“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. May it haunt their houses pleasantly, and no one wish to lay it.”
-Charles Dickens, December, 1843.
“There seems a magic in the very name of Christmas.” -Dickens, in his story, “A Christmas Dinner.”
Charles Dickens expressed how he felt about Christmas most eloquently when he put these words in the mouth of Fred, Scrooge’s affable nephew: “…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. And therefore, though it has never put a scrap of gold or silver in my pocket, I believe that it has done me good, and will do me good; and I say, God bless it!”
To that I can only add a hearty “Amen,” for it sums up my feelings about it in a way I could never equal.
One day, when I am in Heaven by the grace of God, I intend to seek out and meet Charles Dickens (who also trusted in the grace of God through Christ) and tell him just how much his story, “A Christmas Carol,” has meant to me. Here, on Earth, my attempt at words would be inadequate; but in Heaven, where we shall “know even as we are known,” mere human vocabulary will be no hindrance to the full expression of my appreciation for writing such an inspiring and heart-warming story.
There is something about the book that lifts it above all others written by the author; indeed, above all other fictional works written by anyone. When compared to the author’s other writings, “A Christmas Carol” stands uniquely apart as sheer perfection. One could almost feel it was Heaven-inspired, considering the effect it had on not only the readers (or hearers), but on Dickens himself, as he wrote it.
The act of writing A Christmas Carol moved Dickens most profoundly. During its composition, he wrote a friend that he “wept and laughed, and wept again, and excited himself in a most extraordinary manner in the composition; and thinking whereof, he walked about the black streets of London fifteen and twenty miles many a night, when all the sober folks had gone to bed.”
The public was equally enthralled by it. Writing of his first audiences at a reading of the Carol he said, ‘They lost nothing, misinterpreted nothing, followed everything closely, laughed and cried, and animated me to that extent that I felt we were all bodily going up into the clouds together.”
Countless people through the decades since it was written have tried to express what it means to them. Since the story’s first publication, people whom it moved deeply have reached within their own talents to sing its praises. In the February 3, 1844 issue of the Illustrated London News, someone wrote and contributed this poem about Dickens’ holiday tale:
TO CHARLES DICKENS, ON HIS “CHRISTMAS CAROL.”
Honour to Genius! When its lofty speech
Stirs through the soul, and wakes its echoing strings:
But honour tenfold! When its day-words reach
The selfish heart, and there let loose the springs
Of pity, gushing blood-warm from a breach
Rent in its close-bound, stony coverings.
Yea! Tenfold honour, and the love of men,
The kind, the good, attend on Genius then,
And bless and sanctify those words divine.
Such words, Charles Dickens, truly have been thine;
And thou hast earned true glory with all love:
Long may the torch of Christmas gladly shine
Upon thy home, while voices from above
Music thy carol and again impart
Mirth and good tidings to the poor man’s heart.
-W. W. G.
My first exposure to this story, as a child, was in the form of the 1951 film by George Minter starring Alastair Sim as Scrooge, which has remained my favorite throughout the years. The film brings to vivid life the chilly bareness of London in winter, and Scrooge’s equally cold and empty soul. The emotion generated by Scrooge’s realization of his past losses, and the warmth of his subsequent change, are felt all the more against this stark backdrop. The feelings of joy brought by his new beginning are equaled by no other actor or adaptation. Sim brings a real personality to the role, making Scrooge a real person, rather than merely a stereotypical old curmudgeon.
It was this film that caused me to seek out and read the original story, which was an even richer experience, and the yearly reading of which has made all of my Christmases since brighter and merrier. (For a closer look at the film, and what it contributes to the story Dickens wrote, click here.)
“For it is good to be children sometimes, and never better than at Christmas when its mighty Founder was a child himself.” -Dickens
One of my favorite Christmas Eve traditions as I grew up was to take out the worn hard-back edition of the book that my mother had been given when she was a child. The pages were somewhat yellowed, and the pages becoming brittle, but it was the very oldness of the volume– the slightly musty smell of the paper, the cracked binding– that made it all the more special. It somehow connected me in a more intimate way with the events of the story, which was old in itself. And having been named after the character of Scrooge’s persistently cheerful nephew, Fred, how could I not feel connected?
Through the years, and over the course of several moves, the book was somehow lost. But a few years ago while moving into another home we had just bought, I opened the closet in the empty room that was going to be my home office, and found– the only item left in the house– an old edition of a slim red book. Picking it up, I read the title with amazement; “A Christmas Carol.” It seemed a confirmation of the rightness of having moved there. This is now the version I take out each Christmas season and read through a number of times. How the story affects me! Like meeting old friends and family on the holidays, reading anew about each familiar character, event and location in the story brings joy.
When I am on the road during the holiday season, I always listen to my CDs of Patrick Stewart doing a dramatic reading of the story. No finer reading has ever been made, in my opinion. So memorable is his interpretation that it has influenced my reading of the story, and as I read it now, I hear in my mind Stewart’s inflections, making it even more enjoyable. Visit the page devoted to that performance, as well as the 1999 TNT movie featuring Stewart in the role of Scrooge.
Another holiday favorite is listening to the radio version originally aired live in 1939 on the CBS Campbell Playhouse broadcast. Featuring Lionel Barrymore as Scrooge, narrated by Orson Welles, and produced by the famous Mercury Radio Theatre troupe, this excellent broadcast is a piece of pre-War history that illustrates live radio at its best. It’s hard to imagine, listening to it in our day, just how much work and effort went into producing a live broadcast of this complexity. You can enjoy it for yourself on CD, now available for ordering on this site, by going to this page.
Our family always makes it a point to watch Sim’s 1951 film at least a couple of times during December. Not to miss any of the other wonderful versions; we watch those as well (especially the excellent musical version, “Scrooge,” starring Albert Finney).
The source story is so powerful that it is effective in any form; even when many of its familiar characters are animated, as in Disney’s excellent version, or portrayed by Muppets, as in the enjoyably comic (yet remarkably, and touchingly, reverent) “Muppet Christmas Carol.”
But none seem to capture the spirit of the book as well as Sim’s version, nor any actor as brilliant in the role as he. For that reason, I have scattered images from the film throughout the story on this site, where it compliments the text. I hope that you enjoy this melding of the two, and that this site helps make your holiday a little brighter.
The story of Scrooge, Marley, Tiny Tim, and the rest, is so familiar to people from the various adaptations, that many assume they know the story… but when hard-pressed to recall having actually sat down to read it, realize that they never actually have! If you have never read Dicken’s book, then you are missing out on the greatest appreciation and enjoyment of the story. No visual reproduction could ever touch the magic of the prose that he created. This site is maintained in the hopes of encouraging the reading of the story, and sharing that magic… whether for the first time, or another wonderful time of many.
So, to echo Tiny Tim, “God bless us, every one!”