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A Christmas Carol > A Christmas Carol Stave Two

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message 1: by Tristram (last edited Dec 09, 2018 02:27AM) (new)

Tristram Shandy | 4394 comments Mod
Hello Curiosities,

Our second week of rea ding A Christmas Carol takes us back into Scrooge‘s past, summoning the Ghost of Christmas Past although, stricly speaking, Scrooge is anything but summoning this Ghost. When he finds himself awake in the middle of the night, he pierces the dark with his “ferret eyes“, and he is surprised to hear the clock strike but midnight. He keeps lying awake, thinking about Marley‘s Ghost, and finally, the clock strikes the next hour, one o‘clock.

This is when the First Ghost, the one of Christmas Past, appears before Scrooge. The Ghost is described in great detail and with great care by our narrator, and yet, the impression we get of the spectre is somehow vague, and in parts contradictory. The light enveloping the Ghost is sometimes lighter, sometimes duller, his face looks like a child‘s and yet also like that of a wiser and older person, its outlines are also indistinct and fluctuating. When it speaks, its voice, which comes over as “soft and gentle“, seems to come from a distance athough the Ghost is close by. The Ghost‘s touch is gentle, and yet, at other times, betrays considerable strength, and its arms are described as “long and muscular“, the hands seeming as if their “hold were of uncommon strength“.

Can you imagine a reason why the Ghost of Christmas Past seems to oscillate between being close and far away, between being gentle and gripping, between being old and childlike? What might the light shining above his head stand for?

After introducing himself to Scrooge as the Ghost of all those Christmasses that Scrooge himself had lived through, he takes the old miser on a journey, making him fly through the air and setting him down at a place that is obviously some place Scrooge had been familiar with as a child. And lo! The old man starts spurting out his reminiscences about the boys he sees – the Ghost warning him that his visions are just shadows of the past, unable to see him and communicate with him. When the Ghost mentions the school Scrooge spent his time at, the old miser starts to sob. Some little time later, he and the Ghost visit his old self, a little and forlorn boy, the only pupil that is not summoned home for Christmas, and who spends his time, forgotten and lonesome, pouring over books like The Arabian Nights or Robinson Crusoe to while away his lonely hours. Witnessing his former self, Scrooge the Elder starts weeping outright.

Do you think it clever of the Ghost to confront Scrooge with some of his oldest memories – some merry, like the boys playing in the snow, some sadder, reminding him of his old solitude, a solitude he certainly disliked – before showing him anything else? What effect might this have on the old miser? In what way may this prepare him for things to come?

We also witness how Scrooge‘s sister Fanny comes to tell him that their father has become gentler recently, and that she had mustered up all her courage to ask their father whether Scrooge might not return home for Christmas, and, implicitly, for good. The Ghost rekindles Ebenezer‘s tender memories of his sister and them allows him to come on his own to the sudden insight that the son of his sister, who died early, is none but his own nephew, whom he treated rather coldly.

What kind of man might Scrooge‘s father have been? What reasons could he have had for keeping young Ebenezer at arm‘s length whereas the younger sister was obviously living in the same house with him? – How might this have affected Scrooge? Does Dickens show himself as an astute psychologist here, hinting at the fact that the bitterness the later Scrooge seems to feel (and make other people feel in their turn) could have come from somewhere?

I‘d also like to know which ones of you felt reminded of a certain other schoolmaster at sight of the imposing headmaster who bade Ebenezer and his sister farewell, and who apparently kept his students, and his servants, on a very scanty diet.

The Fezziwig episode, which follows next, is probably one of the better-known parts of the story, simply since it is usually made much of in the movie versions. We see Scrooge as a young man when he was still open-minded and outgoing, having fun on Christmas Eve with his friends, colleagues and neighbours, as light-heartedly as the next guy. When the Ghost says that, after all, it did not cost Fezziwig a lot of money to set up those Christmas parties and so one should not make too much of his generosity, Scrooge speaks up:

“‘It isn't that,‘ said Scrooge, heated by the remark, and speaking unconsciously like his former, not his latter, self. ‚It isn't that, Spirit, He has the power to render us happy or unhappy; to make our service light or burdensome; a pleasure or a toil. Say that his power lies in words and looks; in things so slight and insignificant that it is impossible to add and count 'em up: what then? The happiness he gives, is quite as great as if it cost a fortune.‘“


It is immediately afterwards that Scrooge finds he would like to have the opportunity to have some words with his own clerk, Bob Cratchit, right now.

The different memories the Ghost re-enlivens in Scrooge apparently have the effect of making the old miser reconsider his way of treating certain people in his everyday life. Do you think Scrooge‘s learning process believable? And what do you make of his motives for reconsidering his former behaviour?

The Ghost then makes Scrooge re-visit a scene concerning his love life, namely a decisive interview with his fiancée, who says she feels obliged to absolve him from their engagement because she cannot but admit that he has changed and that his new self would probably not bind himself to a woman who has no dowry to speak of and neither any prospects of wealth. Scrooge protests, but lamely, and the upshot of it all is that the engagement is broken off. There is one passage of their conversation that holds particular interest to me because I think it may give us some hint as to why Scrooge has become a money-grubber:

“‘This is the even-handed dealing of the world!‘ he said. ‘There is nothing on which it is so hard as poverty; and there is nothing it professes to condemn with such severity as the pursuit of wealth!‘

‘You fear the world too much,‘ she answered, gently. ‚All your other hopes have merged into the hope of being beyond the chance of its sordid reproach. I have seen your nobler aspirations fall off one by one, until the master-passion, Gain, engrosses you. Have I not?‘“


Do you find it believable that the young lad we saw in such a happy state at Fezziwig‘s Christmas party should somehow have grown such a bitter, materialistic man? From what we know of the memories presented by the Ghost, is this change in Scrooge‘s character explicable?

A last visit the Ghost takes Scrooge on is a scene where Ebenezer sees his former betrothed in the midst of a bevy of children, on another Christmas Eve, and when her husband comes home he tells her that he has seen Ebenezer Scrooge alone in his office – it is the very Christmas when Marley lies dying –, pointing out that Scrooge is now “‘[q]uite alone in the world‘“.

Scrooge cannot bear these memories, maybe especially the last one, and implores the Ghost to show him nothing further. He finally fights his companion, trying to extinguish the light, which he finally succeeds in. When you consider some of the final sentences, you maybe come to the conclusion that even though he has prevented the Ghost from showing him more, the things he was shown will work on in his subconscious:

“The Spirit dropped beneath it, so that the extinguisher covered its whole form; but though Scrooge pressed it down with all his force, he could not hide the light: which streamed from under it, in an unbroken flood upon the ground.“


It may yet be too early to ask you which is your “favourite“ Ghost, since we have got to know but two of them, but if I forget to ask this question in two weeks, please remind me of my remissness.


message 2: by John (last edited Dec 09, 2018 09:57AM) (new)

John (jdourg) | 1033 comments I find the line "you fear the world too much" to be the most powerful line in this section, perhaps in the book itself. It seems to be from where everything springs for Scrooge, corroding as it is.


message 3: by Mary Lou (last edited Dec 09, 2018 07:15PM) (new)

Mary Lou | 2270 comments The annotated version contains some interesting observations. One of these is to do with Belle, Scrooge's fiance (whose name I thought was Alice, but perhaps that was in a movie version, or just a faulty memory). The annotator suggests that Belle may be an abbreviation of Beadnell, i.e. Maria Beadnell, Dickens' first love, whom he lost because her father didn't think Dickens' prospects were good enough for his daughter. Just as Scrooge seems to wonder how his life might have been different had they married, one can't help but wonder how Dickens' novels may have been different if he and Maria had married, and Catherine (and Mary!) hadn't come into his life.

And speaking of Belle, I found this passage very moving, and intriguing that it came from the narrator. What can we make of that?

What would I not have given to one of them. Though I never could have been so rude, no, no. I wouldn't for the wealth of all the world have crushed that braided hair, and torn it down; and for the precious little shoe, I wouldn't have plucked it off, God bless my soul. to save my life. As to measuring her waist in sport, as they did, bold young brood, I couldn't have done it; I should have expected my arm to have grown round it for a punishment, and never come straight again. And yet I should have dearly liked, I own, to have touched her lips; to have questioned her, that she might have opened them; to have looked upon the lashes of her downcast eyes, and never raised a blush; to have let loose waves of hair, an inch of which would be a keepsake beyond price: in short, I should have liked, I do confess, to have had the lightest licence of a child, and yet to have been man enough to know its value.

