The Old Curiosity Club discussion

27 views
A Christmas Carol > A Christmas Carol Stave Three

Comments Showing 1-50 of 63 (63 new)    post a comment »
« previous 1

message 1: by Peter (new)

Peter | 3199 comments Mod
Stave Three

Well, I have learned more about gruel than I would ever have thought possible. Scrooge has gruel and the next thing I know it seems all the Curiosities have a favourite method of making and then garnishing their gruel. And yes, I will try out some warm gruel for the cold winter days that are coming. Thanks for the recipes.

Stave Three introduces us to the second of the three spirits Scrooge will encounter. Scrooge lies awake in his bed, has parted open all his bed curtains, and is determined not to be surprised by the coming spirit. Dickens tells us that “Scrooge was ready for a good broad field of strange appearances.” We are then told that in his preparations Scrooge was not “by any means prepared for nothing.” I like that phrase very much. Most of us are always preparing for something. How often do we prepare for nothing? Still, we know as Scrooge knows that another Spirit will appear. What will happen?

This stave is filled with sounds as well. It is interesting to read where the sounds appear, and what they sound like. Did you find that any of the specific sounds are linked to events, people or emotions? As well as sound, we again have the appearance of light “which, being only light, was more alarming than than a dozen hosts.” Again, Dickens incorporates an interesting phrase. How do you interpret Dickens’s meaning that light was more alarming “than a dozen ghosts.” Scrooge approaches the source of the light, hears a voice call him by his name, and enters “his own room.” Now, I need your help. I have never been certain whether when Scrooge enters “his own room” it is the room he has just left, but radically transformed, or the room adjacent to where he was? Logically, it would be the adjacent room. Still ...

In any case the room is like nothing Scrooge has lived in, or beheld, in his life. It was:

“A perfect grove; from every part of which bright gleaming berries glistened ... and such a mighty blaze went roaring up the chimney ... . Heaped on the floor, to form a kind of throne , were turkeys, geese, game, poultry, brawn , great joints of meat ... . In easy estate upon his couch there sat a jolly Giant, glorious to see; who bore a glowing torch.”

The Giant is the Ghost of Christmas Present. Scrooge asks the Spirit to conduct him where the Spirit would like as Scrooge who “learned a lesson which is working now” is prepared to “profit” from yet another lesson. Interesting that Dickens would choose the word “profit” for this sentence. Scrooge touches the robe of the Spirit as commanded, and the food, fruits, meat, fire, and the room disappear. Scrooge finds himself on the gritty streets of London.


Thoughts

What are the major differences between the Spirit of Christmas Past and Christmas Present? Why do you think these differences exist?

Scrooge indicates that the Spirit of Christmas Past has had an effect on him. What part of Scrooge’s past do you think was most powerful? Why?


The London night that Scrooge first encounters with the Spirit is little like the festive room he has just left. “The house-fronts looked black enough” we are told, and “the windows blacker.” We encounter “thick yellow mud and icy water. The sky was gloomy, and the shortest streets were choked up with a dingy mist. ... There was nothing very cheerful in the climate of the town, and yet there was an air of cheerfulness abroad that the clearest summer air and brightest summer sun might have endeavoured to diffuse in vain.” How interesting, that in the midst of a physically depressing place, with equally depressing weather, there would be found “an air of cheerfulness.” The people and their shops are buoyant with joy. There is joy in the people. They respond to the church bells and know that “it was a shame to quarrel upon Christmas Day.” There was a magic in the Spirit’s torch.

I have separated Scrooge’s time with the Spirit into three sections, or perhaps I should say three staves.

Section One

The first place the Spirit takes Scrooge to is his clerk Bob Cratchit’s home where the Spirit uses his torch to sprinkle the Cratchit home. Bob’s wife is dressed poorly in a “twice-turned gown” and gay ribbons are used to substitute for expensive dresses for the daughters. Bob Cratchit’s son Peter proudly wears a shirt borrowed from his father. What is wanting in material wealth in the family is, however, easily compensated for by the wealth of love and joy found within their family. Tiny Tim is introduced in this section and we learn that he is a cripple, and his spirit matches the joy of the Christmas season. Scrooge feels an interest in Tiny Tim and asks the Spirit if Tim will live. The ghost tells Scrooge that he sees a vacant seat and that if the shadows remain “unaltered by the Future, the child will die.” Scrooge begs it not be so, but the Spirit returns Scrooge’s own words about the likes of Tim being better dead in order to “decrease the surplus population.” Scrooge then hears Bob Cratchit propose a toast to him, and also hears how the family balk at the suggestion, but Bob insists, and so the toast is made. Dickens tells the reader that the Cratchit family “were not a handsome family; they were not well dressed; their shoes were far from waterproof; their clothes were scanty.”

