When Charles Dickens’ classic yuletide tale, A Christmas Carol, was first published in 1843 there was a feeling throughout Great Britain that the moral fibre of society was slowly disintegrating. Not only this but Christmastime itself was already becoming immensely unpopular and, as a consequence, was beginning to die out, particularly in Britain.
Queen Victoria had only been on the throne for six years and her husband, Prince Albert, had already begun to introduce new elements into the celebration of Christmas from his homeland of Germany (most famously the Christmas tree and the Christmas card). The consequences of this, along with the timely publication of Dickens’ first Christmas Book, had a considerable impact upon the way Victorian society began to perceive this ancient Christian festival.
It has often been said that Charles Dickens’ set of five Christmas Books, A Christmas Carol in particular, had an enormous influence on the sudden resurrection in the popularity of Christmas in the mid-1800s, and there’s no doubt it is still one of the most treasured and beloved works of literary fiction, either a Christmas or anyother time of the year.
I’ve said this before somewhere on this blog, but - I read this novel every year in the run up to Christmas; starting on December 20th, with one chapter a day, finishing on Christmas Eve. Have done for the past two decades. It’s as much a part of the Christmas tradition for me as turkey and stuffing!
The novel’s grimmest moments come, perhaps, at the conclusion of the Third Stave, as the first chimes of midnight have begun to toll and the Ghost of Christmas Present is about depart.
"It might be a claw, for the flesh there is upon it," was the Spirit's sorrowful reply. "Look here."
From the foldings of its robe, it brought two children; wretched, abject, frightful, hideous, miserable. They knelt down at its feet, and clung upon the outside of its garment.
"Oh, Man, look here! Look, look, down here!" exclaimed the Ghost.
They were a boy and a girl. Yellow, meagre, ragged, scowling, wolfish; but prostrate, too, in their humility. Where graceful youth should have filled their features out, and touched them with its freshest tints, a stale and shrivelled hand, like that of age, had pinched, and twisted them, and pulled them into shreds. Where angels might have sat enthroned, devils lurked, and glared out menacing. No change, no degradation, no perversion of humanity, in any grade, through all the mysteries of wonderful creation, has monsters half so horrible and dread.
Scrooge started back, appalled. Having them shown to him in this way, he tried to say they were fine children, but the words choked themselves, rather than be parties to a lie of such enormous magnitude.
"Spirit, are they yours?" Scrooge could say no more.
"They are Man's," said the Spirit, looking down upon them. "And they cling to me, appealing from their fathers. This boy is Ignorance. This girl is Want. Beware them both, and all of their degree, but most of all beware this boy, for on his brow I see that written which is Doom, unless the writing be erased. Deny it!" cried the Spirit, stretching out its hand towards the city. "Slander those who tell it ye. Admit it for your factious purposes, and make it worse. And abide the end." “
- Scrooge (Film - 1951)
- Scrooge (BBC Radio - 1951)
- A Christmas Carol (BBC Radio - 1953)
- A Christmas Carol (Richard Williams short animated - 1971)
- A Christmas Carol (BBC TV - 1977)
- Mickey’s Christmas Carol (Disney animated - 1983)
- A Christmas Carol (Film - 1984)
- The Muppet Christmas Carol (Film - 1992)