What is it with Dickens and women's eyelashes?


message 4: by Mary Lou (new)

Mary Lou | 2270 comments Tristram wrote: "Can you imagine a reason why the Ghost of Christmas Past seems to oscillate between being close and far away, between being gentle and gripping, between being old and childlike? What might the light shining above his head stand for?..."

The first spirit is the embodiment (loosely speaking) of memories, which also oscillate between being close and far away, between being gentle and gripping, etc. Brilliant of Dickens to imagine him (her?) that way. This line:

He turned upon the Ghost, and seeing that is looked upon him with a face, in which in some strange way there were fragments of all the faces it had shown him..."


message 5: by Mary Lou (last edited Dec 09, 2018 07:17PM) (new)

Mary Lou | 2270 comments Tristram wrote: "What kind of man might Scrooge‘s father have been?"

"I‘d also like to know which ones of you felt reminded of a certain other schoolmaster at sight of the imposing headmaster who bade Ebenezer and his sister farewell, and who apparently kept his students, and his servants, on a very scanty diet...."


Definitely allusions to other novels here. The first, I'm reminded of Paul and Florence in Dombey and Son, one who had his father's love, and the other who didn't. And weren't there similar siblings in Hard Times? Gradgrind's children, perhaps?

It seems to me that one of the movie adaptations made some reference to Scrooge's father becoming hard following his wife's death in childbirth, paralleling with another brick in Scrooge's wall, put up when his sister died giving birth to Fred. But having reread the original, all of that turned out to be nothing but poetic license on the part of the script writer.

The second bit, of course, hearkens back to Nickolas Nickleby and Squeers. Having not read NN until now, that allusion never resonated with me until now.


message 6: by Mary Lou (new)

Mary Lou | 2270 comments “‘There is nothing on which [the world] is so hard as poverty; and there is nothing it professes to condemn with such severity as the pursuit of wealth!‘..."

I had this quote from Scrooge highlighted, as well, though perhaps for a different reason: it's illustrative of Dickens' astounding insight into human nature. I've just started to notice things like this in my 50s. At the young age of 31, he was not only conscious of so many aspects of human nature, but he could pick them up, examine them, and write about them in his novels in such a way that every reader could make sense of it. What an amazing gift.


message 7: by Julie (new)

Julie Kelleher | 1127 comments Tristram wrote: "Can you imagine a reason why the Ghost of Christmas Past seems to oscillate between being close and far away, between being gentle and gripping, between being old and childlike? What might the light shining above his head stand for?..."

Working from the description, I find this ghost extremely difficult to visualize, so much so that I tend to gloss over the description unless I'm careful and just visualize something from a film adaptation instead.

And right this moment I can't think of a film adaptation that's made any effort to be faithful to the description in the book, maybe because it is such a visual challenge.


message 8: by Chris (new)

Chris Angelis Mary Lou wrote: "And speaking of Belle, I found this passage very moving, and intriguing that it came from the narrator. What can we make of that? "

I posted the same comment elsewhere - in fact I discovered this group thanks to a serendipitous error Peter made, posting a comment on a wrong thread!

The scene you refer to is an instance of a wider temporal distortion at the core of Scrooge's experience. He notices whom he initially thinks to be Belle, but instead it is her daughter. Effectively, the daughter does not merely allude to the future, but also to a version of the present – which for Scrooge, the viewer, is still the past. That this daughter possesses the double function of being Scrooge’s potential daughter as well as being seen as the younger Belle, only emphasizes the idea of transgression, underlining the taboo nature of the situation.

This is further accentuated by Scrooge vicariously experiencing the scene also as one of the children. Essentially, this visitor from the future exists in three temporal states simultaneously: as a child, seeing the daughter as a mother figure; as a partner, seeing her as his lover; and, implicitly, as a father, seeing her as a daughter that could have been his. In this quite remarkable excerpt, Scrooge very obviously describes a conflict. It is the conflict between sexual desires and the pureness and pristine nature of domestic life. What is important to realize is that this gender-related conflict is expressed through a temporal one.

Source


message 9: by Xan Shadowflutter (last edited Dec 10, 2018 05:40AM) (new)

Xan Shadowflutter (shadowflutter) | 867 comments Tristram wrote: "We also witness how Scrooge‘s sister Fanny comes to tell him that their father has become gentler recently, and that she had mustered up all her courage to ask their father whether Scrooge might not return home for Christmas, and, implicitly, for good. "

This made me wonder if Scrooge's father hadn't had the same ghostly experience as Scrooge is currently having.

======================

The Fezziwig party is remembered, I think, for happiness in simplicity. No money, no expensive presents, just good people having a good time appreciating one another.

" "It isn't that," said Scrooge, heated by the remark, and speaking unconsciously like his former, not his latter self. "It isn't that, Spirit. He has the power to render us happy or unhappy; to make our service light or burdensome; a pleasure or a toil. Say that his power lies in words and looks; in things so slight and insignificant that it is impossible to add and count 'em up: what then? The happiness he gives is quite as great as if it cost a fortune." "

The simplicity of authentic joy.

=======================

There's something very sad in this story, and we see it when Scrooge watches Belle with daughter, sons, and husband. There they are inside a warm house, happy together, husband, wife, and family; and there is Scrooge outside in the freezing cold all alone.

This decisions he's made to pursue wealth to the exclusion of happiness cannot be undone. His anger at Christmas and all around him is nothing more than bitterness redirected outward. He can change and enjoy what's left of his life -- there is redemption in that -- but what is done is done and can't be undone. There is that too, and it's sad.


message 10: by Kim (new)

Kim | 5598 comments Mod


Frontispiece: "Scrooge's Christmas Visitors"

Sol Eytinge

1869 Diamond Edition

Commentary:

While Dickens's original Christmas Carol illustrator, John Leech, never attempted the challenging and contradictory figure of "The First of the Three Spirits," the child/old man with white hair and skin of "the tenderest bloom," Eytinge realizes this strange figure effectively in three separate, full-page plates — the frontispiece, "Scrooge's Christmas Visitors," "The Spirit of Christmas Past", and "A Retrospect", as well as in the vignette at the head of Stave 2, "The Vision of Ali Baba", in which, in anticipation of Bob Cratchit's carrying Tiny Tim in the vignette "Tiny Tim's Ride" — incidentally the first artistic rendering of that scene in the streets of Camden Town — Scrooge is actually holding the diminutive spirit in his left arm. Eytinge has realized the problematic figure by making the head of a lesser rather than greater scale than an adult's relative to the body, but otherwise, as the text stipulates, retaining "a child's proportions," the spirit's long arms, "dress trimmed with summer flowers," and the jet of light springing from its head. The only property of the spirit that Leech realized in "Scrooge extinguishes the First of the Three Spirits", "a great extinguisher for a cap," Eytinge employs in three of the four representations to maintain narrative-pictorial continuity.

The first of these occurs in the frontispiece, the only Eytinge illustration that is a type of postmodernist synthesis rather than a realization of an actual moment in the text. Scrooge looks up in wonder untainted by fear at the "Jolly Giant" of Christmas Present, apparently ignoring the ominous implications of the spectre clad in a black shroud. In fact, none of them appears to Scrooge when he is in bed, but all three, Past, Present, and Future, do indeed "contend" within him after their monitory visitations, and just as the Spirits "can do anything they like" (Stave 5), including defying temporal boundaries, so the visual artist (implies Eytinge) can disregard the limitations imposed by the author. The plate prepares the reader for those key moments of confrontation in the text, but undoubtedly even in 1868 rehearsed for many American readers their experience with that culturally iconic text over the past two decades, a foreshadowing then that is also a flashback, a recollection and rectification of readings and Christmases past.


message 11: by Kim (new)

Kim | 5598 comments Mod


The Spirit of Christmas Past

Stave 2

Sol Eytinge, Jr.

Commentary:

This is the only scene in the sequence in which Scrooge is actually in bed as he receives a spirit guide.

He spoke before the hour bell [one o'clock] sounded, which it now did with a deep, dull, hollow, melancholy ONE. Light flashed up in the room upon the instant, and the curtains of his bed were drawn.

The curtains of his bed were drawn aside, I tell you, by a hand. Not the curtains at his feet, nor the curtains at his back, but those to which his face was addressed. The curtains of his bed were drawn aside; and Scrooge, starting up into a half-recumbent attitude, found himself face to face with the unearthly visitor who drew them: as close to it as I am now to you, and I am standing in the spirit at your elbow.

