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A Christmas Carol > A Christmas Carol Stave One

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message 1: by Peter (last edited Dec 02, 2018 06:00AM) (new)

Peter | 2979 comments Mod
Stave One

Our December tradition is to read together one of the five Christmas Books that Dickens wrote. This year it is the first of his books, and I think it fair to say the most famous of the Christmas books. A Christmas Carol was published in December of 1843 and rapidly became a classic. I imagine we have all uttered the words “bah humbug,” called someone a Scrooge, and can recall Tiny Tim’s famous last words of the story. As for the main character Scrooge, his name is now synonymous with those who are misery with their money and harbour cold in their hearts.

Since most - if not all of us - know the story, to prepare this commentary I thought we could look at some of the novella’s interesting stylistic features. Please feel free to add your own comments and questions. As we sit around our fires, gaze upon our trees, and share the season with family and friends, let us enjoy the magic of the season with our reading Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol.

The novella opens on Christmas Eve with one of the many classic opening lines that Dickens is famous for: “Marley was dead, to begin with. There was no doubt whatever about that.” Two sentences. Clear, short, and assertive. But why begin a Christmas story with a death? Death and door-nails? Quite a pairing, yet appropriate as Dickens points out. The reader is then given a quick reference to Shakespeare’s Hamlet and then a touch of London with the mention of St. Paul’s Churchyard. Death all around. Did you, however, note the tone of the narrator’s voice? It has a touch of humour, almost of whimsy. The voice of this Christmas tale is one to pay attention to as there always seems to be a glint of light, much like moonlight on freshly fallen snow, as our tale unfolds.

Another stylistic touch that may be interesting to follow is how Dickens blends sounds into the story. Consider how the following sentence has a discordant, unpleasant, edge to it:

“Oh! but he was a right-fisted hand at the grindstone, Scrooge! a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous old sinner ! Hard and sharp s flint, from which no steel had ever struck out generous fire;”

The poetic word is onomatopoeia. The words and the character of the man form a perfect match. Dickens then follows this description of Scrooge with multiple “s” sounds which tend to soften, but, at the same time, help establish his frozen features. Scrooge is depicted as “secret, and self-contained, and solitary as an oyster.” Again, sounds are present and in the forefront of the story. Scrooge is so solitary even “the blind men’s dogs ... tug their owners into doorways.”

Thoughts

Scrooge is one of the best known characters in literature, and has also appeared in numerous movies, theatrical productions, commercial advertisements, and private readings. What are your most vivid impressions of Scrooge in stage, screen, television and, of course, the novella itself?


In Scrooge’s office we meet his nephew and his clerk Bob Cratchit. Both characters are warm, friendly individuals. Scrooge’s nephew asks Scrooge to dine with him and his family on Christmas Day. Scrooge has no time for either his nephew or Christmas. As for Bob Cratchit, Scrooge reluctantly gives him Christmas Day off. Scrooge sends his nephew out the door with the comment that love and marriage are the one thing more ridiculous than Christmas. Next, two “portly gentleman” come to Scrooge and ask for a donation. Scrooge refuses. Scrooge believes that since prisons, Union workhouses, the Treadmill and the Poor Law exist they should continue their “useful course” in taking care of the poor. Scrooge claims he supports the institutions he just mentioned and, if the poor should wish to die, then so be it.


Thoughts

Scrooge pays his taxes. That, he believes, is enough. The gentlemen seeing it useless to press Scrooge and leave. To what extent do you think such situations and attitudes continue to this day?


The day wanes, darkness comes, and, along with it, comes a fog. The setting changes from one of commerce during the day to the presence of night and loneliness. Again Dickens employs verbal sounds to create a sound picture. The night is “[p]iercing, searching, biting cold.” Scrooge takes his “melancholy dinner in his usual melancholy tavern” and heads towards his “dreary” home to go to bed. As Scrooge approaches his door he notices that his door knocker has inexplicably formed into the shape of his dead partner Marley’s face. Strange yes, upsetting perhaps, but Scrooge continues into his home, taking the slight precaution to double lock himself in. Sitting in his chair, Scrooge sees a disused bell begin to ring, followed by every bell in the entire house. Here again we have a soundscape. Bells, Christmas Eve. Dickens, however, takes this trope and invests a new meaning to it. More sounds, this time a “booming sound. And then Marley, or that would be Marley’s ghost, is in the room.


Thoughts


To what extent do you think Dickens has borrowed some elements of ACC from his Gothic predecessors? The Victorian reader was accustomed to ghostly tales at Christmas. In PP we remember the story of Gabriel Grub. Why might Gothic and ghostly tales have been so popular to the Victorian reading public?


Scrooge manages to ask the ghost of his business partner “What do you want with me?” to which he receives the cryptic answer “Much !” Marley’s ghost tells Scrooge that ghosts are “doomed to wander through the earth and witness what it cannot, but might have shared on earth, and turned to happiness.” Marley tells Scrooge that he never wandered “beyond the narrow limits of our money-changing hole; and weary journeys lie before me.” There is more clanking of chains. This Christmas Eve is one of grating noise not joy and celebration. Is life one of business or one to celebrate Humankind? Marley tells Scrooge that he is here on earth to tell Scrooge that he has a chance of avoiding his fate. Marley also tells Scrooge that he will be visited by Three Spirits. Ever the businessman, Scrooge tries to negotiate a different timetable for the visits of the Spirits, but apparently Spirits operate on their own patterns and timetables. Marley’s ghost leaves Scrooge’s rooms and when Scrooge goes to the window he sees that “the air was filled with phantoms ... moaning as they went.” Everyone wore chains like Marley. Noise, more noise.

Scrooge went to bed without undressing and fell asleep.


Thoughts

Sounds, all kinds of sounds, mostly discordant. To what extent do/did you recall ACC to be one of sound? What might be the reason for the presence of such sounds?



Marley, in death, is warning Scrooge to change his life. Why might it be more effective for a ghost to change a person’s perspective on life than a living person?

Any other initial comments on this wonderful text?


A random thought from me. I have just finished reading Francine Prose’s What to Read and Why In this book is a chapter on Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. The chapter outlines the essential parts of a Gothic novel. I was preparing this commentary as I read this chapter and it struck me how much A Christmas Carol has many of the characteristics of a Gothic tale. For instance, some of the characteristics of a Gothic novel include elements of the supernatural, presence of the grotesque, the theme of flight and pursuit, and the presence of terror. The narrative of a Gothic novel is frequently framed by multiple sources of story telling which may include such techniques as letters, multiple narrators, and flashbacks which will combine to braid the plot together. Often, more than one story is presented, with each story forming a part of the overall text. There is often a central love interest or revelation that occurs in the story.

Now, I won’t be presenting my next commentary from the Gothic perspective, but thought it might be of interest to offer the suggestion that A Christmas Carol could be wrapped in some of the traditional Gothic elements of literature. A little extra present for you this season.


message 2: by Peter (new)

Peter | 2979 comments Mod
For those of you who would like to read a very insightful book which discusses different sounds in Victorian novels you might enjoy Victorian Soundscapes.


message 3: by Mary Lou (last edited Dec 02, 2018 09:26AM) (new)

Mary Lou | 2265 comments Peter wrote: "Scrooge tries to negotiate a different timetable for the visits of the Spirits, but apparently Spirits operate on their own patterns and timetables..."

Your comment is one that leads into a question I have, but that is better left for the end of our reading. I make a note of it here in the hopes that it will jog my memory when that time comes. :-)

In the meantime, I'll ask this question: Why was it, do you suppose, that Victorians enjoyed ghost stories for Christmas? Did they observe Halloween or All Saints' Day? Seems as if those would be more appropriate times for ghost stories and, indeed, that is when we tend to tell them these days, unless it be around a campfire or at an adolescent's slumber party. The ghostly element of ACC always stood out to me as making it unique, but it seems that wouldn't have been the case in the 1800s. Today, of course, Christmas movies are all about romance, and/or not letting professional ambition interfere with family life.


message 4: by Peter (new)

Peter | 2979 comments Mod
Mary Lou wrote: "Peter wrote: "Scrooge tries to negotiate a different timetable for the visits of the Spirits, but apparently Spirits operate on their own patterns and timetables..."

Your comment is one that leads..."


Hi Mary Lou

I just googled “why did the Victorians like telling ghost stories at Christmas” and got a Christmas stocking full of great answers ranging from sources as diverse as The Smithsonian to The Guardian. Have a quick peek at some of the sites when time permits. Amazing information.


message 5: by John (new)

John (jdourg) | 1033 comments I know Chuzzlewit came out his 1842 visit to America. I wonder if any latent unhappiness about that trip gave us a decidedly negative chap like Scrooge.


Xan Shadowflutter (shadowflutter) | 867 comments Some of my favorite passages here:

Paraphrasing: You might think he would be dead as a coffin nail, but Noooooooooo! He's dead as a doornail.

"Wherefore the clerk put on his white comforter, and tried to warm himself at the candle; in which effort, not being a man of strong imagination, he failed."

"You may be an undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of an underdone potato."

" I wear the chain I forged in life. I made it link by link, and yard by yard; I girded it on my own free will, and on my own free will I wore it. Is its pattern strange to you?"


Xan Shadowflutter (shadowflutter) | 867 comments I have not read "A Christmas Carol" before, but I do like the Bill Murray movie version (Scrooged). Not because of Murray or Karen Allen, but because of Carol Cane who steals the show as the ghost of Christmas Present.

And this was not the only movie she stole away from the stars. She and Billy Chrystal stole The Princess Bride too.


message 8: by Peter (new)

Peter | 2979 comments Mod
John wrote: "I know Chuzzlewit came out his 1842 visit to America. I wonder if any latent unhappiness about that trip gave us a decidedly negative chap like Scrooge."

Hi John

Chuzzlewit was not well-received by the reading public and Dickens learned, for the first time, how a lack of sales meant a lack of profit. In need of money, he came up with the idea of writing a Christmas book. ACC was conceived, planned, written, typeset, illustrated and published in a very short period of time. The first edition, first issue of ACC did not make any money, but Dickens soon discovered that he was onto something good. Subsequent issues of ACC were soon published and his financial situation was never in difficulty again.

A First Edition, First Issue, in its original state, and in “fine” condition is worth around $25,000 to 30,000 in today’s antiquarian book market. My wife has told me I will not find a copy under our tree this Christmas.

:-))


message 9: by Peter (new)

Peter | 2979 comments Mod
Xan Shadowflutter wrote: "Some of my favorite passages here:

Paraphrasing: You might think he would be dead as a coffin nail, but Noooooooooo! He's dead as a doornail.

"Wherefore the clerk put on his white comforter, and..."