Thoughts

What is it that makes the Cratchit family so wealthy, and Scrooge so poor?

Tiny Tim is arguably one of the most recognizable characters in Dickens. Why do you think Tiny Tim has become so well known to readers?


Section Two

The Ghost of Christmas Present then whisks Scrooge off to show him a place where miners live, then to a lighthouse, and then to a ship at sea. Each of these places only receive a cursory visit, but I think they have an important symbolic function.


What do these three locations have in common?

Symbolically, what do these three places represent?

How are these three places similar to and different from the Cratchit’s home?



Section Three

The next place that Scrooge visits is his nephew’s, and here the Ghost of Christmas Present. Earlier we have been looking at the use of sound in A Christmas Carol. The section begins with Scrooge “listening to the moaning of the wind, and thinking what a solemn thing it was to move on through the lonely darkness over an unknown abyss, whose depths were secrets as profound as death.” With a rapid shift in auditory sound it comes as a “great surprise to Scrooge ... to hear a hearty laugh.” Sounds. From “the moaning of the wind” to “a hearty laugh.” Notice the personification of the sounds ...”moaning” and “hearty.” The joyous sounds come from the home of Scrooge’s nephew.

Scrooge recognizes the sound of the “hearty laugh” as that of his nephew. What follows is a description of more happy sounds as Dickens changes the focus of the sound of laughter from his nephew to “Scrooge’s niece, by marriage, [who] laughed as heartily as he.” The niece’s physical description reminds me of Belle’s description in Stave One. Fred comments that while Scrooge may be wealthy “[h]is wealth is of no use to him.” Fred offers the insight that it is only Scrooge himself who suffers from his “ill whims.” The scene continues with more laughter and then Fred’s home swells with music. It is during the playing of a piece of music that Scrooge begins to soften “more and more.” Scrooge watches as a young man named Topper gleefully pursue a young lady. As the games continue a toast to Scrooge is proposed and we are told that “Uncle Scrooge had imperceptibly become ...gay and light of heart.”


Thoughts


As Mr Topper, a bachelor, pursues the young lady on Christmas Eve it evokes memories in Scrooge. Did you notice how much of the evening’s entertainment was linked to the experiences of the past? To what extent does this fact help unite the story?

We met Scrooge’s nephew very early in the story. Why do you think it was necessary to bring him into the story again?


The night grows late for the Spirit and, once again, we read that “the chimes were ringing the three-quarters past eleven at that moment.” Again, our motifs of music and time. Scrooge notices something beneath the Spirit’s robe. The Spirit opens his robe to reveal two children who are “wretched, abject, frightful, hideous, miserable.” They were a boy and a girl. The Spirit tells Scrooge that “they are Man’s. ... The boy is Ignorance. This girl is Want.” Of the two, the Spirit warns Scrooge to beware of Ignorance. Scrooge, shocked at the children’s deplorable state, asks “Have they no refuge or resource” to which the Spirit responds “Are there no prisons ... Are there no workhouses?” Sounds again, the sounds, or should I say the echoes of Scrooge’s own voice.

The next words give us sounds once again as “the bell struck Twelve.” Scrooge “lifting up his eyes, beheld a solemn Phantom, draped and hooded, coming like a mist along the ground towards him.” And here Stave Three ends.


Thoughts


To me, the most powerful part of this section is the two children. What part of this stave did you find most effective, most powerful, most disturbing?

Let’s look at the other side of the equation. What part of this stave did you find most joyous, most heart-warming, most attuned to your own vision of Christmas?


message 2: by Mary Lou (new)

Mary Lou | 2451 comments Peter wrote: "Scrooge indicates that the Spirit of Christmas Past has had an effect on him. What part of Scrooge’s past do you think was most powerful? Why?..."