It was a strange figure — like a child: yet not so like a child as like an old man, viewed through some supernatural medium, which as like an old man, which gave him the appearance of having receded from the view, and being diminished to a child's proportions. Its hair, which hung about its neck and down its back, was white as if with age; and yet the face had not a wrinkle in it and the tenderest bloom was on the skin. The arms were very long and muscular; the hands the same, as if its hold were of uncommon strength. Its legs and feet, most delicately formed, were, like those upper members, bare. It wore a tunic of the purest white; and round its waist was bound a lustrous belt the sheen of which was beautiful. It held a branch of fresh green holly in its hand; and, in singular contradiction of that wintry emblem, had its dress trimmed with summer flowers. But the strangest thing about it was, that from the crown of its head there sprung a bright clear jet of light, by which all this was visible; and which was doubtless the occasion of its using, in its duller moments, a great extinguisher for a cap, which it now held under its arm. [Stave Two, "The First of the Three Spirits"]


Re-reading this textual moment and trying to visualize it, one can readily see why Dickens's original illustrator, John Leech, did not attempt to realize it. Eytinge has simply eliminated those features that he must have felt defied the illustrator's art, so that, for example, although he has included the white tunic trimmed with flowers and the beam of light emanating from the spirit's head from which white hair depends to the waist, and the disproportionately long arms, he has omitted the extinguisher cap, the "lustrous" nature of the belt, and any suggestion that the spirit (most famously in the Alastair Sim 1951 Renown cinematic adaptation) is an old man. Eytinge has made obvious Scrooge's almost pre-natal posture, with knees draw up under his chin, ready for his spiritual rebirth and reintegration into the human family.


message 12: by Kim (new)

Kim | 5598 comments Mod


The Vision of Ali Baba

Stave 2

Sol Eytinge, Jr.

1869 Diamond Edition

Commentary:

The strange figure of the Spirit of Christmas Past, at once youthful and aged, a synthesis perhaps of the Christ Child and Father Christmas, speaking softly and gently to his charge, in the text guides Scrooge dressed in "slippers, dressing gown, and nightcap" to the market town, bridge, and school of his childhood. Despite the dreariness of the old school room, "long, bare, and melancholy," Scrooge, standing beside the solitary boy who was himself at Christmas Break, is delighted to see again again his old friend from The Arabian Nights Adventure, a childhood favorite of the story's author, and of his literary alter ego, David Copperfield. The scene makes clear that as a boy Scrooge, like young Charles Dickens, was thoroughly attuned to the power of the invisible world of "Fancy," that is, of literature and the imagination, as is suggested in the passage which Sol Eytinge has chosen to realize:

The Spirit touched him on the arm, and pointed to his younger self, intent upon his reading. Suddenly a man, in foreign garments: wonderfully real and distinct to look at: stood outside the window, with an axe stuck in his belt, and leading an ass laden with wood by the bridle.

"Why, it's Ali Baba!" Scrooge exclaimed in ecstasy. "It's dear old honest Ali Baba! Yes, yes, I Know! One Christmas time, when yonder solitary child was left here all alone, he did come, for the first time, just like that . . . ." ["Stave Two, The First of the Three Spirits"]


Although the text does not so specify, Scrooge joyfully points at the schoolroom window with his upstage (left) arm, urging the Spirit of Christmas Past (readily identified by the stream of light emanating from his head and his cap in the shape of a candle-snuffer), who is apparently standing on a desk since his head is level with Scrooge's. The boy Scrooge, reading intently, does not look up from his book, and is oblivious to the shades immediately behind him. In the previous stave, Scrooge was real and all the phantoms insubstantial; now, he is a spirit visitor who may travel wherever his spirit guide directs him, and is not bounded by walls — or time. Eytinge has captured well Ebenezer Scrooge's ecstatic wonder in the broad smile and eager expression with which the artist has imbued his subject.


message 13: by Kim (new)

Kim | 5598 comments Mod


The First of the Three Spirits

Stave 2

Harry Furniss

1910 Library Edition

Commentary:

This amalgam of three visual elements juxtaposes Scrooge's essential isolation as a child (right) with only books for company when the other students went home on holidays with the purity of the countryside in which the somewhat dilapidated school was located.

The Spirit of Christmas Past (lower left) holds a sprig of holly to suggest the evergreen or enduring nature of this childhood experience for the mature Scrooge. Of Dickens's major illustrators, only Sol Eytinge, Jr. (1868) and Harry Furniss (1910) have attempted to realize the enigmatic figure of The Ghost of Christmas Past. The great originator of images for A Christmas Carol, John Leech, represents Scrooge's former self only indirectly, through the image of "Mr. Fezziwig's Ball", and focuses on the other two spirits. The fault lies with Dickens's ambiguous description of this androgynous, ageless figure (described as masculine in pronoun) who is a fusion of contraries:

It was a strange figure — like a child: yet not so like a child as like an old man, viewed through some supernatural medium, which gave him the appearance of having receded from the view, and being diminished to a child's proportions. Its hair, which hung about its neck and down its back, was white as if with age; and yet the face had not a wrinkle in it, and the tenderest bloom was on the skin. The arms were very long and muscular; the hands the same, as if its hold were of uncommon strength. Its legs and feet, most delicately formed, were, like those upper members, bare. It wore a tunic of the purest white, and round its waist was bound a lustrous belt, the sheen of which was beautiful. It held a branch of fresh green holly in its hand; and, in singular contradiction of that wintry emblem, had its dress trimmed with summer flowers. But the strangest thing about it was, that from the crown of its head there sprung a bright clear jet of light, by which all this was visible; and which was doubtless the occasion of its using, in its duller moments, a great extinguisher for a cap, which it now held under its arm.

Even this, though, when Scrooge looked at it with increasing steadiness, was not its strangest quality. For as its belt sparkled and glittered now in one part and now in another, and what was light one instant, at another time was dark, so the figure itself fluctuated in its distinctness: being now a thing with one arm, now with one leg, now with twenty legs, now a pair of legs without a head, now a head without a body: of which dissolving parts, no outline would be visible in the dense gloom wherein they melted away. And in the very wonder of this, it would be itself again; distinct and clear as ever. [Stave Two, "The The First of the Three Spirits,"]


Since such ambiguity in the description of a character does not offer much guidance to the illustrator, John Leech chose to depict the other spirits, even though one might argue that Scrooge's sense of abandonment, his troubled childhood, and his subsequent rejection by Belle as a young adult profoundly affected his moral development, and that therefore The Spirit of Christmas Past, as American illustrator Sol Eytinge, Jr., realized, is an important figure in Scrooge's journey to spiritual redemption and social reintegration. In the twenty-fifth anniversary Ticknor-Fields edition, Eytinge offers three instances of the diminutive, girl-like figure with the conical hat, including in the book's somewhat surrealistic frontispiece,"Scrooge's Christmas Visitors", and it is quite possible that this interpretation rather than the stage convention of dressing the spirit like a druid (as in the 1951 film adaption scripted by Noel Langley) influenced Furniss's realization.

Furniss juxtaposes a white background indicative of a winterscape with the darkened figure of the lonely child reading a book on a school bench (a detail consistent with such as images as George Cruikshank's (circa 1843) of early nineteenth-century schoolrooms). Thus, although J. A,. Hammerton, Furniss's editor, has captioned the composite illustration with Dickens's initial description of the spirit, Furniss himself has utilized both the descriptions of "a mansion of dull red brick, with a little weathercock-surmounted cupola", the dreary schoolhouse of Scrooge's youth, and the paragraph in which "a lonely boy was reading near a feeble fire", a picture that brings the mature, life-hardened Scrooge to tears. The scene is important then because of its emotional impact upon Scrooge, but even Arthur Rackham, who specialized in bizarre characters and effects, has elected to depict the subsequent scene in which Fan comes to collect her brother and to avoid entirely the Spirit of Christmas Past. As much as possible, Rackham focuses on the less painful and more seasonal aspects of Scrooge's life, as when the head master offers dubious refreshment to the young Scrooges. The sentiment that all boys should have the opportunity to go home for the holidays occurs also in Dickens's 21 December 1850 essay "A Christmas Tree" in the "Extra-Christmas" number of Household Words. As Hearn notes, the similarity in Dickens's description of Scrooge's old school here and David Copperfield's in the fifth chapter of that bildungsroman (issued serially, Monthly: May 1849 through November 1850) is not mere coincidence, for both are reminiscent of Wellington House Academy, "where Dickens received his brief formal education (a year and a half) before leaving at fifteen". The physical setting of the school, far removed from urban pollution and traffic, suggests Strood, Rochester, where Dickens spent the happiest part of his childhood, when his father, John, was a clerk at the Naval Pay Office at the Chatham dockyard.