Yes. I too find the phrase of how the chains we wear are, in fact, forged by ourselves to be incredibly powerful.


message 10: by Julie (new)

Julie Kelleher | 1127 comments Mary Lou wrote: "Today, of course, Christmas movies are all about romance, and/or not letting professional ambition interfere with family life..."

That is a very funny and very astute observation. My Netflix page is offering me about 80% "Christmas Princess!" movies right now. Granted I am all for a good princess story or rom-com so partly this is just Netflix knowing me--but they don't know me that well I guess, because none of the links look all that tempting.

I try to read Christmas Carol to my kids every year. I think I've only actually pulled it off once, and not with my younger son, not because they don't like it, but because every December I move straight from finishing out an academic quarter and getting finals grades in to hosting a zillion family members for Christmas, and with all the schedule disruptions it's difficult to find time.

I'm kind of hoping this year, reading the book with the group will help keep me on schedule for reading it to my 8 year old. Then I can do a screenplay about making room over the holidays for What Really Matters, which would be introducing a very cool kid to the original Scrooge--whom he will love.


Xan Shadowflutter (shadowflutter) | 867 comments The Hallmark channels -- the network that single handedly answers the question, What ever happened to ... -- certainly do romance Christmases (and only romance Christmases . . . starting in October . . . or is it July.


message 12: by John (new)

John (jdourg) | 1033 comments Xan Shadowflutter wrote: "I have not read "A Christmas Carol" before, but I do like the Bill Murray movie version (Scrooged). Not because of Murray or Karen Allen, but because of Carol Cane who steals the show as the ghost ..."

Ah, yes, Carol Kane did steal the show in that movie, among other stellar work she has done. My friend's father worked on that movie in the position that is called Key Grip in the movie making world.


Xan Shadowflutter (shadowflutter) | 867 comments Awesome, John. He must have some stories.


message 14: by John (last edited Dec 02, 2018 01:54PM) (new)

John (jdourg) | 1033 comments Xan Shadowflutter wrote: "Awesome, John. He must have some stories."

Ah, yes, childhood friend, so many years of stories as I grew up next door. He worked out of New York and east coast locations and so did many movies shot in that region through the years. Most of Woody Allen's pictures, as I recall. Several James Bond movies. Martin Scorcese films. The big memory as a child was all his stories when he was working on The Exorcist. I stayed away from pea soup for years. ;)


message 15: by John (new)

John (jdourg) | 1033 comments I have to dig out my The Friendly Dickens for each new read. I highly recommend this book as a great learning experience. A fun book.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/6...


message 16: by Mary Lou (new)

Mary Lou | 2265 comments The many Hollywood versions of ACC have done a good job of using quotes from the book, which makes re-reading it seem even more familiar and comfortable. But here's a line I've not seen in the movies that made me chuckle:

But the wisdom of our ancestors is in the simile; and my unhallowed hands shall not disturb it, or the Country's done for.

My annotated version tells us that this sarcasm originated with a comment from a speech by Edmund Burke about 'Conciliation with the American Colonies' to which Dickens took exception. Dickens went so far as to put a dummy book cover in his library under the title "The Wisdom of Our Ancestors" comprised of "Ignorance, Superstition, The Block, The Stake, The Rack, Dirt, & Disease."


message 17: by Alissa (last edited Dec 02, 2018 08:07PM) (new)

Alissa | 317 comments `Don’t be angry, uncle. Come! Dine with us tomorrow.’

Scrooge said that he would see him -- yes, indeed he did. He went the whole length of the expression, and said that he would see him in that extremity first.


I love the witty phrasing of the last two sentences, leaving the expletive to the reader's imagination. I remember the first time I read this, my jaw dropped that Scrooge would say such a thing, but I also laughed at the humorous phrasing.

Another funny line:

The Ghost, on hearing this, set up another cry, and clanked its chain so hideously in the dead silence of the night, that the Ward would have been justified in indicting it for a nuisance.


message 18: by Kim (new)

Kim | 5593 comments Mod
I can never get enough of this book. Every year for forty years I have been reading this thing and I love it more now I think then when I started.


message 19: by Julie (new)

Julie Kelleher | 1127 comments Alissa wrote: "`Don’t be angry, uncle. Come! Dine with us tomorrow.’

Scrooge said that he would see him -- yes, indeed he did. He went the whole length of the expression, and said that he would see him in that e..."


I love it when he does this with expletives. You have to be awake to catch it. :)


message 20: by Vicki (new)

Vicki Cline | 21 comments Why are the chapters called staves?


message 21: by Kim (new)

Kim | 5593 comments Mod
Vicki wrote: "Why are the chapters called staves?"

Because of the book being called A Christmas "Carol", he sticks with music words for chapters, although I've played the piano since I was in first grade and never heard a staff being called a stave.

https://www.reference.com/art-literat...


message 22: by Kim (new)

Kim | 5593 comments Mod


Scrooge objects to Christmas

Stave 1

Harry Furniss

1910

Commentary:

This amalgam of five scenes as an almost cinematic montage of connected and contiguous moments in the narrative from the initial stave emphasizes Scrooge's workaday world, with the bottom register juxtaposing Scrooge bent over his desk with the erect postures of the white-clad charity collectors (centre), whose appeal to the Utilitarian capitalist clerk Bob Cratchit in his "tank" or mere cubbyhole (left) overhears. The barren counting-house also dominates the centre, with the scowling clerk and his tiny stove (left) and the youthful form of nephew Fred confronting his miserly uncle (right) in a spartan space whose only background detail is financial ledgers. Most innovative and a sharp departure from steel- and wood-engraved illustrations in earlier editions is the top register of this lithograph, with the delightfully imagined Christmas celebrant ("idiot") — thoroughly inebriated, as the smiling flaggon and bottles (left) suggest — impaled with an oversized stake of holly to the left, and the foot-traffic outside, in the courtyard, barely discernible in the dense fog, "wheezing up and down, beating their hands upon their breasts, and stamping their feet upon the pavement-stones to warm them". Davis notes That Furniss is emphasizing the crabbed, gnarled figure of Scrooge, a physically distorted state to which the illustrator draws the viewer's attention by juxtaposing this crabbed body (and by implication soul and psyche) with the erect, manly postures of Fred and the charity-collectors (dominating the centre of the bottom register), whose white clothing sharply contrasts Scrooge's dark business-suit:

He concentrates on Scrooge, a gnarled and twisted man whose contorted body articulates his discomfort with the world, and five of the eight illustrations are based on scenes in Stave 1. The montage technique used in several of the pictures, clustering separate images into one illustration, suggests the way in which the text develops Scrooge's character by a series of images and his story by a sequence of tableaux. Juxtaposing the image of the body pined by a stake of holly through its heart to images of the dramatic action of the story, such as Scrooge's confrontation with the charity solicitors, Furniss renders the point of view and style of the narrative as well as its plot . . . . [Davis 121]

Furniss's forcing the reader to move between scenes occurring on pages 5 (the fog), 6-7 (Fred's visit and the clerk in the tank), and 8 (the solicitation for the seasonal poor-relief fund) sets up the reader for the ensuing scenes in a proleptic (anticipatory) stance. The illustrator further implies a thematic connection between these five distinct scenes, namely that, while others enjoy the holiday (indeed, some try to make it possible for even the destitute to enjoy it, too), the covetous and egocentric can derive no enjoyment from Christmas because their own dissatisfaction colours their perception of those who would make merry as mere fools. Scrooge's inward fog prevents his apprehending to true value of Christmas.

Although Leech in the original edition depicted Bob Cratchit just once, in the tailpiece as he and his reformed employer share a glass of smoking Bishop before Scrooge's fireplace, Sol Eytinge in Ticknor and fields' twenty-fifth anniversary edition of 1868 and the Household Edition illustrators Fred Barnard and E. A. Abbey are all interested in the person and family of the poor clerk who aspires to better things for his children, and who knows far better than his rich employer how to keep Christmas: with childhood games, festive dishes, and a supportive family.

Details:



Inebriate with a stake of holly through his heart



Fog-bound passersby in the court outside the countinghouse



Bob Cratchit trying to make his tiny stove function



Nephew Fred wishes his dour uncle season's greetings



The charity-collectors canvass Scrooge


message 23: by Kim (new)

Kim | 5593 comments Mod


Scrooge and Marley's

Stave 1

Sol Eytinge, Jr.

1869 Diamond Edition

Commentary:

Scrooge, although a denizen of one of Europe's largest cities, is unaware of the teeming urban life all around him as he pauses at the door his counting-house, scowling at the reader. Whereas recent film adaptations have established the story's setting by superimposing the dome of St. Paul's Cathedral on the skyline, Eytinge has chosen to place a Wren city church in the distance, an edifice not unlike places of worship with which he would have been familiar, the spired churches of New England. Even at Christmas, the miser leads an "oyster-like" capitalist existence utterly alienated from the essential Christian message of universal brotherhood which the distant spire represents. The juxtaposition of a blind man and his dog is a naturalistic detail that may also be taken as a comment on the emotionally insensitive Scrooge's being without friend, companion, family, or even a pet. Eytinge depicts aged Ebenezer Scrooge as a well-dressed bourgeoisie in top hat and great coat, in contrast to the street boy and porter in his shirt sleeves in the middle of the street. Eytinge has given the sign "Scrooge & Marley" a place of prominence above the proprietor's head, pointing towards the passage in which the narrator comments upon the fact that the surviving business partner has never bothered to have Old Marley's name above the warehouse door painted out. His office building is closed up, its windows on either side of the entrance shuttered to exclude the light of day and the hubbub of surrounding humanity. The passage realized is perhaps this, since Eytinge has placed a blind man and his little dog, scurrying out of the way, in the foreground, right:

Even the blindmen's dogs appeared to know him; and when they saw him coming on, would tug their owners into doorways and up courts; and then would wag their tails as though they said, "no eye at all is better than an evil eye, dark master!"

