You are about to show me shadows of the things that have not happened, but will happen in the time before us," Scrooge pursued. "Is that so, Spirit?" The upper portion of the garment was contracted for an instant in its folds, as if the Spirit had inclined its head. That was the only answer he received.
  • Oh cold, cold, rigid, dreadful Death, set up thine altar here, and dress it with such terrors as thou hast at thy command: for this is thy dominion! But of the loved, revered, and honoured head, thou canst not turn one hair to thy dread purposes, or make one feature odious. It is not that the hand is heavy and will fall down when released; it is not that the heart and pulse are still; but that the hand was open, generous, and true; the heart brave, warm, and tender; and the pulse a man’s. Strike, Shadow, strike! And see his good deeds springing from the wound, to sow the world with life immortal!
  • "Men's courses will foreshadow certain ends, to which, if persevered in, they must lead,' said Scrooge. 'But if the courses be departed from, the ends will change. Say it is thus with what you show me."
  • "I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach!"

Stave 5

  • He had no further intercourse with Spirits, but lived upon the Total Abstinence Principle, ever afterwards; and it was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge. May that be truly said of us, and all of us! And so, as Tiny Tim observed, God bless Us, Every One!

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Up to date as of January 22, 2010

From Wikisource

A Christmas Carol
by Charles Dickens
A Christmas Carol in Prose, Being a Ghost Story of Christmas was first published in 1843 and was illustrated by John Leech. The story met with instant success, selling six thousand copies within a week. Originally written as a potboiler to enable Dickens to pay off a debt, the tale has become one of the most popular and enduring Christmas stories of all time. — Excerpted from A Christmas Carol on Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
Speaker Icon.svg one or more chapters are available in a spoken word format.
Frontpiece, first edition 1843
PD-icon.svg This work published before January 1, 1923 is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.


Simple English

[[File:|thumb|300px|A Christmas Carol front piece]] A Christmas Carol is a famous book by the English writer Charles Dickens. It was first published on December 17, 1843. The pictures inside were drawn by John Leech. The story has a strong moral message against greed, among other things. It is usually read at Christmas time and has been adapted to theatre, film, radio, and television many times.

Plot

The story is about Ebenezer Scrooge. At the beginning of the book he is a mean old man who runs a business lending people money. These people are poor and often cannot pay him back. He pays his clerk Bob Cratchit badly.

On Christmas Eve, Scrooge refuses an invitation to his nephew's house for Christmas dinner, telling him he hates it (he calls it a "Humbug"). He then refuses to give money to two men who are collecting for charity.

Later that evening, he is visited by the ghost of his dead business partner Jacob Marley, who went to Hell because of his bad life. He tells Scrooge that the same future will happen to him unless he changes and that during the night he will be visited by three more ghosts. These will show him where he went wrong in his life, and how to be a better person in the future.

The first ghost is the Ghost of Christmas Past. This ghost shows him where he went wrong in the past, showing him his unhappy childhood and how he did not get married.

The second ghost is the Ghost of Christmas Present. This ghost shows him things which are happening now, such as how his clerk, Bob Cratchit, is having a nice Christmas despite not having much money. He also shows him Bob's youngest son, Tiny Tim, who is crippled. Later, the ghost shows him how his nephew is having a good Christmas, and how Scrooge is missing out.

The third ghost is the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come. This ghost shows Scrooge what Christmas will be like in the future if he does not change. Firstly, people are shown celebrating a man's death and robbing from his house. The ghost also shows him that Tiny Tim has died. Scrooge is then shown his own grave, and realizes that the celebrations were for his death.

On Christmas morning, Scrooge wakes up and realizes that he has to change. He decides to celebrate Christmas, and help Tiny Tim get better. Through the ghosts' help he becomes a better man.

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