Details:



The child-old man Spirit Guide



Scrooge's old schoolhouse



Young Scrooge Reading


message 14: by Kim (new)

Kim | 5598 comments Mod


He produced a decanter of curiously light wine, and a block of curiously heavy cake

Stave 2

Arthur Rackham

1915

Text Illustrated:

`I have come to bring you home, dear brother.' said the child, clapping her tiny hands, and bending down to laugh. `To bring you home, home, home.'

`Home, little Fan.' returned the boy.

`Yes.' said the child, brimful of glee. `Home, for good and all. Home, for ever and ever. Father is so much kinder than he used to be, that home's like Heaven. He spoke so gently to me one dear night when I was going to bed, that I was not afraid to ask him once more if you might come home; and he said Yes, you should; and sent me in a coach to bring you. And you're to be a man.' said the child, opening her eyes,' and are never to come back here; but first, we're to be together all the Christmas long, and have the merriest time in all the world.'

`You are quite a woman, little Fan.' exclaimed the boy.

She clapped her hands and laughed, and tried to touch his head; but being too little, laughed again, and stood on tiptoe to embrace him. Then she began to drag him, in her childish eagerness, towards the door; and he, nothing loth to go, accompanied her.

A terrible voice in the hall cried. `Bring down Master Scrooge's box, there.' and in the hall appeared the schoolmaster himself, who glared on Master Scrooge with a ferocious condescension, and threw him into a dreadful state of mind by shaking hands with him. He then conveyed him and his sister into the veriest old well of a shivering best-parlor that ever was seen, where the maps upon the wall, and the celestial and terrestrial globes in the windows, were waxy with cold. Here he produced a decanter of curiously light wine, and a block of curiously heavy cake, and administered installments of those dainties to the young people: at the same time, sending out a meager servant to offer a glass of something to the post boy, who answered that he thanked the gentleman, but if it was the same tap as he had tasted before, he had rather not. Master Scrooge's trunk being by this time tied on to the top of the chaise, the children bade the schoolmaster good-bye right willingly; and getting into it, drove gaily down the garden-sweep: the quick wheels dashing the hoar-frost and snow from off the dark leaves of the evergreens like spray.



message 15: by Kim (new)

Kim | 5598 comments Mod


Mr. Fezziwig's Ball

Stave 2

John Leech

Text Illustrated:

In came a fiddler with a music-book, and went up to the lofty desk, and made an orchestra of it, and tuned like fifty stomach-aches. In came Mrs. Fezziwig, one vast substantial smile. In came the three Miss Fezziwigs, beaming and loveable. In came the six young followers whose hearts they broke. In came all the young men and women employed in the business. In came the housemaid, with her cousin, the baker. In came the cook, with her brother's particular friend, the milkman. In came the boy from over the way, who was suspected of not having board enough from his master; trying to hide himself behind the girl from next door but one, who was proved to have had her ears pulled by her Mistress. In they all came, one after another; some shyly, some boldly, some gracefully, some awkwardly, some pushing, some pulling; in they all came, anyhow and everyhow. Away they all went, twenty couple at once; hands half round and back again the other way; down the middle and up again; round and round in various stages of affectionate grouping; old top couple always turning up in the wrong place; new top couple starting off again, as soon as they got there; all top couples at last, and not a bottom one to help them. When this result was brought about, old Fezziwig, clapping his hands to stop the dance, cried out, "Well done!" and the fiddler plunged his hot face into a pot of porter, especially provided for that purpose. But scorning rest, upon his reappearance, he instantly began again, though there were no dancers yet, as if the other fiddler had been carried home, exhausted, on a shutter, and he were a bran-new man resolved to beat him out of sight, or perish.

There were more dances, and there were forfeits, and more dances, and there was cake, and there was negus, and there was a great piece of Cold Roast, and there was a great piece of Cold Boiled, and there were mince-pies, and plenty of beer. But the great effect of the evening came after the Roast and Boiled, when the fiddler (an artful dog, mind! The sort of man who knew his business better than you or I could have told it him!) struck up "Sir Roger de Coverley." Then old Fezziwig stood out to dance with Mrs. Fezziwig. Top couple too; with a good stiff piece of work cut out for them; three or four and twenty pair of partners; people who were not to be trifled with; people who would dance, and had no notion of walking.

But if they had been twice as many — ah, four times — old Fezziwig would have been a match for them, and so would Mrs Fezziwig. As to her, she was worthy to be his partner in every sense of the term. If that's not high praise, tell me higher, and I'll use it. A positive light appeared to issue from Fezziwig's calves. They s hone in every part of the dance like moons. You couldn't have predicted, at any given time, what would have become of them next. And when old Fezziwig and Mrs Fezziwig had gone all through the dance; advance and retire, both hands to your partner, bow and curtsey, corkscrew, thread-the-needle, and back again to your place; Fezziwig "cut" — cut so deftly, that he appeared to wink with his legs, and came upon his feet again without a stagger.


1843 Title-page and frontispiece



1852 Frontispiece




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The Fezzwig Ball

Stave 2

Sol Eytinge, Jr.

1869 Diamond Edition

Commentary:

For "The Fezziwig Ball" in "Stave 2: The First of the Three Spirits" Sol Eytinge has chosen one of those iconic moments that John Leech chose to realize in his 1843 illustrations for the first edition of A Christmas Carol. Knowing that his readers would inevitably compare his treatment of the subject of the Regency era "office party" that the good man of business, Old Fezziwig, customarily threw for his employees every Christmas eve in his warehouse, Eytinge chose to focus on the employer himself as a extroverted terpsichorean celebrant, an exuberant and accomplished dancer, despite his age and girth, in contrast to the communal country dance "Sir Roger de Coverly" that he leads off with his wife in Leech's more highly populated "Mr. Fezziwig's Ball" in the second stave, the steel etching that Leech himself reworked as a wood-engraving for the frontispiece of the volume Christmas Books in the 1852 "Cheap Edition":

But scorning rest upon his reappearance, he instantly began again, though there were no dancers yet, as if the other fiddler had been carried home exhausted, on a shutter; and he were a bran-new man resolved to beat him out of sight, or perish. [Stave Two, "The First of the Spirits"]

Later, after a round of "Sir Roger," Old Fezziwig performs a "cut," that is,

a fancy dance step, in which the dancer, on springing in the air, quickly alternates his feet, one in front of the other, before touching the ground again. [Hearne, note 45, p. 100]

In his version of the famous scene, Eytinge depicts Fezziwig dancing on his own, rapturously, with both feet off the ground. As in Leech's pair of illustrations and Dickens's text, he wears a Welch wig, "capacious waist-coat," as well as the breeches and stockings that were the standard "respectable" male fashion before that arbiter of Regency style Beau Brummell (1778-1840) invented the stove-pipe pant. Above Fezzwig, to the left, is mistletoe (embodying like the dancer and the Spirit of Christmas Past the principle of eternal life), and to his right the fiddler to whose imagined tune Fezziwig capers.

Creating his scene out of the old traditions of Christmas which Washington Irving celebrated in Bracebridge Hall, or The Humorists, A Medley (1822), as well as directly from Leech's illustrations and Dickens's text, Eytinge includes young and old, male and female, working and middle class figures in this celebration of the dance of life. We can see the three adolescent Miss Fezziwigs, some of their six young followers, the young men and women whom Fezziwig employed; Eytinge has not included those people whom Dickens specifically mentions: the couple's housemaid and her cousin, a baker, the cook and her escort, the milkman. Among the sixteen figures in the Eytinge treatment — in the foreground — is (presumably) "the boy from over the way," a detail suggesting that this is as much a community festivity as a party exclusively for the staff of Fezziwig & Co. Like Leech before him, Eytinge extends the gathering's composition by including the elderly woman in her high-backed chair (left), undoubtedly based on a similar figure to the right of Leech's woodcut. Leech's interior is more obviously a warehouse, with bare floorboards, bales, and stocked shelves. Romance is more explicit in Leech's illustrations as he shows a young couple under a mistletoe in each.

Shortly after the crowning moment of the evening, the employer's cutting an exemplary dancing figure, the host and hostess bid the company good-night at the warehouse door, — and Ebenezer Scrooge suddenly regrets his parsimonious and unsympathetic treatment of his own employee. He then turns to see himself reject the love of his life for the love of the golden idol of Exodus 32: 1-35.


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Fezziwig's Ball

Stave 2

Harry Furniss

1910 Library Edition

Commentary:

Paul Davis notes that Furniss has taken pains to make the reader regard the scene as an extension or presentation of Scrooge's memory: “Furniss's frontispiece redoes Fezziwig's ball, the subject of Leech's frontispiece for the original Carol. But in Furniss's version Scrooge's framing consciousness becomes a dominant element in the composition of the picture and in the vision of Christmas”.