But what did Scrooge care? It was the very thing he liked. To edge his way along the crowded paths of life, warning all human sympathy to keep its distance, was what the knowing ones call "nuts" to Scrooge. [Stave One, "Marley's Ghost"]



message 24: by Kim (new)

Kim | 5593 comments Mod


In The Tank

Stave 1

Sol Eytinge

1869 Diamond Edition

Commentary:

Instead of describing Scrooge in relation to his clerk, Bob Cratchit, or the overall office interior as Dickens does in the text, Eytinge studies the genial clerk, trying to keep himself warm in "the tank," giving us something of the employer's perspective:

The door of Scrooge's counting-house was open that he might keep his eye upon his clerk, who was in a dismal little cell beyond, a sort of tank, was copying letters. Scrooge had a very small fire, but the clerk's fire was so very much smaller that it looked like one coal. But he couldn't replenish it, for Scrooge kept the coal-box in his own room; and surely as the clerk came in with the shovel, the master predicted that it would not be necessary for them to part. Wherefore the clerk put on his white comforter, and tried to warm himself at the candle; in which effort, not being a man of a strong imagination, he failed. [Stave One, "Marley's Ghost"]

Adding to this textual moment, Eytinge includes the clerk's stove (right), white scarf ("comforter"), and flaring candle on his copy desk. In his right hand he carries a poker while keeping his left in his trouser pocket for warmth, having tucked his quill pen for convenience behind his left eye. The walls and floor boards, as one expect of Scrooge's office apartments, are entirely bare. Regarding Eytinge's study of office clerk Bob Cratchit, one has the impression that he is cheerful in spite of his less than pleasant working conditions.


message 25: by Kim (new)

Kim | 5593 comments Mod


The Philantropists

Stave 1

Sol Eytinge

Commentary:

As, seven years ago, Scrooge and Marley laboured together in their counting-house for their own advancement and the worship of Mammon, so on this Christmas Eve two middle-class altruists of similar age, aspect, and dimensions (good men of business, in contrast to Scrooge and Marley, good businessmen) are soliciting for donations to relieve the distresses of the poor, so grievous during the Hungry Forties. Since the gentleman centre is about to jot down the benefactor's name on his note-pad, which presumably contains the list of those local businessmen prepared to make donations, we may assume that the passage realized is this:

They were portly gentlemen, pleasant to behold, and now stood, with their hats off, in Scrooge's office. They had books and papers in their hands, and bowed to him.

"Scrooge and Marley's, I believe," said one of the gentlemen, referring to his list. "Have I the pleasure of addressing Mr. Scrooge, or Mr. Marley?"

Mr. Marley has been dead these seven years," Scrooge replied. "He died seven years ago, this very night."

We have no doubt his liberality is well represented by his surviving partner," said the gentleman, presenting his credentials.

It certainly was; for they had been two kindred spirits. At the ominous word "liberality," Scrooge frowned, and shook his head, and handed the credentials back. [Stave One, "Marley's Ghost,"]


Their manner of address at once implies that they are confusing the business with its proprietor. Already the central figure has taken up his pen, and Scrooge appears to be thinking that those useful social institutions to whose maintenance he pays through parish rates, the prisons and workhouses, should be commended in a stinging rebuke.

Although at first glance, the floor-boards of Scrooge's office appear to be carpeted with some of the discarded bills which overflow his waste basket, closer examination reveals a thin carpet under the area of the desk and chair. To show his discomfort at the philanthropists' request, Scrooge gnaws the end of his quill and glances upward to study the central figure, thinking of a suitable reply. Behind and above Scrooge hang his hat and a map of the world, the real world of commerce and far-flung mercantile empire of Great Britain. In contrast to the corpulent bourgeois left, Scrooge is thick-haired and thin. The plump gentleman in tailcoat and cravat, is dressed respectably, his fob depending from a watch in the pocket of his trousers, which feature the stirrup underneath his boot, a style common in the 1840s. The opposition that makes the picture effective is the contrast between the seated Scrooge, closed in upon himself, his hands bony and his facial expression dour, and the standing philanthropists, whose posture is open and their faces unobscured. The left-hand philanthropist's gesturing with his top hat implies solicitation for funds.


message 26: by Kim (new)

Kim | 5593 comments Mod


"It's not convenient," said Scrooge, "and it's not fair. If I was to stop half-a-crown for it, you'd think yourself ill-used, I'll be bound?"

Stave 1

Fred Barnard

1878

Commentary:

Barnard's purpose here is to reinforce the text's characterization of Scrooge's emotionally barren relationship with his clerk, Bob Cratchit so that his transformation from Malthusian miser on Christmas Eve to ebullient philanthropist on Christmas morning will seem all that more marvellous. Barnard prepares us for the ensuing fantasy by grounding us in Scrooge's workaday reality, which focuses around the miser's obsession with keeping costs down, whether the specific issue be the excessive consumption of coal or the inconvenience of shutting down the counting-house for Christmas Day. The interior illustration, with its extensive caption, pinpoints the cause of Scrooge's ill-humor as he departs at closing time. Scrooge's money morality, then, is presented in stark contrast to the frontispiece's exterior scene dramatizing the companionship of father and son: the Bob Cratchit of the second scene, still recognizable by his extended comforter, cowed and submissive before his irascible employer, is a far cry from the man happily serving as his son's beast of burden in a spirit of play rather than out of capitalistic necessity.

The three-quarter-page woodcut precedes the moment realized, and, indeed, coincides with the textual introduction of Ebenezer Scrooge himself as Marley's legatee, so that the illustration typifies Scrooge's key identity after the loss of his friend and partner, that of businessman and employer. Warmly dressed and ready even for the eventuality of rain despite the cold temperatures, Scrooge lectures Bob about the necessity for economy, preventing him from joining his family on Christmas Eve. The snuffed out candle behind Scrooge may well suggest not merely closing time but the end of life, the smoke being the ghost of the candle's flame. Bob's clothing and demeanor contrast those of his employer, for he has no overcoat but carries a high-crowned beaver. Barnard well describes Bob's discomfort by his glazed expression and bent left leg, implying a shifting rather than a solid stance; although he is adept at hiding his true emotions from his dour employer, he is already thinking of the walk home and the family that awaits him. Despite the lateness of the day and the time of the year, light still floods across the desk of Bob Cratchit's tank, imparting a luminosity to his form.

Closing time has nonetheless arrived. Scrooge's nephew Fred and the charity collectors having paid their calls to the Tank (the outer office of the counting-house), Scrooge has refused to acknowledge their message of seasonal compassion and concern for one's fellow passengers to the grave. Now comes the moment realized in the woodcut:

At length the hour of shutting up the counting house arrived. With an ill-will Scrooge dismounted from his stool, and tacitly admitted the fact to the expectant clerk in the Tank, who instantly snuffed his candle out, and put on his hat.

"You'll want all day to-morrow, I suppose?" said Scrooge.

"If quite convenient, sir."

"It's not convenient," said Scrooge, "and it's not fair. If I was to stop half-a-crown for it, you'd think yourself ill-used, I'll be bound?"

The clerk smiled faintly.

"And yet," said Scrooge, "you don't think me ill-used, when I pay a day's wages for no work."

The clerk observed that it was only once a year.

"A poor excuse for picking a man's pocket every twenty-fifth of December!" said Scrooge, buttoning his great-coat to the chin. "But I suppose you must have the whole day. Be here all the earlier next morning." [Stave One, Household Edition]


Already Scrooge seems to "growl" at Bob, whose white comforter is not quite long enough here, if we credit Dickens's description of it "dangling below his waist" (although it is somewhat longer in the frontispiece, where Bob looks much more manly and vigorous). In that first illustration, the lack of a "great-coat" is suitable to a young father playing with his son and consistent with the subsequent image of Bob's sliding down Cornhill with "a lane of boys, twenty times." The reduced length of the scarf in the second illustration may therefore imply Bob's feelings of emasculation under Scrooge's penetrating gaze. There is no parallel to this illustration in Leech's original sequence of eight, but Sol Eytinge, Jr., in the 1868 text published by Ticknor and Field, Boston, realizes the office and the clerk in "The Tank", and the sour-faced employer pausing momentarily at the door of his counting-house, as if contemplating with something less than relish the reader perusing him, in "Scrooge and Marley's," vignette for "Stave I. Marley's Ghost," wood engravings which, taken together, parallel the exterior/interior and man/master dichotomies of Barnard's first two illustrations.



Details:


Bob's Candle


Bob's Comforter


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Bob Cratchit sliding down Cornhill Hill

Stave 1

Arthur Rackham

1915

Text Illustrated:

'A poor excuse for picking a man's pocket every twenty-fifth of December!' said Scrooge, buttoning his greatcoat to the chin. 'But I suppose you must have the whole day. Be here all the earlier next morning.'

The clerk promised that he would; and Scrooge walked out with a growl. The office was closed in a twinkling, and the clerk, with the long ends of his white comforter dangling below his waist (for he boasted no greatcoat), went down a slide on Cornhill, at the end of a lane of boys, twenty times, in honour of its being Christmas Eve, and then ran home to Camden Town as hard as he could pelt, to play at blind man's-buff.



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Went down a slide on Cornhill twenty times, in honor of its being Christmas-eve.

Stave 1

E. A. Abbey

1876 American Household Edition

Commentary:

According to Tony Lynch in Dickens's England, the only two specific locales forming the backdrop for the action of A Christmas Carol are the neighborhood of Camden Town, where the home of the Cratchits is located, on Bayham Street, and Cornhill, where Bob (in spirit something of a child himself) goes sliding with the street boys on the icy pavement as he makes his way home after closing the office, which one presumes is nearby. Here we see Bob Cratchit in his muffler and checkered trousers, without a great-coat and with his hands in his pockets to keep them warm, confidently sliding on the city street. The passage that Abbey has chosen to illustrate Bob's youthful, carefree spirit is this:

The office was closed in a twinkling, and the clerk, with the long ends of his white comforter dangling below his waist (for he boasted no great-coat), went down a slide on Cornhill, at the end of a lane of boys, twenty times, in honor of its being Christmas-eve, and then ran home to Camden Town as hard as he could pelt, to play at blindman's-buff. [Stave One, Marley's Ghost,"]

Dickens does not describe in any detail the area of London that Bob passes through on his way home, so that the illustrator must supply out of his own imagination lighted shop-windows at dusk, passers-by, eight street boys engaged in sliding, a single street-light (centre), and a church tower in the background, probably either Sir Christopher Wren's St. Michael's or the church of St. Peter upon Cornhill, both in the area originally occupied by the Roman forum of old Londinium. Thus, one must assume that the American illustrator, who moved to London in 1878, was already familiar with the physical setting of the novella when preparing this illustration in 1875 if one wishes to make such specific identifications.

Since the Royal Exchange and the Bank of England are in this same ward, it is reasonable to conjecture that Scrooge's counting-house was somewhere in the vicinity. As Camden Town is just over two miles north-west of Cornhill, one of London's three hills, one may safely assume that Bob undertakes his sliding adventure shortly after leaving the office of Scrooge and Marley. In the summer of 1822, when Charles was just ten, the Naval Pay Office posted clerk John Dickens back to London, and Dickens's father moved the family to the shabby-genteel suburb to the immediate north of the City, renting a modest terraced four-roomed house at No. 16 Bayham Street. Camden Town, a residential area since 1791, had become in the intervening thirty years something of a mixed residential/industrial area, with the canal system intersecting the neighborhood.

