Tag Archives: a-christmas-carol

The kind hand of The Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come

I’m on a Charles Dickens mailing list. Have been for 15 years or more. A noted Dickens scholar, who performs Dickens all year, and does A Christmas Carol several dozen times a year, asked this:

After 25 seasons of touring Dickens’ solo “A Christmas Carol” there is a line which while I don’t perform it still niggles at the back of my mind. Scrooge in the “dismal wretched ruinous church yard” and pleading for a second chance says, “Good Spirit…Your nature intercedes for me, and pities me. Assure me that I yet may change these shadows you have shown me, by an altered life.” Dickens then tells us that, “The kind hand trembled.” The adjective has always puzzled me. Why “kind”? Is Dickens merely adumbrating Scrooge’s redemption – how I’ve always interpreted it – or am I missing something deeper and more sublime? Thank you all in advance. – John D. Huston

To me, this one scene is what the entire book is about.

The ghost of Christmas Yet To Come is the most hopeful of all of the
ghosts, and the most kind. It’s the only one that has a chance of
redeeming Scrooge. Or, rather, not redeeming him, but giving him the chance to redeem himself.

Past is reminding him of things he can no longer change. Not only that, but Past is kind of a jerk about it, rubbing his nose in the worst bits, and insisting that he see one more thing when he’s already had enough.

Present just tells it like it is. Present is even a bit of a silly comic figure, with a very short memory, and who can only see now. Except for his brief moment scolding Scrooge about Scrooge’s definition of “surplus population”, Present is all happy and bouncy. But not kind.

Future is the one who is *truly* there for Scrooge’s salvation, and so is the most kind of the three, even though it is the most frightening – frightening because it requires that Scrooge fundamentally change, and be the “fool” that he accuses Fred of being.

I absolutely love this scene. It almost brings me to tears every time.
He is, indeed, very kind. Kind enough to break the rules a little, and
let Scrooge in on the secret that he can change his future. I also
always remember Patrick Stewart’s rendition of this scene, where he suddenly grasps the reality that he can change the future, and fix what is broken. That moment when Patrick Stewart says “aaaaahhhhh!” is the climax of the entire movie. And it’s the only movie rendition that really gets that scene right.

I’m doing a reading next Friday evening for my friends – like I do every year. And there are some parts of the story that are hard to get through because of how much they mean to me, personally. The opportunity of a second chance is what this book is all about.


This semester I’ve been writing a weekly article for the Collegian, the Asbury College newspaper. Although it wasn’t my intent, it has become a technology-themed column, and has been recently christened “Geek Speak”. So I’m rather type-cast.

I wrote this article for that column, but it didn’t go where I intended it to go, and so it doesn’t fit the theme of the column. It’s still a work in progress, but I need to work on some other things, and so I offer it for your consideration.


I Wish You A Scroogey Christmas

About this time every year, I start reading “A Christmas Carol”, by Charles Dickens. It’s been a favorite book of mine for many years, and I’ve read it at least once a year for the last 10 years or so.

From the first revelation that Marley was dead, to begin with, to the last “God bless us, every one”, it keeps me captivated by the sense that I know Scrooge as though he were my very self. The angst about how I have spent my life starts to plague me as I look back over Scrooge’s life with him. Did I choose the right career path? Did I choose the right wife? Have I given my daughter the right kind of upbringing?

It is very easy, if you only know the Scrooge of movies and popular culture, to condemn him without understanding that, while he did indeed make the decisions that got him where he is, it’s much more complicated than that. Isn’t it always?

His father hated him, because his mother died giving birth, and young Ebeneezer spends his early years exiled to a boarding school, not even permitted to come home for school holidays until he is nearly a man. He spends those early years watching his friends go home to loving homes, while he spends Christmas in the schoolroom.

He wanted to provide a better life for Belle than he had, and, somewhere, got distracted along the way, “until the master-passion, Gain, engrosses” him. But, if you think about it, how many people you know have thrown their lives into their work, and lost sight of the things that really matter. If you’re honest, haven’t you done that, more than once?

Yes, he made choices, and he is a caricature, but he is also very human.

What amazes me about Scrooge is that he is willing to change. When you get to a certain point in life, it takes enormous courage to change, even when you can see that what you’ve been doing is wrong. There are expectations that people have of you. And there are the people that will say “I told you so” when you change, and you just *can’t* give them that satisfaction. They will surely, like Cratchit, seize up a poker to defend themselves, certain that there’s some trick.

People often ask me why I love the book so much. The reasons are far from simple. Certainly the collection that I’ve built of Christmas Carol books and movies is a little over the top. Most of those are for the beautiful artwork, since they all tell the same story.

I love the book because I am Scrooge. I read it every year because, each year, Scrooge speaks to me in a different way. One year, I agonize over the mistakes of the past, and another year I am made aware of the vast opportunity to do useful things in the present that will make a better future. And I’m reminded of the enormous impact that is made by even the tiny, seemingly trivial things that we do.

Sometimes I merely revel in the beauty of a winter day, and the people going about their business, touched by the joy that comes from Christmas.

It is ever a shame that the word “Scrooge” has entered our vocabulary as a synonym for the Stave One Scrooge. It would be even more a shame it if had come to mean the Stave Five Scrooge. Both of these characters are caricature, and not particularly interesting. The real Scrooge appears in the central three staves, where he discovers who he really is, and why he is that, and recognizes what he can do about it.

I wish you all a profoundly Scroogey Advent season.

A Christmas Carol

So, I finally finished it. Thanks for your patience. I’ve been wanting to do this for a long time, and it’s very cool to have finally done it.

Yes, there are other recordings of this book. And I certainly don’t think think this is the best one. However, I have my own interpretation of things, and it’s nice to be able to communicate that.

I’d be glad to make audio CDs for folks that want them. I just need to cover my costs. And I suppose I wouldn’t mind making a $ or 2 from it. Anyways, it is 4 CDs. If you’re around here, give me 4 CDs, or $5, and I’ll get you the disks. If you’re not around here, send me $10, and I’ll send you CDs. Send me $20, and I might even contrive to print spiffy labels for the CDs.

Or, if you want to download the MP3s and make your own CDs, you can, of course, do that. The audio is explicitly placed into the public domain, or under the HJTI license, if you prefer. Bend, spindle, and mutillate. Nothing would make me happier than to think that my recordings were being redistributed. Or even being given as gifts.

A Christmas Carol, Stave 1 preview

Just to give you a quick preview of what I’m working on for later this month, here’s
A Christmas Carol, stave 1, preview recording.

I’ve heard a number of recordings of ACC, and I don’t really like any of them. Patrick Stewart’s is pretty good, but it’s abridged. There are several complete recordings, but none of them seem to know what the book is about.

For those of you who have been listening to the Edward Lear recordings, sorry for the interruption. 😉