There were more dances, and there were forfeits, and more dances, and there was cake, and there was negus, and there was a great piece of Cold Roast, and there was a great piece of Cold Boiled, and there were mince-pies, and plenty of beer. But the great effect of the evening came after the Roast and Boiled, when the fiddler (an artful dog, mind! The sort of man who knew his business better than you or I could have told it him!) struck up "Sir Roger de Coverley." Then old Fezziwig stood out to dance with Mrs. Fezziwig. Top couple too; with a good stiff piece of work cut out for them; three or four and twenty pair of partners; people who were not to be trifled with; people who would dance, and had no notion of walking.

But if they had been twice as many — ah, four times — old Fezziwig would have been a match for them, and so would Mrs. Fezziwig. As to her, she was worthy to be his partner in every sense of the term. If that's not high praise, tell me higher, and I'll use it. A positive light appeared to issue from Fezziwig's calves. They shone in every part of the dance like moons. You couldn't have predicted, at any given time, what would have become of them next. And when old Fezziwig and Mrs. Fezziwig had gone all through the dance; advance and retire, both hands to your partner, bow and curtsey, corkscrew, thread-the-needle, and back again to your place; Fezziwig cut — cut so deftly, that he appeared to wink with his legs, and came upon his feet again without a stagger. [Stave Two, "The First of the Three Spirits,"]


In theory, we read the energetic illustration in anticipation of the passage that it realizes (proleptically), since we shall not encounter for almost thirty pages the spectacle of the dance in Fezziwig's warehouse — a substitute for the baronial hall of Washington Irving's Bracebridge Hall, or The Humorists (1822) and the sixth canto of Sir Walter Scott's Marmion (1808) — but in practice Furniss's readers in 1910 likely all knew the scene by reputation, even if they had not already become familiar with it over the past seventy years, so that the reading of the picture may participate in the analeptic, that is, deciphering the picture after encountering the textual passage that it realizes. Paul Davis notes that Furniss has taken pains to make the reader regard the scene as an extension or presentation of Scrooge's memory.

This initial illustration acknowledges Furniss's debt to Leech by its subject and its position, and sets the keynote: what the reader will experience is Scrooge's dream and Scrooge's journey to redemption, rather than the tenderness of the Cratchit family scenes upon which the Household Edition illustrators focused. However, in terms of the later, "familial" reading of the novella Furniss comes closest to representing the sentimental side of the story in the frontispiece of Fezziwig's ball . . . . The familiar scene of the dancers, led by the rotund head couple, is framed with an elaborate border of distorted caricature. At the edge of the picture, peeping through the frame, stands Scrooge, analogous to the reader who experiences the tableaux of Scrooge's life through the frame of the narrator's commentary. [Davis 126]

We can take Davis's point if we regard the original Leech version of the scene, which gives such prominence to the affluent mercantile couple and the lovers under the mistletoe (left), a realistic presentation devoid of the jolly goblins who frame Furniss's version. Furniss has derived the senior in the comfortable arm-chair and the child at her knee (left) directly from similar figures in the right foreground of Leech's illustration. And yet, Furniss has rejected the narrative simplicity of the Leech engraving for a much more spectacular and complex — one might well say "psychological," but certainly suggestive of the seasonal pantomime in its elaborate staging — treatment that foreground the dreamer, but loses his spiritual guide, The Spirit of Christmas Past. Although somewhat more realistically, both Eytinge and Abbey focus on the commanding figure of the founder of the feast, Mr. Fezziwig, and the dance in progress, whereas Furniss compels his viewer's eye to stray to the cartoonish goblins derived from such later Christmas Books as The Chimes. Untextual interpolations though they may be, these figures suggest the magical and theatrical dimensions of a child's experience of Christmas that the other illustrators fail to communicate. Furniss's picture, despite its very nineteenth-century subject, possesses all the exuberance and energy of a Baroque composition — and Furniss's own whimsical humor.


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Old Fezziwig, clapping his hands to stop the dance, cried out, "Well done!"

Stave 2

E. A. Abbey

1876 American Household Edition

Commentary:

We have moved but a little in place, but some two generations back in time to Mr. Fezziwig's Christmas-eve entertainment for his extended family of apprentices, laborers, shopmen, shopwomen, and those employed in neighboring businesses, as well as some people who evidently live in the vicinity of Fezziwig and Company. Abbey makes the illustration stand for a transitional period in fashion as in business, as trousers (on the figure in the foreground, right, who also wears dancing pumps) and breeches (seen on the figure in the center, who wears hose and 18th c. walking shoes) suggest the coexistence of the modern and the traditional, in the period of the Regency, when Beau Brummel, arbiter of fashion at the court of King George IV, introduced the French Republican mode of dress. In Abbey's plate not merely Fezziwig's employees but men, women, and children of the urban middle class gather to dance, converse, and observe others dancing.

In accordance with Dickens's lower middle class and urban upbringing, the traditional Christmas "ball" is set not in the great hall of a country manor house or ancestral seat of some great landowner. Rather, Dickens describes a more humble community event staged in a City warehouse. However, the dance step described by Dickens and realized by Abbey is the "Sir Roger de Coverley," a dance for multiple couples first recorded in 1696. Although Dickens specifies some "three or four and twenty pair of partners" later, and at least "twenty couple at once" at this point in the evening, Abbey depicts only two couples in the figure, perhaps all that he felt the limited space could effectively accommodate. Nowhere do we see Ebenezer in his nightgown or his spirit guide.

The commanding figure of old Fezziwig himself, in Welsh wig and the fashions of a bygone era, claps his hands, signalling a rest for the dancers and the fiddlers. At one level, he is Scrooge's memory of a more benevolent style of management than the severe relationship he has maintained with his own employee. In the 1951 Renown Rank film, he is the previous owner of Scrooge's business. Whereas Sol Eytinge, Jr., in his 1868 illustrations had underscored the old gentleman's lively participation in the dance, as he cuts a caper and seems to levitate like some plump angel in "The Fezziwig Ball while his guests admire his youthful agility. In the American Household Edition some eight years later, E. A. Abbey focuses upon Fezziwig's managing or facilitating the company's annual Christmas party. The wig and "smalls" identify him as a holdover from the eighteenth century, a benevolent and even fatherly employer who is the head of an extended family. The passage which Abbey has chosen to illustrate is this, when the figure has reached its climax:

Away they all went, twenty couple at once; hands half round and back again the other way; down the middle and up again; round and round in various stages of affectionate grouping; old top couple always turning up in the wrong place; new top couple starting off again, as soon as they got there; all top couples at last, and not a bottom one to help them. When this result was brought about, old Fezziwig, clapping his hands to stop the dance, cried out, "Well done!" and the fiddler plunged his hot face into a pot of porter, especially provided for that purpose. [Stave Two: "The First of the Three Spirits,"]

Abbey gives not the dancing virtuoso but the patriarch who can simultaneously mingle with and supervise the community. He thus represents an old-fashioned blurring of the distinction between commercial, capitalistic, and familial relations, for he is not merely the "owner" but the "master," wearing the breeches of that more convivial era rather than the trousers of the present-day bourgeois. In Noel Langley's 1951 screenplay he is forced into retirement by the sharp practice of the next generation of businessmen, as represented by a Mr. Jorkin and his accomplices, Ebenezer Scrooge and Jacob Marley. In assisting in the supplanting of the patriarch, Scrooge ironically cuts himself off from the only real family he has ever known. Scrooge's return to this Christmas dance of his youth is a reminiscence of an "ideal community — a moment of vision within the memory of Christmas Past — dissipates with the the dance, and urban life returns to its ordinary linear confusion" (Davis, The Lives and Times of Ebenezer Scrooge), as Scrooge recalls with regret how he has mistreated his single employee in the leaner, more efficient world of the Victorian capitalist. In his warehouse on this present Christmas-eve the master hosts no jolly community gathering, and instead of clapping to manage the festivity all Scrooge can do is hold the snuffer down upon the Spirit of Christmas Past to repress poignant memories.

For alternate versions of the same nostalgic moment, see the illustration of the country dance by John Leech (Chapman and Hall, 1843) and the close up of Fezziwig in the wood-engraving by Sol Eytinge, Jr., for the 1868 Ticknor and Fields edition. There is no comparable scene by Fred Barnard for the British Household Edition, because Barnard, something of a social activist, has chosen to focus instead on the sharp contrast between the lifestyles of the bloated capitalists at the Exchange and the impoverished denizens of the slums of the metropolis in the Hungry Forties in Scrooge's terrifying vision of a future Christmas. Thus, Fred Barnard elected not to include this delightful reminiscence of a bygone era since the community brought together by the dance in the warehouse was an ideal all too rarely reified, and the scene a glorification of a past that all too rarely existed, the perfect harmony of labor and management.