As a construct rather than a purely realistic realization, despite the generalized street scene, Abbey's illustration is highly effective in demonstrating Bob's thorough integration with London society versus his employer's utter alienation. Whereas Ebenezer Scrooge rejects the notion of playing any sort of social role when he denies the petitions of nephew Fred and the charity collectors in the opening stave, Bob exuberantly throws himself into the life of the streets, rejecting staid adult self-consciousness for the liberation of sport or play. Given the size of the Cratchit family, Bob's occupation as clerk in a counting house, and where the Cratchits live, it would seem reasonable to conclude that Dickens modeled Bob, seen in Abbey's illustration playing with the boys in the street and enjoying youthful recreation, on his own father in the 1820s, before the shades of the debtors' prison supervened, bringing John Dickens's participation in his children's games and sports such as those which Dickens describes in this passage to an abrupt conclusion.


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Scrooge's Solitary Dinner

Stave 1

Harry Furniss

1910 Library Edition

Commentary:

This amalgam of four scenes suggests the rapid succession of related stills in a magic lantern show, juxtaposing Scrooge's self-satisfied contemplation of his banker's book after supper with the social engagement of people outside the "melancholy tavern" (and outside his class) where the miser, without the benefit of friends and relations, habitually dines alone. In contrast, a blithe Bob Cratchit (upper left), instantly recognizable by his long comforter, trots homeward through Cornhill, smiling to himself, probably at the prospect of sharing Christmas Eve with his numerous family. Although Dickens merely mentions the church tower opposite Scrooge's counting-house in passing, Furniss uses the decaying church tower to establish the urban setting and imply the threat to the Christian message of the brotherhood of man that Scrooge's belief in the cash nexus, becoming broadly accepted in the mid-nineteenth century, entails. The images of the tailor's wife, out procuring dinner, and the street boy with the frozen nose suggest the vitality of urban life, in contrast to Scrooge's anti-social, solitary existence in his "melancholy" tavern.

Meanwhile the fog and darkness thickened so, that people ran about with flaring links, proffering their services to go before horses in carriages, and conduct them on their way. The ancient tower of a church, whose gruff old bell was always peeping slyly down at Scrooge out of a Gothic window in the wall, became invisible, and struck the hours and quarters in the clouds, with tremulous vibrations afterwards as if its teeth were chattering in its frozen head up there. The cold became intense. In the main street at the corner of the court, some labourers were repairing the gas-pipes, and had lighted a great fire in a brazier, round which a party of ragged men and boys were gathered: warming their hands and winking their eyes before the blaze in rapture. The water-plug being left in solitude, its overflowing sullenly congealed, and turned to misanthropic ice. The brightness of the shops where holly sprigs and berries crackled in the lamp heat of the windows, made pale faces ruddy as they passed. Poulterers' and grocers' trades became a splendid joke; a glorious pageant, with which it was next to impossible to believe that such dull principles as bargain and sale had anything to do. The Lord Mayor, in the stronghold of the mighty Mansion House, gave orders to his fifty cooks and butlers to keep Christmas as a Lord Mayor's household should; and even the little tailor, whom he had fined five shillings on the previous Monday for being drunk and bloodthirsty in the streets, stirred up to-morrow's pudding in his garret, while his lean wife and the baby sallied out to buy the beef. [Stave One, "Marley's Ghost,"]

The office was closed in a twinkling, and the clerk, with the long ends of his white comforter dangling below his waist (for he boasted no great-coat), went down a slide on Cornhill, at the end of a lane of boys, twenty times, in honour of its being Christmas Eve, and then ran home to Camden Town as hard as he could pelt, to play at blindman's-buff.

Scrooge took his melancholy dinner in his usual melancholy tavern; and having read all the newspapers, and beguiled the rest of the evening with his banker's-book, went home to bed. He lived in chambers which had once belonged to his deceased partner. They were a gloomy suite of rooms, in a lowering pile of building up a yard, where it had so little business to be, that one could scarcely help fancying it must have run there when it was a young house, playing at hide-and-seek with other houses, and forgotten the way out again. It was old enough now, and dreary enough, for nobody lived in it but Scrooge, the other rooms being all let out as offices. The yard was so dark that even Scrooge, who knew its every stone, was fain to grope with his hands. The fog and frost so hung about the black old gateway of the house, that it seemed as if the Genius of the Weather sat in mournful meditation on the threshold. [Stave One, "Marley's Ghost,"]


Hammerton, Furniss's editor, seems to have had only the very short excerpt beginning with "The clerk, with the long ends" and ending with "went home to bed" in mind, but clearly Furniss himself draws on descriptive material, ending just before the transformation of the door-knocker into Marley's face. An apparently non-textual detail is the cowering dog of indeterminate breed (lower left), who appears again in another composite lithograph, "Phantoms in the Street", a detail based on an earlier passage, "Even the blind men's dogs appeared to know him [Scrooge]; and when they saw him coming on, would tug their owners into doorways and up courts".

"The ancient tower of a church, whose gruff old bell was always peeping slily down at Scrooge out of a gothic window in the wall" has little narrative significance here, and one wonders precisely why Furniss included this particular element of the setting, unless to present a thematic contrast (already considered) or to prepare the reader for this important setting in the second of the Christmas Books, The Chimes, the scene of Trotty Veck's supernatural encounter and dream vision. Perhaps it represents one of Furniss's sixty-three magic-lantern slides mentioned in a February 1905 advertisement in the Dickensian (Cordery 4) as part of his platform entertainment entitled "A Sketch of Boz." Because it seems to suggest a precise location for Scrooge's counting-house near Mansion House, Dickens critics have attempted to identify precisely which church Dickens had in mind, so that Furniss's sketch might suggest to which location the illustrator inclined. While Frank S. Johnson in his Winter 1931-32 Dickensian article "About 'A Christmas Carol'" (cited by Hearn) would later propose St. Michael's, probably on account of its proximity to London's Royal Exchange (to which Scrooge resorts daily), A. E. Berresford Chancellor in The London of Charles Dickens (London: Grant Richards, 1924, pp. 280-81, as cited by Guiliano and Collins, I: 838) proposes either St. Dunstan's "between Tower Street and Upper Thames Street" or St. Maru Alderberry "between Bow Lane and what is now Queen Victoria Street" — the former supporting a location for Scrooge's counting-house in Cross Lane, St. Dunstan's Hill, which would square with Dickens's referring to "the good Saint Dunstan". Whatever the location

Although Leech in the original edition depicted Bob Cratchit just once, in the tailpiece as he and his reformed employer share a glass of smoking Bishop before Scrooge's fireplace, Sol Eytinge in Ticknor and fields' twenty-fifth anniversary edition of 1868 and the Household Edition illustrators Fred Barnard and E. A. Abbey depicted the cheerful, underpaid clerk as a foil to his curmudgeonly boss, and offer a number of interpretations of him. In contrast, Harry Furniss does not yield to the Victorian taste for sentimental scenes, and avoids (except in his title-page vignettes) the Cratchits and their Christmas pudding, Tiny Tim and his crutch, and Bob toasting Scrooge as founder of the feast, all found in earlier programs of illustration. Davis notes that Furniss emphasizes the centrality of Scrooge before his reformation by basing five of his eight illustrations on Stave 1; "and none of his plates depicts Stave 5". Although the narrative accompanying "Scrooge's Solitary Dinner" begins with Bob's leaving the office and ends with Scrooge's contemplation of his bank-book, Furniss presents the four characters and three settings (the streets, the church tower, and the interior of the tavern) simultaneously, and so challenges the reader prophetically (i. e., in anticipation) to to resolve the sequence and determine the connections between these discrete textual moments consolidated into a single lithograph.

Details:



Bob Cratchit cheerfully walking home



The gothic church tower near Scrooge's office



The tailor's lean wife and baby; a raw-nosed street-boy



Scrooge dines at a melancholy tavern


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The Ghostly Knocker

Stave 1

Harry Furniss

1910 Library Edition

Commentary:

In the image of a diminutive Scrooge and a gigantic door-Knocker with the face of Jacob Marley — complete with chin-wrapping and glasses on The forehead, immediately suggesting both the corpse and the living partner whom Scrooge knew so well — Furniss offers simultaneously psychological insight and whimsical caricature.

The door is oversized, intimidating, and the knocker's face "seems to be expanding like a genie released from a bottle" [Davis 121 & 126]. The knocker as a psychological manifestation need have no real-life point of origin, but T. W. Tyrell in "The 'Marley' Knocker" in the Dickensian (October 1924) has suggested that Dickens's transformation of bronze door-knocker into Marley's face was influenced by an unusual knocker with a man's face (as opposed to the usual lion's head) "that hung on the front door of No. 8 Craven Street when it was occupied by one Dr. David Rees in the 1840s" (cited in Guiliano and Collins, I: 841, and Hearn, Note 55, p. 70].

In style, the illustration looks like a washed water-color, the only background detail discernible being the bronze nameplate to the left of the portal. Furniss permits nothing to detract from Scrooge's wonder at the massive head that has appeared just as he is about to place his key in the lock. The gigantic head, perhaps suggestive of spiritual enlightenment, is a ghostly white, in contrast to Scrooge's black hat and business-suit.

Text Illustrated:

Now, it is a fact, that there was nothing at all particular about the knocker on the door, except that it was very large. It is also a fact, that Scrooge had seen it, night and morning, during his whole residence in that place; also that Scrooge had as little of what is called fancy about him as any man in the city of London, even including — which is a bold word — the corporation, aldermen, and livery. Let it also be borne in mind that Scrooge had not bestowed one thought on Marley, since his last mention of his seven years' dead partner that afternoon. And then let any man explain to me, if he can, how it happened that Scrooge, having his key in the lock of the door, saw in the knocker, without its undergoing any intermediate process of change — not a knocker, but Marley's face.

Marley's face. It was not in impenetrable shadow as the other objects in the yard were, but had a dismal light about it, like a bad lobster in a dark cellar. It was not angry or ferocious, but looked at Scrooge as Marley used to look: with ghostly spectacles turned up on its ghostly forehead. The hair was curiously stirred, as if by breath or hot air; and, though the eyes were wide open, they were perfectly motionless. That, and its livid colour, made it horrible; but its horror seemed to be in spite of the face and beyond its control, rather than a part or its own expression.

As Scrooge looked fixedly at this phenomenon, it was a knocker again. [Stave One, "Marley's Ghost,"]


John Leech in the original edition focused not on this preliminary warning of Marley's arrival from the depths of Scrooge's subconscious and the grave, but rather on the arrival of the chain-dragging spirit himself several pages later. Sol Eytinge, Junior, in his twenty-fifth anniversary Carol seems to have been the first illustrator to consider the transformation scene as worthy of pictorial comment; certainly it is important in that it marks the point at which Scrooge departs from strict reality into a world of vivid memories and terrifying nightmares. Few artists have had the opportunity to provide such a realization, the other exception to this observation being Arthur Rackham in his 1915 tour de force. Both of the Household Edition illustrators, having the space for only a few illustrations, like Leech have chosen to show Scrooge's reaction to the Ghost's arrival as Scrooge sits, trying to get comfortable in front of a weak fire after the disturbing initial visitation. Neither Eytinge's realistic treatment, with Scrooge in a topcoat and carrying an umbrella, nor Rackham's study of the knocker itself in a simple pen-and-ink drawing captures the psychological dimension of Scrooge's confrontation with the metaphysical world — and neither possesses Furniss's humor.