I think it was cumulative, Peter. The Ghost of Christmas Past showed Scrooge scenes from the different parts that made up the whole of Scrooge's life: school, business, family, and romance. His cold, avaricious nature has negatively impacted every aspect of his life (though his business is successful, he realizes that the money isn't contributing to anyone's happiness, as Fezziwig's did). He's starting to realize, as Fred pointed out, that his grumbling is only keeping him at arm's length from his own happiness. Fred, Bob, and Belle are all happy, if poor. Marley, on the other hand, is a cautionary tale. All together, they send a message that's hard to ignore.


message 3: by Mary Lou (new)

Mary Lou | 2451 comments The annotations in my copy talk about Martha Cratchet's job at the milliners, and the position that Bob found for Peter. Until now, my 20th century mind (I haven't caught up to the 21st century yet) has always thought of them working as a positive thing, helping the family out of poverty. But the annotations help put me back in the context of the Victorian age. They remind me that Martha was forced to work on Christmas morning, making her boss worse than even Scrooge. Dickens is quoted as saying that milliner's apprentices were among "the hardest worked, the worst paid, and too often, the worst used class of the community." And the salary Peter is set to earn is less than Dickens himself earned in the blacking factory, so we get a better picture of how awful Dickens meant that to be. And yet, the family seems content, even drinking a grudging toast to "the founder of the feast" (a phrase I find useful periodically, though I don't know that anyone gets the reference). They choose happiness.


message 4: by Mary Lou (new)

Mary Lou | 2451 comments Peter wrote: " Each of these places only receive a cursory visit, but I think they have an important symbolic function...."

As a younger reader, I never cared for the visits to the miners, etc. I thought it wasn't to do specifically with Scrooge, so it was superfluous to the plot. Now when I read it, it see the poignancy. Even in isolated areas and poor conditions, people are celebrating the birth of Christ, and connecting with their fellow man both physically (with others on the ship, etc.), and in spirit with other Christians around the world. The children of God, the family of man.


message 5: by Peter (new)

Peter | 3199 comments Mod
Mary Lou wrote: "The annotations in my copy talk about Martha Cratchet's job at the milliners, and the position that Bob found for Peter. Until now, my 20th century mind (I haven't caught up to the 21st century yet..."

Hi Mary Lou

Yes. There is certainly a cumulative effect. Your comment that they come from “different parts” of Scrooge’s life is very important. Scrooge has no redeeming characteristics as ACC opens. The Spirits have much work ahead of them.

I’m also glad you pointed out the comments about milliner’s apprentices. When I think about it, Dickens has many milliners in his novels. I think we should pay attention to their appearances in the future, and, for that matter, in our earlier texts as well. Kate Nickleby would be an example.


message 6: by Mary Lou (last edited Dec 15, 2018 06:02PM) (new)

Mary Lou | 2451 comments I was intrigued by this turn of phrase:

There were great, round, pot-bellied baskets of chestnuts, shaped like the waistcoats of jolly old gentlemen, lolling at the doors, and tumbling out into the street in their apoplectic opulence.

I've pondered it for some time, and still don't really understand what Dickens is trying to say here (but the use of the word "jolly" leads me to believe it's a happy, positive statement). Despite being completely clueless about its meaning, I still think the phrase "apoplectic opulence" is fabulous.


message 7: by Mary Lou (new)

Mary Lou | 2451 comments Peter wrote: "Kate Nickleby would be an example...."

Yes, I thought about poor Kate. But her troubles in NN seemed to come from lecherous men more than her job (and she was given a plum modeling assignment, on the few days that she actually showed up for work). But it does give us a little more insight into just how awful Ralph was by sending her there, doesn't it?


message 8: by Kim (new)

Kim | 5957 comments Mod


"The Second of The Three Spirits" or "Scrooge's third Visitor"

Stave 3

John Leech

1843

Text Illustrated:

"I am the Ghost of Christmas Present," said the Spirit. "Look upon me!"