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Then old Fezziwig stood out to dance with Mrs. Fezziwig

Stave 2

Arthur Rackham

1915

Text Illustrated:

Then old Fezziwig stood out to dance with Mrs. Fezziwig. Top couple, too; with a good stiff piece of work cut out for them; three or four and twenty pair of partners; people who were not to be trifled with; people who would dance, and had no notion of walking.

But if they had been twice as many—ah! four times—old Fezziwig would have been a match for them, and so would Mrs. Fezziwig. As to her, she was worthy to be his partner in every sense of the term. If that's not high praise, tell me higher, and I'll use it. A positive light appeared to issue from Fezziwig's calves. They shone in every part of the dance like moons. You couldn't have predicted, at any given time, what would become of them next. And when old Fezziwig and Mrs. Fezziwig had gone all through the dance; advance and retire, both hands to your partner, bow and curtsy, cork-screw, thread-the-needle, and back again to your place: Fezziwig 'cut'—cut so deftly, that he appeared to wink with his legs, and came upon his feet again without a stagger.



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A Retrospect

Stave 2

Sol Eytinge, Jr.

1869 Diamond Edition

Commentary:

After "The Fezziwig Ball" in "Stave 2: The First of the Three Spirits" Eytinge shows Scrooge how as a young man several Christmases later he failed in one of his most important relationships. One of the most significant scenes in the first two "staves" from a psychological perspective is the interview between young Scrooge and his fiancee, Belle, that brings the visit of the Spirit of Christmas Past to an abrupt close when the dreamer stifles the spirit guide under his gigantic candle-snuffer cap to extinguish painful memories. This is the point that Dickens raises most forcibly in The Haunted Man (1848), namely that one cannot fully experience moments of pleasure in life without experiencing some pain, and that none of us, no matter how fortunate or prosperous, is exempt from personal loss and suffering. In the 1951 Renown film, Scrooge's spirit guide commands him, after the Fezziwig-sponsored festivities, to "Turn, and see yourself in love." In fact, the text moves swiftly to Ebenezer's and Belle's cancelling their engagement because, as Belle remarks, her fiance has replaced her image in his heart with that of the Golden Calf, in other words, the pursuit of wealth. Although Scrooge, whose maturity is signaled by his hair and stern expression, is standing and Belle sitting, whereas the text specifies that they are both sitting, that she has turned her head away from him suggests that this is the precise moment in the interview that Eytinge has chosen to realize:

"He was about to speak; but with her head turned from him, she resumed.

"You may — the memory of what is past half makes me hope you will — have pain in this. A very, very brief time, and you will dismiss the recollection of it, gladly, as an unprofitable dream, from which it happened well that you awoke. May you be happy in the life you have chosen!" [Stave Two, "The First of the Spirits"]


As in the text, Belle is depicted as "a fair young girl in a mourning-dress, but otherwise Eytinge was free to improvise, particularly with respect to the figures of the spirit and his charge. Pointing not merely toward the scene but a future devoid of companionship, the Spirit of Christmas Past has his upstage (left) hand in the very center of the composition, which is otherwise dominated by Scrooge, his back towards us, wringing his hands.


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She Left Him, And They Parted

Stave 2

Arthur Rackham

1915

Text Illustrated:

'Have I ever sought release?'

'In words. No. Never.'

'In what, then?'

'In a changed nature; in an altered spirit; in another atmosphere of life; another Hope as its great end. In everything that made my love of any worth or value in your sight. If this had never been between us,' said the girl, looking mildly, but with steadiness, upon him; 'tell me, would you seek me out and try to win me now? Ah, no!'

He seemed to yield to the justice of this supposition in spite of himself. But he said, with a struggle, 'You think not.'

'I would gladly think otherwise if I could,' she answered. 'Heaven knows! When I have learned a Truth like this, I know how strong and irresistible it must be. But if you were free to-day, to-morrow, yesterday, can even I believe that you would choose a dowerless girl—you who, in your very confidence with her, weigh everything by Gain: or, choosing her, if for a moment you were false enough to your one guiding principle to do so, do I not know that your repentance and regret would surely follow? I do; and I release you. With a full heart, for the love of him you once were.'

He was about to speak; but, with her head turned from him, she resumed:

'You may—the memory of what is past half makes me hope you will—have pain in this. A very, very brief time, and you will dismiss the recollection of it gladly, as an unprofitable dream, from which it happened well that you awoke. May you be happy in the life you have chosen!'

She left him, and they parted.



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A flushed and boisterous group

Stave 2

Arthur Rackham

1915

Text Illustrated:

They were in another scene and place; a room, not very large or handsome, but full of comfort. Near to the winter fire sat a beautiful young girl, so like that last that Scrooge believed it was the same, until he saw her, now a comely matron, sitting opposite her daughter. The noise in this room was perfectly tumultuous, for there were more children there than Scrooge in his agitated state of mind could count; and, unlike the celebrated herd in the poem, they were not forty children conducting themselves like one, but every child was conducting itself like forty. The consequences were uproarious beyond belief; but no one seemed to care; on the contrary, the mother and daughter laughed heartily, and enjoyed it very much; and the latter, soon beginning to mingle in the sports, got pillaged by the young brigands most ruthlessly. What would I not have given to be one of them! Though I never could have been so rude, no, no! I wouldn't for the wealth of all the world have crushed that braided hair, and torn it down; and for the precious little shoe, I wouldn't have plucked it off, God bless my soul! to save my life. As to measuring her waist in sport, as they did, bold young brood, I couldn't have done it; I should have expected my arm to have grown round it for a punishment, and never come straight again. And yet I should have dearly liked, I own, to have touched her lips; to have questioned her, that she might have opened them; to have looked upon the lashes of her downcast eyes, and never raised a blush; to have let loose waves of hair, an inch of which would be a keepsake beyond price: in short, I should have liked, I do confess, to have had the lightest license of a child, and yet to have been man enough to know its value.



But now a knocking at the door was heard, and such a rush immediately ensued that she, with laughing face and plundered dress, was borne towards it the centre of a flushed and boisterous group, just in time to greet the father, who came home attended by a man laden with Christmas toys and presents. Then the shouting and the struggling, and the onslaught that was made on the defenceless porter! The scaling him, with chairs for ladders, to dive into his pockets, despoil him of brown-paper parcels, hold on tight by his cravat, hug him round his neck, pummel his back, and kick his legs in irrepressible affection! The shouts of wonder and delight with which the development of every package was received! The terrible announcement that the baby had been taken in the act of putting a doll's frying pan into his mouth, and was more than suspected of having swallowed a fictitious turkey, glued on a wooden platter! The immense relief of finding this a false alarm! The joy, and gratitude, and ecstasy! They are all indescribable alike. It is enough that, by degrees, the children and their emotions got out of the parlour, and, by one stair at a time, up to the top of the house, where they went to bed, and so subsided.



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"Scrooge Extinguishes the First of The Three Spirits"

Stave 2

John Leech

1843

Text Illustrated:

"Spirit." said Scrooge in a broken voice," remove me from this place."

"I told you these were shadows of the things that have been," said the Ghost. "That they are what they are, do not blame me."

"Remove me." Scrooge exclaimed," I cannot bear it."

He turned upon the Ghost, and seeing that it looked upon him with a face, in which in some strange way there were fragments of all the faces it had shown him, wrestled with it.

"Leave me. Take me back. Haunt me no longer."

In the struggle, if that can be called a struggle in which the Ghost with no visible resistance on its own part was undisturbed by any effort of its adversary, Scrooge observed that its light was burning high and bright; and dimly connecting that with its influence over him, he seized the extinguisher-cap, and by a sudden action pressed it down upon its head.

The Spirit dropped beneath it, so that the extinguisher covered its whole form; but though Scrooge pressed it down with all his force, he could not hide the light: which streamed from under it, in an unbroken flood upon the ground.


Commentary:

The fourth illustration is John Leech's realization of what Freudians might term "suppression" of painful memories.