It may be that these Victorian illustrators realized the limitations of the media with which they had to work — copper-plate and steel engraving, wood-engraving, photogravure, and lithograph — in depicting one image becoming another. This sort of transformative effect was most easily achieved in the nineteenth century in the medium of the magic lantern show, whereby an image could appear to change as another glass slide was superimposed upon an initial version of the image. An accomplished magic lantern speaker who knew the potentialities of the medium, Furniss was likely aware also of the possibility of achieving such a transformation with film. However, the problem that his "Ghostly Knocker" exhibits in the print medium is that the image must either be the face (as in his illustration) or a knocker with a small-scale human head (as in Eytinge's 1868 wood-engraving). Only in such film adaptations as Noel Langley's screenplay for Brian Desmond Hurst's Renown Rank production in 1951 of A Christmas Carol, starring Alastair Sim, can the moment be suitably frightening; the reader finds it difficult, in contrast, to take either the 1868 or the 1915 illustration seriously. Indeed, Furniss, himself a film pioneer from 1912 with Thomas Edison in New York (Cordery, 1, 5), must have come to appreciate how the new medium could accomplish the desired effect since he would likely have seen the 1913 silent, black-and-white Scrooge produced by Hepworth in England (cited in Bolton, 243). Perhaps having shown a specimen of the new medium (Cordery and Bolton note that the first cinematic adaptation of Dickens goes back to 1897), Rackham decided to avoid making much of the transformation scene, for he downplays the moment by simply showing a disgruntled Marley as the knocker, and not attempting to capture the change — or Scrooge's reaction to it.


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Marley's Face

Stave 1

Sol Eytinge, Jr.

Commentary:

For seven years, ever since Ebenezer Scrooge, the surviving business partner, acquired Jacob Marley's house, the solitary bachelor has taken the front-door knocker for granted as he returns from his warehouse at the end of each working day. As usual, he has taken out his door key and proceeded to place it in the lock when suddenly he encounters Marley's face superimposed upon the knocker.

This scene is familiar even to those who have never even read A Christmas Carol over the past eighty years, ever since cinematic adaptations have attempted to animate the brass knocker with special effects. Films have shown the knocker become the face of Michael Hordern (1951) and Frank Findlay (1984), among others. Here is the initial realization of this celebrated textual moment, "Marley's Face" in "Stave I. Marley's Ghost," which emphasizes Scrooge's sudden shock, communicated by his paralyzed hands, mingled with a look of curiosity as Scrooge's eyes are riveted on Marley's melancholy countenance:

Marley's face. It was not in impenetrable shadow as the other objects in the yard were, but had a dismal light about it, like a bad lobster in a dark cellar. It was not angry or ferocious, but looked at Scrooge as Marley used to look: with ghostly spectacles turned up on its ghostly forehead. The hair was curiously stirred, as if by breath or hot-air; and though the eyes were wide open, they were perfectly motionless. That, and its livid colour, made it horrible; but its horror seemed to be, in spite of the face and beyond its control, rather than part of its own expression.

As Scrooge looked fixedly at this phenomenon, it was a knocker again. [Stave One, "Marley's Ghost"]


Unfortunately Eytinge's realization has a slightly cartoonish look because he has made Marley's face congruent with the scale of the knocker, and the umbrella which Scrooge carries in the midst of a cold-snap strikes a false note. Although Scrooge has his key (mentioned specifically in the text) in his left hand as he reaches for the door-handle with his right, neither key hole nor door nob is evident, and the town house's door is but imperfectly sketched in, with no hint of an area yard in front of the house.


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Marley's Ghost

Stave 1

Arthur Rackham

1915


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Nobody under the bed; nobody in the closet; nobody in his dressing-gown, which was hanging up in a suspiciouus attitude against the wall

Stave 1

Arthur Rackham

Text Illustrated:

The sound resounded through the house like thunder. Every room above, and every cask in the wine-merchant's cellars below, appeared to have a separate peal of echoes of its own. Scrooge was not a man to be frightened by echoes. He fastened the door, and walked across the hall, and up the stairs: slowly, too: trimming his candle as he went.

You may talk vaguely about driving a coach and six[Pg 20] up a good old flight of stairs, or through a bad young Act of Parliament; but I mean to say you might have got a hearse up that staircase, and taken it broadwise, with the splinter-bar towards the wall, and the door towards the balustrades: and done it easy. There was plenty of width for that, and room to spare; which is perhaps the reason why Scrooge thought he saw a locomotive hearse going on before him in the gloom. Half-a-dozen gas-lamps out of the street wouldn't have lighted the entry too well, so you may suppose that it was pretty dark with Scrooge's dip.

Up Scrooge went, not caring a button for that. Darkness is cheap, and Scrooge liked it. But, before he shut his heavy door, he walked through his rooms to see that all was right. He had just enough recollection of the face to desire to do that.

Sitting-room, bedroom, lumber-room. All as they should be. Nobody under the table, nobody under the sofa; a small fire in the grate; spoon and basin ready; and the little saucepan of gruel (Scrooge had a cold in his head) upon the hob. Nobody under the bed; nobody in the closet; nobody in his dressing-gown, which was hanging up in a suspicious attitude against the wall. Lumber-room as usual. Old fire-guard, old shoes, two fish baskets, washing-stand on three legs, and a poker.



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Marley's Ghost

Stave 1

John Leech

1843

Dickens's A Christmas Carol, first edition (1843).

Leech's full page illustration captures the precise moment when the miser, in nightgown and sitting down before his fitful fire to enjoy a bowl of gruel, encounters the ghost of his dead partner.

Text Illustrated:

Sitting-room, bedroom, lumber-room. All as they should be. Nobody under the table, nobody under the sofa; a small fire in the grate; spoon and basin ready; and the little saucepan of gruel (Scrooge had a cold in his head) upon the hob. Nobody under the bed; nobody in the closet; nobody in his dressing-gown, which was hanging up in a suspicious attitude against the wall. Lumber-room as usual. Old fire-guard, old shoes, two fish-baskets, washing-stand on three legs, and a poker.

Quite satisfied, he closed his door, and locked himself in; double-locked himself in, which was not his custom. Thus secured against surprise, he took off his cravat; put on his dressing-gown and slippers, and his nightcap; and sat down before the fire to take his gruel.

It was a very low fire indeed; nothing on such a bitter night. He was obliged to sit close to it, and brood over it, before he could extract the least sensation of warmth from such a handful of fuel. The fireplace was an old one, built by some Dutch merchant long ago, and paved all round with quaint Dutch tiles, designed to illustrate the Scriptures. There were Cains and Abels, Pharaoh’s daughters; Queens of Sheba, Angelic messengers descending through the air on clouds like feather-beds, Abrahams, Belshazzars, Apostles putting off to sea in butter-boats, hundreds of figures to attract his thoughts; and yet that face of Marley, seven years dead, came like the ancient Prophet’s rod, and swallowed up the whole. If each smooth tile had been a blank at first, with power to shape some picture on its surface from the disjointed fragments of his thoughts, there would have been a copy of old Marley’s head on every one.



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Marley's Ghost

Stave 1

Sol Eytinge, Jr.

1869 Diamond Edition

Commentary:

Throughout the time that Ebenezer Scrooge has been occupying the house that formerly belonged to his business partner, the shade of Jacob Marley has been accustomed to sit opposite him, but now, for the first time, Scrooge actually sees him — and is terrified. The scene was first realized in Hablot Knight Browne's title-page "half-title" vignette for the 1859 Library Edition of A Christmas Carol. However, whereas Phiz showed the pair sitting opposite one another across a table from the perspective of the fireplace, Eytinge has included the fireplace, complete with kettle on the hob, in his composition, which is lit not by the light of the feeble fire but by that of the single candle that burns on the table with barley-cane-twist legs adjacent to the ghost. In both plates, one can see through the ghost; however, whereas Phiz's ghost wags a reproving finger at Scrooge, Eytinge's shrieks at his unrepentant former partner, thereby clearly indicating that the passage realized immediately follows Scrooge's summarizing his disbelief in terms of his favourite expression for his scorn of the unseen and the emotional as mere "Humbug":

At this, the spirit raised a frightful cry, and shook its chain with such dismal and appalling noise, that Scrooge held on tight to his chair, to save himself from falling in a swoon. But how much greater was his horror, when the phantom taking off the bandage round its head, as if it were too warm to wear in-doors, its lower jaw dropped down upon its breast! [Stave One, "Marley's Ghost"]

The philanthropists' having addressed Scrooge as "Marley" has possibly served as a suggestion to Scrooge's subconscious since it seems to have led to his seeing the ghost of a man whom he has not even thought about for nearly seven years. The vision of the knocker transformed has served as a memento for the miser, impressing upon him the need to connect with the family of man upon whom he has turned his back in pursuit of wealth. Having fallen asleep in front of the fire, he has entered the dream vision, receiving a visitation which prepares him for the visits of the three Christmas Spirits. Because Marley is Scrooge's psychological double, Eytinge has based the figure of the dead partner on that of the living partner (compare his hair style here to Scrooge's in "The Philanthropists"), but has equipped him with the pigtail that the text mentions as Scrooge looks behind the door after seeing the face of his dead partner. The scene realized by Sol Eytinge in 1868 continues from the moment realized by John Leech in the 1843 hand-tinted steel engraving "Marley's Ghost", as the spectre has seated himself "on the opposite side of the fireplace, as if he were quite used to it" at Ebenezer Scrooge's request.


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Marley's Ghost

Stave 1

Fred Barnard

1878

Commentary:

Barnard's illustration of this scene compared to those by John Leech and Sol Eytinge, Jr.:

John Leech emphasized the importance to the story of this ghostly visitation seven years to the night of Jacob Marley's death by making it one of the book's four colored illustrations. Barnard may well have intended the reader to compare his vigorous and three-dimensional treatment of the scene with the rather cartoonish version by Leech, with such interesting details as the biblical Dutch tiles in the fireplace (recalling the Christian's division of time as "Before Christ" and "Anno Domini"), the side table with barleycane-twist legs, and the large bowl of gruel next to Scrooge's easy-chair.

Although he omits the gruel and considerably reduces the size of the table in order to focus on the characters, Barnard has included the dying candle flame's leaping up momentarily, as if in recognition of Old Marley, whose spirit has just passed through the heavy door. The three-quarter-page woodcut actually occurs after the moment realized:

His colour changed though, when, without a pause, it came on through the heavy door, and passed into the room before his eyes. Upon its coming in, the dying flame leaped up, as though it cried, "I know him; Marley's Ghost!" and fell again.

