Tag Archives: dickens

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.

Please sir, may I have some more?

A very interesting article discussing the actual diet at poor houses and workhouses during the 1830s, and addressing the question of whether Oliver Twist would indeed have wanted some more.

For the record, the folks on the DICKENS-L mailing list feel that the article is somewhat light on actual research material, and ignores numerous other studies, including several investigations prior to the 1934 Poor Law act which Dickens was responding to. Some of these investigations concerned bills of delivery not actually matching what was delivered, and others concerned rats finding the rancid meat before the orphans did. Delightful stuff. Just goes to show you can’t believe everything you read in the BMJ. 😉

The “Dickens Invented Christmas” myth

The following very interesting remark came across the Dickens mailing list this morning. I reproduce it in full, since I can’t state it more clearly than Patrick did:

Friends of the Dickens Forum:

We never cease marveling at the perennial, widespread popularity
of Dickens, and–the point here–the variety and uncritical means people
find to connect themselves, even profit by, the popularity. We were taken
aback this morning by an item passed on to us by Harry Moskovitz, an
assiduous Dickensian. Here is the notice:
The Man Who Invented Christmas, Being The True Story of How Charles
Dickens’ A Christmas Carol Rescued His Career and Revived Our Holiday

Author Les Standiford will speak about his new book, The Man Who Invented
Christmas, Being The True Story of How Charles Dickens “A Christmas Carol”
Rescued His Career and Revived Our Holiday Spirits. Publishers Weekly
“Standiford (The Last Train to Paradise) covers an impressive amount of
ground, from the theological underpinnings of Christmas to Dickens’s
rocky relations with America, evolving copyright laws and an explanation
of how A Christmas Carol became responsible for the slaughter of more
turkeys than geese in the months of November and December.”

Host: _Henry Flagler Museum_ (http://www.flaglermuseum.com/)

Standiford, we learn elsewhere, is best known as a mystery
writer, now alert to what the public will read about Dickens. In this
instance he has pounced upon the often stated journalistic claim that
Dickens invented Christmas.

That David Parker published an excellent study of the claim in
2005, refuting it thoroughly, must be the inconvenient fact that
Standiford would ignore. Parker’s fine book is _Christmas and Charles
Dickens_, published by AMS press and reviewed, with a measured quality of
scholarly competence, in the _Dickens Quarterly_ of September, 2006 .

The review may be read on the web by asking Google to find “David
Parker and Dickens.”

Your editor,

Patrick McCarthy
Emeritus, UC Santa Barbara

Unfortunately, as later noted on the list, Parker’s book “Christmas and Charles Dickens” is hard to come by, and tends to cost around $150. But if you’re looking for Christmas gift ideas for me …

Giles Davies

Last night we drove up to Oxford, OH, to see Giles Davies perform his night of Dickens. It was absolutely worth the drive.

He started with a piece from The Uncommercial Traveler, in which he, playing Dickens, discussed his visits to Boston and New York, in (I believe) 1859. This piece was very funny – although people at the time found it quite insulting.

Then, after the intermission, he did an excerpt from Oliver Twist, going from just before Nancy’s murder, up to Bill Sykes hanging himself. It was gripping, and although he was playing 4 different characters throughout the piece, he was very convincing, and perfectly in character with each one.

If you get the opportunity to see Giles Davies, it’s worth driving a little out of your way to go see him.

Marley was dead …

Tonight I’ll be doing my annual unabridged Christmas Carol reading. Fairly small gathering this time, due to timing, and lots of people traveling. I haven’t put a lot of time into it this year, but I think it’ll be fun. It always is. I might record it again this year, if I get my act together early enough in the day.