Initially, Scrooge enjoys going back into his past, visiting his old school and observing the Christmas dance in Fezziwig's warehouse. However, when the Spirit of Christmas Past compels Scrooge to witness Belle (his former fiancée) and her husband's discussion of Marley's death and therefore of Scrooge's being "Quite alone in the world", Scrooge demands that he be "removed" from these painful scenes. Scrooge could realistically be described here as snuffing a bedside candle. On a more symbolic level he is an angry, anti-Christmas magician, snuffing the truth of his past with his magician's hat. [The Lives and Times of Ebenezer Scrooge, ]

Scrooge simply finds these scenes of memory unbearable, even though he must confront his past selves in order to reintegrate himself and lead a whole rather than a fragmented existence. These memories, whether painful or joyful, are what has made Scrooge, so that this first spirit, both a child and an old man, teaches Scrooge the value of social interaction "by adding the inward truths of memory, thought, and reflection to the fragmentary facts from external experience" (The Lives and Times of Ebenezer Scrooge, 32). Recovering rather than continuing to suppress his past is the first stage of Scrooge's spiritual and social reclamation. Perhaps, then, the point of Leech's tail-piece for Stave Two, "The First of the Three Spirits," is that, despite our best (or worst) efforts, the past refuses to be suppressed.

Necessarily a difficult figure to draw ("a strange figure — like a child: yet not so like a child as like an old man"), the Spirit of Christmas Past does not appear in most of the nineteenth-century editions of A Christmas Carol, the exception being the twenty-fifth anniversary Carol published after Dickens's second American reading tour. Eytinge may have enjoyed the challenge; since he included this figure four times in the volume, the American illustrator must have felt that his message to Scrooge was significant. Both Sol Eytinge, Jr., and Harry Furniss depict the First of the Three Spirits in the context of Scrooge's old school, although Eytinge also shows the spirit awakening Scrooge and Furniss associates this spirit with holly and Scrooge's being left at school by himself over the Christmas holidays. One wonders what else this spirit guide intended to show Ebenezer Scrooge about himself. Leech has undoubtedly cheated the viewer in that he does not depict the actual spirit, only his snuffer.


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Fezziwig's Ball

Ronald Searle

1960


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The First of the Three Spirits

Stave 2

Ronald Searle

1960


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Mary Lou | 2270 comments I like Eytinge's Spirit. Not young, but not old, androgynous, hard to pin down.

Of course, Leech's Fezziwig is a classic. But I also enjoy Eytinge's light-on-his-feet Fezziwig, and Searle's Fezziwig, as well.

Belle's husband, as drawn by Rackham seems quite old, and Belle quite young (and slender, for having such a parcel of kids).


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Tristram Shandy | 4394 comments Mod
To me, all those Ghosts of Christmas Past in the illustrations that Kim collected for us look very much like angel or fairies, with a cornucopia of light under her arm. Somehow, this innocent-looking, angelic ghost is not the true spirit of the Spirit of the Past - if you pardon the pun - to me, because Scrooge's memories are not all of youthful innocence and bliss, but some are pictures of his own character beginning to be tainted by his vices.

I don't know if you are familiar with the 2009 animated version of the novel, directed by Robert Zemeckis, starring Jim Carrey, Colin Firth and Gary Oldman. There is a lot of speeding about, e.g. Scrooge's flying through the air like a cork popping from a bottle, but on the whole, the novel is adhered to in many details even. And in that novel, the Ghost of Christmas Past is as I would figure it to be from the description in the novel. Of course, they had the advantage of doing it all with a computer.


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Mary Lou | 2270 comments Tristram wrote: "I don't know if you are familiar with the 2009 animated version of the novel, directed by Robert Zemeckis,..."

That's one version I haven't seen yet. I'm not a Jim Carrey fan, but I do like Colin Firth and Gary Oldman, so perhaps I'll track that one down this year.


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Tristram Shandy | 4394 comments Mod
Mary Lou wrote: "Tristram wrote: "What kind of man might Scrooge‘s father have been?"

"I‘d also like to know which ones of you felt reminded of a certain other schoolmaster at sight of the imposing headmaster who..."


Yes, I also had to think of Mr. Squeers, or rather of a more realistic version of this monster of a schoolmaster, Mr. Creakle from David Copperfield, who is monstrous and terrible enough still - without giving the impression of coming from a Punch and Judy show, like Squeers.

And the Florence-Paul relationship also came to my mind, although in this case, it is the daughter who has the better relationship with her father. The idea that Scrooge's mother might have died in childbed giving birth to little Ebenezer is not bad because it might explain the father's bitterness against his son but would not that make his sister his half-sister, which would have been mentioned, I'd say. Apart from that, Dickens was not the man to have left such a melodramatic and powerful background story in the dark, but he would have exploited it, at least when you consider the importance of background stories in his larger novels.


message 30: by Tristram (new)

Tristram Shandy | 4394 comments Mod
Mary Lou wrote: "Tristram wrote: "I don't know if you are familiar with the 2009 animated version of the novel, directed by Robert Zemeckis,..."

That's one version I haven't seen yet. I'm not a Jim Carrey fan, but..."


Then you'll watch it with the same mindset as I did: I can't really stand Carrey, but like the other two actors. It was my son who asked me to buy the DVD a couple of years ago, and since then it has become one of our typical Christmas movies, althought the last ghost is very scary, and there is a particular scene in Scrooge's interview with Marley that shocked me quite a bit. However, I'm not going to spill the beans here.


message 31: by Peter (new)

Peter | 2980 comments Mod
Kim

Thank you.

Oh my, but I love looking at, studying, and comparing these illustrations. I first like the fact we are meeting some new illustrators. Why not, though? What a great opportunity and a challenge for an illustrator to take on such and iconic novella, and puzzle how best to interpret Scrooge. A daunting task.

As always I enjoyed the Leech illustrations. They are the classic ones, those that will forever be most associated with A Christmas Carol. Close behind comes Furniss. To me he captures the energy and the essence of Dickens’s words best. The Furniss illustration of the 1910 Library Edition is my favourite. The Ghost, the young Scrooge reading alone, and the church in the whitened background is stunning.

I also found the commentaries to be very insightful. They helped me sort out and discover much. For instance, I never really considered how important the placement of the illustration to the letterpress to be in framing a reader’s interpretation of both the image and the words that originally created the idea for the image.


message 32: by Kim (new)

Kim | 5598 comments Mod
Tristram wrote: "To me, all those Ghosts of Christmas Past in the illustrations that Kim collected for us look very much like angel or fairies, with a cornucopia of light under her arm. Somehow, this innocent-looki..."






message 33: by Kim (new)

Kim | 5598 comments Mod
Here is a new illustrator, new for us anyway, an Italian illustrator by the name of Libico Maraja. Here's what I know about him:

Libico Maraja (1912-1983) was one of Italy’s top post-War illustrators. Born in Bellinzona, Svizzera, Maraja studied in Lugano and began his career working for the Ala studios. In 1940, he moved to Berlin, where he cooperated with IMA Film, among others of the animated film ‘La Rosa di Bagdad’. After the war, he became well-known for his book illustrations for ‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’, ‘Pinocchio’, ‘Peter Pan’, and many other classics. Between 1946 and 1949, he had a brief appearance in comics, when he made stories like ‘La Quercia Maledetta’ (‘Dottor Faust’) and ‘Un mondo in un albero’ with Federico Pedrocchi for Topolino (Mondadori).


But among all the books illustrated in these early fifties, Dickens' A Christmas song stands out, a work that is considered by critics as one of Maraja's masterpieces, since it is detached from all the others and is a synthesis of the experience previous one. Movement and excitement mark the illustrations on the whole page and well represent the magical atmosphere of Christmas Eve, when the miser Scrooge received a visit from the spirits who forever changed his life.


And now that you know all that:



The Ghost of Christmas Past

Libico Maraja


message 34: by Kim (new)

Kim | 5598 comments Mod


Young Scrooge alone at school

Libico Maraja

Text Illustrated:

The Spirit touched him on the arm, and pointed to his younger self, intent upon his reading. Suddenly a man, in foreign garments: wonderfully real and distinct to look at: stood outside the window, with an axe stuck in his belt, and leading by the bridle an ass laden with wood.

“Why, it’s Ali Baba!” Scrooge exclaimed in ecstasy. “It’s dear old honest Ali Baba! Yes, yes, I know! One Christmas time, when yonder solitary child was left here all alone, he did come, for the first time, just like that. Poor boy! And Valentine,” said Scrooge, “and his wild brother, Orson; there they go! And what’s his name, who was put down in his drawers, asleep, at the Gate of Damascus; don’t you see him! And the Sultan’s Groom turned upside down by the Genii; there he is upon his head! Serve him right. I’m glad of it. What business had he to be married to the Princess!”

To hear Scrooge expending all the earnestness of his nature on such subjects, in a most extraordinary voice between laughing and crying; and to see his heightened and excited face; would have been a surprise to his business friends in the city, indeed.