The same face: the very same. Marley in his pigtail, usual waistcoat, tights and boots; the tassels on the latter bristling, like his pigtail, and his coat-skirts, and the hair upon his head. The chain he drew was clasped about his middle. It was long, and wound about him like a tail; and it was made (for Scrooge observed it closely) of cash-boxes, keys, padlocks, ledgers, deeds, and heavy purses wrought in steel. His body was transparent, so that Scrooge, observing him, and looking through his waistcoat, could see the two buttons on his coat behind.

Scrooge had often heard it said that Marley had no bowels, but he had never believed it until now. [Stave One, Household Edition]


Scrooge seems curious rather terrified in Leech's original illustration. The commonality between the Leech and Barnard illustrations is the precise moment realized, and each artist's careful attention to the detailed description of Marley in Regency dress, encumbered by a chain of commercial symbols, suggesting that he is as much a prisoner in death as he was in life to the capitalist system. Although Dickens does not mention that Marley is wearing top-boots, Leech has provided such a detail, and Barnard has subsequently emulated Leech's costuming details, although Barnard has added "the two buttons on his coat behind" that Scrooge can see through his ghostly waistcoat. Thus, the first spirit is both a conventional ghost, dressed in death exactly as Scrooge remembers his partner dressed in life, and a symbol of capitalistic enterprise, an allegorical figure suggestive of a modern businessman's being wedded to his job.

Barnard realizes that the first ghostly visitor must create for the reader a special atmosphere, part supernatural (the cloth wrapped around the jaw, the dated costume, and in particular the leaping candle flame and swirling draperies, agitated by the force of the spirit as he enters the room) and part natural, even mundane (cash-boxes, keys, padlocks, ledgers, deeds, and heavy purses). All four apparitions carry, too, a certain moral conviction, as they implicitly extol Victorian family values and denigrate the Utilitarian credo of "The greatest good for the greatest number." Barnard realizes, too, that the reader must simultaneously accept the ghost as the dead partner and as an imaginary being or delusion. Like Leech, Barnard makes his figure both amusing and dreadful, although Barnard's modelling renders the ghost a three-dimensional Jacob Marley.

In terms of scale and style, the realists of the sixties, Barnard and Eytinge, are much closer in their closeups of the mortal and the spirit. In their dual character studies there is none of the lightness or humor of John Leech, a caricaturist of the earlier school of Victorian illustration whose members included Cruikshank, Seymour, and Hablot Knight Browne. Thematically, Leech's "Marley's Ghost" underscores Scrooge's materialistic notions about the consolations of property: the Punch cartoonist shows the miser by his fireside surrounded by furnishings. Leech suggests in his figure of Jacob Marley the enslavement of the individual by his own material concerns. However, without the modelling common in the work of the sixties illustrators, Leech's pleasant, colorful illustration lacks moral weight or gravity. Leech's Scrooge is an unmoved spectator, his ghost a stick-figure dragging the almost indistinguishable elements of his commercial existence.

Now, consider what Barnard has added: the swirling bed-curtain, the bell-pull, and the perspective of Scrooge. The miser is still a spectator, but Barnard has repositioned the elements of the scene so that Scrooge is downstage right, in the position of the reader. Barnard compels the reader to view the action from Scrooge's perspective, the facilitate the process of the reader's imaginative identification with Scrooge. In other words, although the reader's impressions of Scrooge early in the first stave are hardly positive, the illustration subtly positions the reader in Scrooge's corner. Behind him, to suggest a disruption in the normal flow of time, the bell-pull swings crazily, as if possessed:

After several turns, he sat down again. As he threw his head back in the chair, his glance happened to rest upon a bell, a disused bell, that hung in the room, and communicated for some purpose now forgotten with a chamber in the highest story of the building. It was with great astonishment, and with a strange, inexplicable dread, that as he looked, he saw this bell begin to swing. It swung so softly in the outset that it scarcely made a sound; but soon it rang out loudly, and so did every bell in the house.

This might have lasted half a minute, or a minute, but it seemed an hour. The bells ceased as they had begun, together. They were succeeded by a clanking noise, deep down below; as if some person were dragging a heavy chain over the casks in the wine merchant's cellar. Scrooge then remembered to have heard that ghosts in haunted houses were described as dragging chains. [Stave One; Household Edition,]


Thus, Barnard has incorporated two different moments in the sequence of events that culminates in Jacob Marley's spirit gliding through the door of the bedroom: the brief — or, to Scrooge's disrupted sense of time, not so brief — agitation of the bells, followed by the clanking of Marley's chains. While Leech has not even bothered to show the bell-pull, Barnard positions it prominently:

Marley is announced by the ringing of every bell in the house. Typical Gothic ghostly machinery, but elaborated here into another indication of the interaction of these two [temporal and spiritual] worlds. Scrooge has always measured time by the bells of the neighbouring churches. But now that measurement loses its expected regularity; Scrooge thinks the length of the house's bells' ringing, "half a minute, or a minute," more like "an hour". Bells which have hitherto seemed to measure out quantitative time now begin to function differently, in ways that will eventually redeem all time for Scrooge. [Patten, "Dickens Time and Again"]

The presence of the animated bell-pull in Barnard's illustration alerts the reader of the Household Edition volume to the importance of time, just as the appearance of Marley's ghost seven years to day after his death asserts for Scrooge the universal nature of mortality. Marley, also a good man of business, reminds Scrooge by his very presence of the winding down of time, time during which Scrooge should be building human relationships rather than merely acquiring capital. The ringing of the bells Barnard cannot depict directly, so that he employs the swinging bell-pull as a metonymy for the cacophonous sound that accompanies the arrival from the spiritual world of the messenger who warns his former partner of the imminent arrival of three allegorical phantoms, whose messages about the necessity for charity in its oldest sense, caring, are enshrined in the various sights they will show the dreamer, examples of human conduct drawn "from Scrooge's own life and times, . . . a review of the series of his own soul's forms of embodiment" accumulated and given meaning by the passage of time. Thus, the bell-pull should alert the careful reader-viewer to the importance of the word "time" and its associated concepts — year, hour, day, and life — which appear so frequently in Dickens's text. The Spirit visitors are embodiment's of time (Past, Present, and Future); we note, for example, how Marley defines each by the time at which each will arrival: the First Spirit Scrooge must expect "when the bell tolls one". The visits of the second and third will likewise be announced by the tolling of the bells:

Expect the second on the next night at the same hour. The third, upon the next night when the last stroke of Twelve has ceased to vibrate.

But by the crazy logic of the dream vision, only one night rather than three will have passed when Scrooge awakes on Christmas morning, reborn to the reality of all those whose journey lies between the cradle and the grave. In its sinuous movement to the left of the scene the tasseled bell-pull reiterates the swirling motion of the curtains (center and right), and the insistent vertical of Marley's impedimenta of ledgers, cash-boxes, keys, and purses (right). The whole business of time becomes important to Scrooge when he awakens on Christmas morning to the realization that the Spirits have effected his spiritual reclamation in a single night and that, given a second chance to join the family of humanity, "the Time before him was his own, to make amends in!" ("Stave Five"; Household Edition).

Details:



Marley's Ghost



Scrooge in nightgown



The candle and swirling bed curtains


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Marley's Ghost

Stave 1

Harry Furniss

1910 Library Edition

Commentary:

One of the most celebrated and generally recognized moments in the Dickens canon (if not all of English literature) is the scene in which his former business partner, Jacob Marley, now seven-years-dead, forces Ebenezer Scrooge to confront his own deplorable spiritual state. Every major illustrator of A Christmas Carol, including John Leech, Sol Eytinge, E. A. Abbey, Fred Barnard, Harry Furniss, and Arthur Rackham, has attempted to realize the spectral visitation in Scrooge's sitting-room. An obvious problem for the illustrator of this scene is the fact that Dickens describes the ghostly partner's body as "transparent", so that the reader, like Scrooge, should be able see through the spectre to the buttons on the back his coat, and yet also be able to see his waistcoat, tights, and Hessian boots, all in the approved Regency fashion. Working within this limitation, John Leech has provided the standard image of Scrooge's confrontation with his alter-ego, and has included all the elements of furniture and costume that Dickens describes. In Leech, Eytinge, Abbey, Barnard, and Furniss, the spirit, dragging his chains, ledgers, and cashboxes, occupies the right-hand register, while Scrooge, in nightgown and nightcap, occupies the left-hand register, before the fireplace. Furniss, then, is yielding to what must have been popular expectation in realizing this scene, but he must also have been aware that his readers would inevitably compare his treatment with at least Leech's and Barnard's — just as Arthur Rackham, only five years later, would have expected his readers to have compared his modeled, colorful version with those of 1843, 1878, and 1910. Whereas Rackham went out of his way to depart from past practice by reversing the positions of Scrooge and Marley, and by having Marley to appear to be on fire, Furniss borrowed heavily from Leech's version, although he minimized the fireplace (left) and gave the table straight rather than barleycane legs. The salient point of difference, then, is Scrooge's expression, which is markedly distrustful and suspicious in Furniss's illustration, rather than amazed or utterly composed.

John Leech in the original edition set the terms of illustration for so many of the scenes in the novella, including the of Marley's arrival from the depths of Scrooge's subconscious and the grave, a rendition to which all subsequent illustrators have responded. Sol Eytinge, Junior, in his 1867 Diamond Edition of The Christmas Books and in the twenty-fifth anniversary A Christmas Carol the following year reacted to Leech's composition by moving in for a closeup, first with a repentant and terrified Scrooge on his knees in "Scrooge and The Ghost" and subsequently with "Marley's Ghost", in which his focus is clearly Scrooge's remorse in the former and terror in the latter, the Ghost being transparent and seated in both. In contrast, the other illustrators realize the moment when the Ghost enters the room, when Scrooge is still trying to eat his gruel in front of a cold fire. As opposed to Eytinge's minimalist treatments and E. A. Abbey's highly atmospheric and modeled treatment of the two figures in the darkened room, Barnard's is highly dynamic as the bed-curtains and bell-pull writhe in the presence of the spirit. Viewed against this pictorial tradition, Furniss's seems very much a return to Leech's conception.


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"What do you want with me?"

Stave 1

E. A. Abbey

1876 American Household Edition

Commentary:

Realizing the most famous scene from among the whole run of Dickens's "somethings" for Christmas from the 1840s through the 1860s, Abbey reimagines the fateful confrontation of Jacob Marley's ghost and his quondam business partner in the latter's bed-sitting room as a dark plate, in the manner of Hablot Knight Browne (Phiz). The dimly lit room, the terrified Scrooge, and his ghostly visitor combine to create a mood far different from John Leech's charming caricature "Marley's Ghost" (1843). With a larger space to fill but without recourse to color, Abbey has assimilated his predecessor's work and transformed the scene into something entirely different, as the spectre presages what Scrooge himself must inevitably become, a spirit chained and doomed to walk the earth, witnessing but powerless to intervene in the suffering of the living. Although Fred Barnard has realised the same scene in his British Household Edition illustration "Marley's Ghost", there little character comedy but much of the gothic melodrama in Abbey's weird treatment of the celebrated scene.