Scrooge reverently did so. It was clothed in one simple green robe, or mantle, bordered with white fur. This garment hung so loosely on the figure, that its capacious breast was bare, as if disdaining to be warded or concealed by any artifice. Its feet, observable beneath the ample folds of the garment, were also bare; and on its head it wore no other covering than a holly wreath, set here and there with shining icicles. Its dark brown curls were long and free; free as its genial face, its sparkling eye, its open hand, its cheery voice, its unconstrained demeanour, and its joyful air. Girded round its middle was an antique scabbard; but no sword was in it, and the ancient sheath was eaten up with rust.


Commentary:

The fifth illustration is John Leech's introduction to literature of that "pre-Father Christmas" figure, the Spirit of Christmas Present, not quite sitting on a "couch" or "kind of throne", but decidedly "a jolly Giant, glorious to see; who [bears] a glowing torch, in shape not unlike Plenty's horn".

With its wainscoting, fireplace, and fireside chair, this is the same room in which (in Scrooge's dream vision) on the previous night Scrooge encountered Jacob Marley's Ghost — but how changed are both the room, formerly dark, cold, and forbidding, and its equally forbidding occupant, Ebenezer Scrooge.

As Jane Rabb Cohen has remarked of all eight original Leech illustrations, this full-page, hand-colored steel engraving for Dickens's A Christmas Carol, Scrooge's third Visitor, elegantly and uniquely combines "the ideal, real, and supernatural" with pathos, whimsy, and humor. The "transcendental but secular spirit" of the entire series is evident in the vivid accumulation of realistic details (the puddings, oysters, and punch bowls) and the expressions of the genial Spirit and the amazed Scrooge. The abundance of comestibles implies an overflowing of the spirit of generosity and the joys of the domestic hearth, aspects of social relationships entirely lacking in Scrooge's life for so many years. Throughout the Leech composition one finds ample evidence of what the reviewer for The Illustrated London News for 23 December 1843 described as "the delicacy of fine etchings" ; indeed, many of the subtle effects of the hand-colored original have been lost in the blurry black-and-white reproductions such as those in the Penguin and Oxford Illustrated Dickens, so that it may be instructive to investigate the extent to which Leech realized in the most minute particulars the text that Dickens provided him, but also added thoughtful touches that make this illustration a highly informed and sensitive interpretation of Dickens's text read in draft, before anyone else had had the opportunity to read Dickens's six-week wonder.

The oft-reproduced and copied Spirit of Christmas Present celebrates the evergreen nature of a holiday redolent with childhood memories as the green-clad Spirit (a Green Man for the nineteenth century, here perhaps representing the possibility of a social and spiritual rather than just a physical renewal of quality of life) recalls Scrooge to the joys of a season and a festival that he has roundly pronounced "humbug." The yuletide greenery (cedar or fir rather than the acanthus traditionally associated with the Green Man) spills out from above the mantelpiece and surges across the room, connecting the enormous, holly-wreathed head of the gigantic and virile Spirit and the night-capped head of the diminutive Scrooge, wearing an almost feminine night-gown that reaches to his ankles and tiny, slipper-clad feet. The bare-footed, bare-chested, exuberant, bearded epitome of December 25th appears to be sitting, although the "throne" of poultry, meats, and fruits which Dickens enumerates in loving detail is not evident in Leech's delicately engraved and subtly colored plate. In his right hand, the genial Spirit holds the concord-producing torch which suggests in emblematic fashion Christ as The Light of the World; with his left, his hand open in welcome, he gestures to another kind of welcoming spirit in a steaming, golden bowl. That the object leaning against his left knee is an empty scabbard (signifying universal peace) is not immediately apparent in black-and-white reprints of this engraving, but the coloration of the original makes it clearer that this is the "ancient sheath . . . eaten up with rust" which Dickens describes on the facing page. Although an amazed Scrooge attempts to smile at all he observes, his gesture is a closed one, as if he is trying to gird himself against so much conspicuous consumption. Prominent in the foreground is a huge version of the type of Christmas pudding that Mrs. Cratchit makes for her family. The oysters, a small pie, and a single dead hare represent the abundant game spread out on what had been mere barren floorboards fifty pages earlier.

Although Leech has included two bowls of punch and a barrel (containing oysters, one assumes, rather than spirits), he has omitted the sausages, fruits (except the "juicy oranges" at the base of the scabbard), and "great joints of meat". The only object that could be a great Twelfth Cake is serving as the Spirit's footstool. Leech, then, is selective in his depiction of the bounty that accompanies Scrooge's third Visitor, avoiding an impression of clutter while suggesting the richness of the Christmas feast laid in the formerly spartan room.