“There’s the Parrot!” cried Scrooge. “Green body and yellow tail, with a thing like a lettuce growing out of the top of his head; there he is! Poor Robin Crusoe, he called him, when he came home again after sailing round the island. ‘Poor Robin Crusoe, where have you been, Robin Crusoe?’ The man thought he was dreaming, but he wasn’t. It was the Parrot, you know. There goes Friday, running for his life to the little creek! Halloa! Hoop! Halloo!”

Then, with a rapidity of transition very foreign to his usual character, he said, in pity for his former self, “Poor boy!” and cried again.



message 35: by Kim (new)

Kim | 5598 comments Mod
More illustrations of the Ghost of Christmas Past, I don't always know the artist.







P. J. Lynch



Frances McKay



M. R. James


message 36: by Vicki (new)

Vicki Cline | 21 comments Thanks for all the illustrations. I love the ones by Searle, from the edition I bought decades ago and try to read every year.
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens by Charles Dickens Charles Dickens


message 37: by Julie (new)

Julie Kelleher | 1127 comments Kim wrote: "Here is a new illustrator, new for us anyway, an Italian illustrator by the name of Libico Maraja. Here's what I know about him:

Libico Maraja (1912-1983) was one of Italy’s top post-War illustrat..."


Wow, points to Maraja for really trying to take it on.

I like the Lynch as well, for being simple but striking.


message 38: by Sue (new)

Sue (mrskipling) Thanks Kim for posting these illustrations - I love looking at the various interpretations of the same scene. The MR James is particularly chilling!


message 39: by Tristram (new)

Tristram Shandy | 4394 comments Mod
Thanks for the Italian artist, Kim, who is, may I say, interesting. But especial thanks for posting the two movie stills. They are still efficient although in the motion picture, the flickering of the candle, and the constant changes of the ghost's face, add greatly to its eerieness as does his peculiar voice, which seems to come from afar.


message 40: by Vanessa (new)

Vanessa Winn | 46 comments Tristram wrote: "The different memories the Ghost re-enlivens in Scrooge apparently have the effect of making the old miser reconsider his way of treating certain people in his everyday life. Do you think Scrooge‘s learning process believable? "

I was surprised by how quickly Scrooge started to sob, when taken back to his childhood. But then these are long-repressed memories revisited instantly. It was significant that the Spirit puts his hand on Scrooge's heart, which has been closed for years, to journey into his past. I enjoyed Dickens' bringing out the sensory nature of memory, too. Following closely after Scrooge's recognition of his hometown: "He was conscious of a thousand odours floating through the air, each one connected with a thousand thoughts, and hopes, and joys, and cares long, long forgotten."


message 41: by Vanessa (new)

Vanessa Winn | 46 comments Xan Shadowflutter wrote: "This made me wonder if Scrooge's father hadn't had the same ghostly experience as Scrooge is currently having."

A very intriguing thought, Xan. With all those ghosts like Marley floating around, why shouldn't others have a similar opportunity for redemption like the one Scrooge receives? In a way, ACC does just that for its readers.

As for his decision to pursue Gain, Dickens seems to hint of memories we don't see, like the death of his sister. Perhaps, faced with early deaths, his grasping at something he has more control over, like money, was an attempt for security. It was curious that Belle, when she breaks off their engagement, was in mourning.


message 42: by Vanessa (new)

Vanessa Winn | 46 comments Kim wrote: "Here is a new illustrator, new for us anyway, an Italian illustrator by the name of Libico Maraja. Here's what I know about him:"

Thanks for finding this illustrator, Kim. I really like how he captured the fluctuating movement of the ghost in different time frames. And his face does seem to defy placing it on the young-old continuum. To me, Dickens' description of this spirit borders on science fiction.


message 43: by Tristram (new)

Tristram Shandy | 4394 comments Mod
Vanessa wrote: "Tristram wrote: "The different memories the Ghost re-enlivens in Scrooge apparently have the effect of making the old miser reconsider his way of treating certain people in his everyday life. Do yo..."

That's just what I thought as well, Vanessa: Childhood memories or those of early periods in life are probably very strong in their own way, although maybe usually dim. But when they suddenly come into the foreground, they tend to grow in intensity and find a direct way to a person's heart. Dickens refers to smells here, which are probably forceful, but he could also have included music or voices among the most powerful memories. I always wonder whether the Ghost of Christmas Past is a real apparition or whether it is all just a very vivid dream of Scrooge's, maybe brought about by the appearance of his nephew in his office. After all, the nephew was his beloved sister's daugher, and she is one of the first memories he re-experiences during this ghostly excursion, and it seems to become clear to him that by treating Fred in a scornful way, he might be doing the same to (the memory of) his sister.


message 44: by Tristram (new)

Tristram Shandy | 4394 comments Mod
Vanessa wrote: "As for his decision to pursue Gain, Dickens seems to hint of memories we don't see, like the death of his sister. Perhaps, faced with early deaths, his grasping at something he has more control over, like money, was an attempt for security."

A good point, Vanessa: Scrooge might have encountered some losses of people dear to him beside that of his sister - maybe that of a potential sister-in-law, too - and there is a touch of eternity about gold, something that may instil a worried person with a sense of security.


message 45: by Mary Lou (new)

Mary Lou | 2270 comments I suppose if I'm to truly understand this stave, I'll have to add Tales of the Arabian Nights and Robinson Crusoe to my "to read" lists. I admit that I am a bit lost in these passages, but I have been working under the assumption that Scrooge was a bit introverted as a kid, read a lot, and that these books coupled with his imagination provided his most meaningful childhood friendships. Is that your takeaway, as well? If so, how would reliving that help in his transformation?


message 46: by Matt (new)

Matt (mmullerm) That’s a very good observation, Mary Lou. I believe one can read into this that Scrooge’s “best friends” were the vivid characters in the books that he read when he was younger. Right off the bat, he seems to be a loner. Why Scrooge is all alone at the school is hard to comprehend for me because the next scene flashing forward to another Christmas was Fan coming to get Scrooge to take him home. I suppose he was sent off to boarding school or something?

Stave 2 is great - the scene of the party at Fezziwigs, and the fiddler’s playing of Sir Roger di Coverley, (which I wasn’t familiar with until I found a video of the dance on YouTube), is very well done. I’m predicting that reading this will give me a new insight into the story when I’m watching any movie or play adaptations. Just a wonderful story!


message 47: by Tristram (new)

Tristram Shandy | 4394 comments Mod
We will probably never know why there was such an estrangement between the old Mr. Scrooge and his son leading to the boy's having to spend Christmas alone in the empty school, which was apparently not even a very expensive school - but maybe, old Mr. Scrooge was a lot the way his son was going to become over the years.

I think that the books you mentioned, Mary Lou, were not only books with which Scrooge tried to pass away his hours of loneliness and sadness, but they were also books Dickens loved as a child. The Arabian Nights, for instance, are also read by David Copperfield, if i remember correctly. What I also find interesting is that Scrooge read Robinson Crusoe, which shows how a man secures his survival against all odds by applying pragmatism, thrift and method - all those virtues which turn to vices in Scrooge's exaggerated way of practising them. Thank you, Mary Lou, for pointing that out: It's just your mentioning it that makes the link so obvious to me.


message 48: by Julie (new)

Julie Kelleher | 1127 comments Matt wrote: "That’s a very good observation, Mary Lou. I believe one can read into this that Scrooge’s “best friends” were the vivid characters in the books that he read when he was younger. Right off the bat, ..."

Off to look up Roger di Coverley on YouTube...


message 49: by Vanessa (new)

Vanessa Winn | 46 comments Tristram wrote: "Vanessa wrote: "Tristram wrote: "The different memories the Ghost re-enlivens in Scrooge apparently have the effect of making the old miser reconsider his way of treating certain people in his ever..."

I'm not sure if it's an urban myth, but I recall hearing that smell is the 'oldest' sense of memory, in that we have very early associations from childhood with it. I agree, Tristram, that Dickens also includes sounds as powerful memories, such as the boys laughing in the fields like "merry music." That's a good question about whether this ghost could be a vivid dream. I wonder if we could say that about the other visitations, too, fleshed out by his imagination. I recently saw The Wizard of Oz (sing-along version :)) which of course plays with the same idea.


message 50: by Vanessa (new)

Vanessa Winn | 46 comments Tristram wrote: "Vanessa wrote: "As for his decision to pursue Gain, Dickens seems to hint of memories we don't see, like the death of his sister. Perhaps, faced with early deaths, his grasping at something he has ..."

I'm a bit confused by the potential loss of a sister-in-law you mention, Tristram. I was thinking of Scrooge's mother, who we are left to assume has died while he and his sister were young, since that might explain him being left at boarding school.


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