The cellar-door flew open with a booming sound, and then he heard the noise much louder, on the floors below; then coming up the stairs; then coming straight towards his door.

"It's humbug still!" said Scrooge. "I won't believe it."

His color changed though, when, without a pause, it came on through the heavy door, and passed into the room before his eyes. Upon its coming in, the dying flame leaped up, as though it cried, "I know him; Marley's Ghost!" and fell again.

The same face: the very same. Marley in his pigtail, usual waistcoat, tights and boots; the tassels on the latter bristling, like his pigtail, and his coat-skirts, and the hair upon his head. The chain he drew was clasped about his middle. It was long, and wound about him like a tail; and it was made (for Scrooge observed it closely) of cash-boxes, keys, padlocks, ledgers, deeds, and heavy purses wrought in steel. His body was transparent; so that Scrooge, observing him, and looking through his waistcoat, could see the two buttons on his coat behind.

Scrooge had often heard it said that Marley had no bowels, but he had never believed it until now.

No, nor did he believe it even now. Though he looked the phantom through and through, and saw it standing before him; though he felt the chilling influence of its death-cold eyes; and marked the very texture of the folded kerchief bound about its head and chin, which wrapper he had not observed before; he was still incredulous, and fought against his senses.

"How now!" said Scrooge, caustic and cold as ever. "What do you want with me?"

"Much!" — Marley's voice, no doubt about it.


Abbey's treatment is more fluid and natural than Eytinge's, and his figures more realistically modeled than Leech's. The horizontal orientation of the plate affords Abbey greater opportunity to develop the background, whose details are less cluttered than those in Barnard's contemporary wood-engraving. But the most significant departure is Abbey's treating the scene seriously rather than whimsically as his Scrooge's horrified reaction is understated, the expression on Marley's face obscured (thereby rendering him more mysterious), and the whole scene imbued with an eerie atmosphere as a consequence of the chiaroscuro into which the momentarily roaring coal-fire has cast the darkened room, suggestive not merely of Scrooge's parsimony (his reluctance to consume coal, even to heat his own bedroom) but of his bleak spiritual state. Whereas the other artists have illuminated the scene by a flaring candle — in Leech's original, for example, one may readily apprehend the wainscoting, and the tiles inside the fireplace — Abbey has elected the make this a "dark" plate, contrasting the blazing hearth and the deep shadows on either side. Moreover, only his version accords prominence to the biblical-themed Dutch tiles fronting the fire-place, although the nature of the scenes and figures from the "Scriptures" Abbey has not particularized. His bare floor-boards, creating aerial perspective, are drawn directly from the Leech original, as are the fire-guard, hob, and bowl of gruel. But Abbey has replaced the rigidity and two-dimensional-ism of Leech's Marley with a more naturalistic pose and a more modeled figure, while eliminating the whimsy of the blazing candle's face.


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He felt the chilling influence of its death-cold eyes

Frontispiece for The Christmas Books, Collins' Pocket Edition (1906)

Stave 1

A. A. Dixon

1906

Text Illustrated:

His colour changed though, when, without a pause, it came on through the heavy door, and passed into the room before his eyes. Upon its coming in, the dying flame leaped up, as though it cried, "I know him! Marley's Ghost!" and fell again.

The same face: the very same. Marley in his pigtail, usual waistcoat, tights, and boots; the tassels on the latter bristling, like his pigtail, and his coat-skirts, and the hair upon his head. The chain he drew was clasped about his middle. It was long, and wound about him like a tail; and it was made (for Scrooge observed it closely) of cash-boxes, keys, padlocks, ledgers, deeds, and heavy purses wrought in steel. His body was transparent; so that Scrooge, observing him, and looking through his waistcoat, could see the two buttons on his coat behind.

Scrooge had often heard it said that Marley had no bowels, but he had never believed it until now.

No, nor did he believe it even now. Though he looked the phantom through and through, and saw it standing before him; though he felt the chilling influence of its death-cold eyes; and marked the very texture of the folded kerchief bound about its head and chin, which wrapper he had not observed before; he was still incredulous, and fought against his senses. [Stave One, "Marley's Ghost"]


Commentary:

Every major illustrator of A Christmas Carol, including John Leech, has attempted to realize this dramatic metaphysical visitation. Punch cartoonist John Leech in the original scarlet volume published in December 1843 set the terms of illustration for eight of the scenes in the novella, including the arrival of Marley's ghost from the depths of Scrooge's subconscious and the borders of the unseen world, a pictorial rendition to which all subsequent illustrators have in some way responded. Sol Eytinge, Junior, in his wood-engravings for 1867 Diamond Edition of The Christmas Books (the first such anthology of the five novellas written between 1843 and 1848 as "seasonal offerings") and in the twenty-fifth anniversary A Christmas Carol the following year reacted to Leech's composition by moving in for a closeup, first with a repentant and terrified Scrooge on his knees in Scrooge and The Ghost and subsequently with Marley's Ghost, in which the American illustrator's focus is clearly Scrooge's remorse in the former and terror in the latter, the Ghost being transparent and seated in both, but rather more effectively imagined in the 1868 single-volume edition of the novella. In contrast, the other post-Leech illustrators realize the moment when the Ghost enters the room, when Scrooge is still trying to eat his gruel in front of a cold fire (not even shown in the Dixon illustration). As opposed to Eytinge's minimalist treatments and E. A. Abbey's numinous atmosphere and modeled treatment of the mortal and the spirit in the darkened room, Barnard's rather more cartoon-like treatment is highly dynamic as the bed-curtains and bell-pull writhe in the presence of the tortured spirit. Viewed against this pictorial tradition, Dixon's interpretation seems rather pallid, and lacking in the tongue-in-cheek humor of Leech's original conception, which influenced the next major illustrator, Harry Furniss in Marley's Ghost (1910).

With the advantage of being able to review so many earlier interpretations of this telling (one might even say "transformative") moment, Dixon might have achieved an interesting synthesis of the gothic, the humorous, and the naturalistic. Instead, however, he focuses on making the characters look real, that is, three dimensional and natural in their postures and expressions, and thereby fails to realize the chief elements of the text: Scrooge's fear (which he covers up with humorous bravado and clever witticisms) and the gothic atmosphere of the encounter. No agonized former capitalist labors under chains forged in life, and no terror strikes the recipient of the visit here. A. A. Dixon does, however, make these former business partners similar types physically, although the proportions are off: in order to accommodate a seated Scrooge and a standing Marley, Dixon has, in fact, made the ghost much shorter. More to the point, the lithograph based on a water-color shows a Scrooge too young and not sufficiently affected by the uncanny visitor, who does not seem particularly animated or terrifying. The salient details of Scrooge's sitting room are generally absent, although Dixon has given the bowl of gruel and the candle a central position in the composition. Odd details include Scrooge's fur-collared dressing-gown; rich waitcoat; comfortable, floraly embroidered slippers; and the flagstone floor — which occupies rather too much of the picture. Had Dixon been able to study the frontispiece to the American Household Edition (which, owing to restrictive copyright laws on both sides of the Atlantic he likely could not), he might have chosen a vertical orientation and thereby given himself greater scope for depicting the figures more plausibly in their proper proportions in a sufficiently detailed setting. More to the point, he might have sought to capture the eerie atmosphere that Abbey so effectively creates through the use of shadow in that 1876 wood-engraving.


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“How now,” said Scrooge, caustic and cold as ever “What do you want with me?”

Stave 1

Arthur Rackham

1915


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On The Wings Of The Wind

Stave 1

Arthur Rackham

1915

Text Illustrated:

'Jacob!' he said imploringly. 'Old Jacob Marley, tell me more! Speak comfort to me, Jacob!'

'I have none to give,' the Ghost replied. 'It comes from other regions, Ebenezer Scrooge, and is conveyed by other ministers, to other kinds of men. Nor can I tell you what I would. A very little more is all permitted to me. I cannot rest, I cannot stay, I cannot linger anywhere. My spirit never walked beyond our counting-house—mark me;—in life my spirit never roved beyond the narrow limits of our money-changing hole; and weary journeys lie before me!'

It was a habit with Scrooge, whenever he became thoughtful, to put his hands in his breeches pockets. Pondering on what the Ghost had said, he did so now, but without lifting up his eyes, or getting off his knees.

'You must have been very slow about it, Jacob,' Scrooge observed in a business-like manner, though with humility and deference.

'Slow!' the Ghost repeated.

'Seven years dead,' mused Scrooge. 'And travelling all the time?'

'The whole time,' said the Ghost. 'No rest, no peace. Incessant torture of remorse.'

'You travel fast?' said Scrooge.

'On the wings of the wind,' replied the Ghost.



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The Ghosts of Departed Usurers, or, The Phantoms

Stave 1

John Leech

1843

Text Illustrated:

The apparition walked backward from him; and at every step it took, the window raised itself a little, so that when the spectre reached it, it was wide open. It beckoned Scrooge to approach, which he did. When they were within two paces of each other, Marley's Ghost held up its hand, warning him to come no nearer. Scrooge stopped.

Not so much in obedience, as in surprise and fear: for on the raising of the hand, he became sensible of confused noises in the air; incoherent sounds of lamentation and regret; wailings inexpressibly sorrowful and self-accusatory. The spectre, after listening for a moment, joined in the mournful dirge; and floated out upon the bleak, dark night.

Scrooge followed to the window: desperate in his curiosity. He looked out.

The air was filled with phantoms, wandering hither and thither in restless haste, and moaning as they went. Every one of them wore chains like Marley's Ghost; some few (they might be guilty governments) were linked together; none were free. Many had been personally known to Scrooge in their lives. He had been quite familiar with one old ghost, in a white waistcoat, with a monstrous iron safe attached to its ankle, who cried piteously at being unable to assist a wretched woman with an infant, whom it saw below, upon a door-step. The misery with them all was, clearly, that they sought to interfere, for good, in human matters, and had lost the power for ever.

Whether these creatures faded into mist, or mist enshrouded them, he could not tell. But they and their spirit voices faded together; and the night became as it had been when he walked home.

Scrooge closed the window, and examined the door by which the Ghost had entered. It was double-locked, as he had locked it with his own hands, and the bolts were undisturbed. He tried to say "Humbug!" but stopped at the first syllable. And being, from the emotion he had undergone, or the fatigues of the day, or his glimpse of the Invisible World, or the dull conversation of the Ghost, or the lateness of the hour, much in need of repose; went straight to bed, without undressing, and fell asleep upon the instant.


Commentary:

Leech's illustration reveals to Scrooge what he will become after death, a mere spectre, unable to intervene for good in the lives of people less fortunate than himself. A woman, whom he would have ignored prior to this night of ghostly visitations, attempts to find shelter in a building opposite. The ghosts of the departed usurers are agitated because their insubstantial condition prohibits them from alleviating the poor woman's suffering; hence, Leech includes area-railings between the spirits and the pauper to draw the line between the visible and the "invisible" world.


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Phantoms in the Street

Stave 1

Harry Furniss

1910 Library Edition

Text Illustrated:

Scrooge followed to the window: desperate in his curiosity. He looked out.

The air was filled with phantoms, wandering hither and thither in restless haste, and moaning as they went. Every one of them wore chains like Marley's Ghost; some few (they might be guilty governments) were linked together; none were free. Many had been personally known to Scrooge in their lives. He had been quite familiar with one old ghost, in a white waistcoat, with a monstrous iron safe attached to its ankle, who cried piteously at being unable to assist a wretched woman with an infant, whom it saw below, upon a door-step. The misery with them all was, clearly, that they sought to interfere, for good, in human matters, and had lost the power for ever.

Whether these creatures faded into mist, or mist enshrouded them, he could not tell. But they and their spirit voices faded together; and the night became as it had been when he walked home. [Stave One, "Marley's Ghost,"]


Commentary:

The void in the illustration, upper right is interesting in that it suggests both a dense London fog and an uncertain future for a society and a system that are so neglectful of the underprivileged. That the area is essentially unoccupied forces the eye to follow the diagonal of the white-waistcoated ghost down to the crying woman, upon both of whom Scrooge, skulking down the street, turns his back as he turns his gaze upon the reader. Using Scrooge's figure to exemplify the complacent middle classes, Furniss's final illustration for Stave 1 shows a bent and twisted Scrooge turning his back on the world of the spirits — on the gentleman in the white waistcoat who, chained to a safe,reenacts the warnings of Marley, and on the huddled mother and child, the nativity of the streets, that Scrooge also refuses to acknowledge. Mixing fairy tale and serious social commentary, Furniss captures the children's story without reducing the Carol to sentimentality, and he reawakens the child in the adult reader. [Davis 126]

Although Leech in the original edition chose scenes that graphed Scrooge's moral progress, he did not emphasize the misery and privation of the Hungry Forties until he and Dickens's team of supporting illustrators tackled the social issues inherent in the second of the Christmas Books, The Chimes (1844). Thus, there is no immediate parallel for Furniss's "Phantoms in the Street" in the 1843 edition, but John Leech does offer social commentary in his famous visual denunciation of the capitalistic system, "Ignorance and Want", a scene echoed by Sol Eytinge, Jr., twenty-five years later in " Want and Ignorance", in which the Philadelphia-born illustrator substitutes ghetto housing blocks for the blackened factory buildings and chimneys that serve as the backdrop in Leech's grimly realistic illustration. However, the astute reader of various editions of The Christmas Books will find a scene corresponding to Furniss's "Phantoms in the Street" in Richard Doyle's "Meggy Veck and Her Child", in which Dickens confronts infanticide and female suicide, both byproducts of what the unreformed Scrooge and Malthusian economists might have termed "an economic adjustment between demand, supply, and labor," but which history has pronounced "The Hungry Forties." Writing at the end of the decade, Dickens touched on this selfsame theme again in the figure of Martha in David Copperfield who, without friends and relatives contemplates committing suicide in "The River" by Phiz (Hablot K. Browne), one of two illustrations for the sixteenth monthly (August 1850) number, specifically for chapter 47, "Martha."

A number of the illustrators of the Carol raise the spectre of urban poverty and urban blight, beginning with John Leech's "Ignorance and Want" (1843), and continuing through Eytinge's "Want and Ignorance" (1867) and Fred Barnard's purgatorial vision of Old Joe's pawnshop (1878). On the other hand, the American Household Edition illustrator, E. A. Abbey, offers no suggestion of working-class suffering and economic deprivation in his 1876 program, and Arthur Rackham in transforming the adult, cautionary tale into a children's picture-book only approaches social realism in a single illustration, "What do you call this?' said Joe. 'Bed-curtains" (image), not rivaling Barnard's in ghoulishness, but jarring the otherwise jolly, benign, middle-class vision of Dickens's novella.

This amalgam of three scenes juxtaposes Scrooge's turning his back on the sufferings of his fellow passengers to the grave (lower left) with the anguished ghost of a wealthy bourgeois in a white waistcoat (upper left), no longer able to intervene in human affairs, and a madonna figure (lower right), sheltered in a doorway with her infant. The moment when Scrooge looks out his window to see the homeless mother even as, in the air above her, he hears "incoherent sounds of lamentation and regret" at the conclusion of Stave One occurs over ten pages before the reader encounters this multi-vignette illustration, positioned well into Stave Two. Paul Davis notes that the dog (lower right) cowering in front of the homeless woman "may be one of the blind men's dogs who lead their masters out of Scrooge's way when they see him coming down the street". When all humanity seem to have abandoned the woman and child, representatives of that "surplus population" whom Scrooge has derided earlier that day to the charity collectors, the street cur, an image of fidelity on medieval tombs, is the poor mother's only companion. The most interesting area of the composite picture, however, is the upper left, where Scrooge sees a multitude of phantoms, linked together — presumably in their insensitivity in life to the needs of the poor, the unemployed, and the homeless. The "monstrous iron safe" — a symbol of financial success in a materialistic society — implies that the ghost of its once-prosperous owner was a successful capitalist, perhaps even an enabler of the system, a banker. But the swirling dark mass (the "mist" into which the spirits dissolve in this passage) contains other figures and several other faces, both male, suggesting the male-dominated financial, corporate, and governmental establishment that, like Scrooge now, has turned its collective back on the poor: "they might be guilty governments", although Furniss seems to have thought of no way to make that identification explicit.


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The air was filled with phantoms, wandering hither and thither in restless haste and moaning as they went

Arthur Rackham

Stave 1

1915

Text Illustrated:

The apparition walked backward from him; and, at every step it took, the window raised itself a little, so that, when the spectre reached it, it was wide open. It beckoned Scrooge to approach, which he did. When they were within two paces of each other, Marley's Ghost held up its hand, warning him to come no nearer. Scrooge stopped.

Not so much in obedience as in surprise and fear; for, on the raising of the hand, he became sensible of confused noises in the air; incoherent sounds of lamentation and regret; wailings inexpressibly sorrowful and self-accusatory. The spectre, after listening for a moment, joined in the mournful dirge; and floated out upon the bleak, dark night.

Scrooge followed to the window: desperate in his curiosity. He looked out.

The air was filled with phantoms, wandering hither and thither in restless haste, and moaning as they went. Every one of them wore chains like Marley's Ghost; some few (they might be guilty governments) were linked together; none were free. Many had been personally known to Scrooge in their lives. He had been quite familiar with one old ghost in a white waistcoat, with a monstrous iron safe attached to its ankle, who cried piteously at being unable to assist a wretched woman with an infant, whom it saw below upon a doorstep. The misery with them all was clearly, that they sought to interfere, for good, in human matters, and had lost the power for ever.

Whether these creatures faded into mist, or mist enshrouded them, he could not tell. But they and their spirit voices faded together; and the night became as it had been when he walked home.


I'm pretty sure I could have read the book faster than get all these illustrations and their commentaries, and we're only in the first chapter. :-)


message 45: by Mary Lou (new)

Mary Lou | 2265 comments I regret to say that none of the illustrations from Stave One satisfy me. I'm surprised there aren't more of the door knocker.


message 46: by John (new)

John (jdourg) | 1033 comments My e book edition was supposed to be illustrated and annotated.

Unfortunately, it is neither.

Unless I wish to point out that there is one illustration by George Alfred Williams, copyrighted in 1905.

I must say: disappointing. But I'm reading.


Xan Shadowflutter (shadowflutter) | 867 comments My e-book has illustrations -- Delphi version -- but are so small, without any ability to enlarge I've found, that they aren't of much use. Almost impossible to see detail.


message 48: by Peter (new)

Peter | 2979 comments Mod
Kim wrote: "

Marley's Ghost

Stave 1

Fred Barnard

1878

Commentary:

Barnard's illustration of this scene compared to those by John Leech and Sol Eytinge, Jr.:

John Leech emphasized the importance to the s..."


Kim

What a delightful collection of illustrations for our Christmas read. Thank you.

I always enjoy the commentaries on the illustrations and your posting #36 offered one of the best commentaries ever. What I always have to remind myself is that there was only one original illustrator. Subsequent illustrators thus had the opportunity to see the original, gage how the reading public was relating and reacting to the letterpress over the years, and then add to, alter, or create something in addition to the original.

Scrooge is depicted in many ways and forms through the various illustrators in Stave One. Bob Cratchit comes to us in various forms (and scarf lengths) as well. Generally, I enjoy the B&W illustrations most, but the Leech illustrations are such classics. I really love them all. I hope many of the Curiosities have had the opportunity to see them within the original text. To hold a first edition of ACC and look at the illustrations is a true joy.

Furniss is always a favourite of mine as well, but it took me a bit of time to adjust to the multiple images. I’m not sure if I like the technique but was surprised to learn that Furniss and Edison had connected. Imagine that.

I’ve never liked Rackham’s work too much. His illustrations in ACC further confirm my feelings.

I really enjoyed the various depictions of the charity collectors. Very Cherryble-like in appearance. Or Pickwickian. I wonder if Nast’s depiction of Santa was in any way influenced by the depiction of kindly people in Dickens novels?


message 49: by Tristram (new)

Tristram Shandy | 4381 comments Mod
Julie wrote: "Mary Lou wrote: "I try to read Christmas Carol to my kids every year. I think I've only actually pulled it off once, and not with my younger son, not because they don't like it, but because every December I move straight from finishing out an academic quarter and getting finals grades in to hosting a zillion family members for Christmas, and with all the schedule disruptions it's difficult to find time. "

That is exactly what is our problem here, too: I‘d like to read the Christmas Carol to my son, but at the moment, three of seven evenings a week are occupied with rehearsals for Christmas concerts, and then there are visits to pay, visits to receive, Christmas cards to write, and all that while everyday life goes on pretty much as usual. There is still a tree to buy and to decorate, too. Christmas is, indeed, a very stressful time, at least the three weeks before the actual Christmas Days.


message 50: by Vicki (new)

Vicki Cline | 21 comments I really like the paragraph noting the appearance of Marley's face on the door knocker. "Now, it is a fact, that there was nothing at all particular about the knocker on the door..." The text very gradually gets us to the end, "- not a knocker, but Marley’s face," with little comments on Scrooge's personality leading up to the denouement.


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