Paralleling the abundance of food is the warmth that now invests the formerly chilly room, as the flames leap up in the brazier, illuminating the biblically-themed tiles in the fireplace, so that the roaring flames become an extension of the Spirit's torch which, we later learn, dispenses forbearance and good will as a kind of benediction. The coal grate, tiles, and mantelpiece establish that this is the very room in which in Stave one Scrooge encountered his ex-partner's ghost: he was seated approximately where now the Spirit holds court, and Marley stood where Scrooge now stands, right. But Leech has foreshortened the floor-boards to move the viewer closer, inviting the miser (and the reader) to participate with all his senses, not merely that of sight. The frightened candle flame separating the mortal from the shade in Marley's Ghost has been replaced as a vertical divider by the rusted sheath, the outward and visible sign of the Spirit's message to Scrooge in particular and humanity in general this Christmas Eve of 1843, when hunger stalks the mean streets of the metropolis and the workhouses reach full their complement.

In the series of four multi-colored, full-page etchings and four less-than-full-page wood-engravings Leech exploits early Victorian nostalgia for the man-master relationship of pre-industrial England implicit in Mr. Fezziwig's Ball, in which the decorated warehouse has replaced the manor house and the office party the traditional entertainment that the landowner provided for his agricultural laborers. Leech exploits the general longing for the simpler world of two generations earlier, making Fezziwig's employees an extended family, and the Fezziwigs surrogate parents. He also exploits the contemporary addiction for the Blackwood's tale of the supernatural — as seen in Marley's Ghost, The Phantoms (Ghosts of Departed Usurers), and The Last of the Spirits, and the characteristically Victorian yearning for a satisfying closure, as seen in the final tailpiece, The Christmas Bowl [Scrooge and Bob Cratchit].

But there is one further element, drawn from the contemporary social ills of the nation, that ripples like a leitmotif through all of these illustrations and dominates one in particular, Ignorance and Want, the largest of the wood-engravings, but not quite a full-page illustration. In the third illustration, Leech had touched upon this theme of social inequality in the figure of the poor woman, in despair trying to warm her infant as the pair are freezing in the street opposite the miser's house.

Significantly, it is not the terrifying Spirit of Christmas Yet to Come, but the genial Spirit of Christmas Present in his second appearance who delivers a stern rebuke to Scrooge and his fellow members of the business class about the dangers of denying that there even is a problem with poverty, hunger, and lack of educational opportunities among the marginalized laboring classes whom Scrooge had previously dismissed with the Malthusian phrase "the surplus population" :

"Spirit, are they yours?" Scrooge could say no more.

"They are Man's," said the Spirit, looking down upon them. "And they cling to me, appealing from their fathers. This boy is Ignorance. This girl is Want. Beware them both, and all of their degree, but most of all beware this boy, for on his brow I see that written which is Doom, unless the writing be erased. Deny it!" cried the Spirit, stretching out its hand towards the city. "Slander those who tell it ye. Admit it for your factious purposes, and make it worse. And abide the end." [Stave Three, "The Second of the three Spirits," ]


This Jeremiad, with its emphatic and parallel series of insistent imperatives, appears immediately above the scene of Scrooge, the Spirit, the shivering children, and the factory backdrop that closes Stave Three. No other spirit appears twice in the Leech sequence, suggesting that present ills rather than nostalgia for a former era or even the whimsy evident in Scrooge's suppressing his own bitter-sweet memories in The end of the First Spirit are Leech's chief concern. Indeed, the only character to occur more than twice in the entire series is Ebenezer Scrooge himself — he is the visual thread between the images is present in six of the eight.


message 9: by Kim (new)

Kim | 5957 comments Mod


The Ghost of Christmas Present

Stave 3

Sol Eytinge, Jr.

1869 Diamond Edition

Commentary:

Eytinge's plate betrays the clear influence of Leech's "The Second of The Three Spirits," with head-dress, beard, furred robe, bared chest, swordless "antique scabbard" and torch held aloft in two plates, and twin punch bowls in the scene in which Scrooge encounters him in the room adjoining his bedroom.

The profile, pose, nightgown, and nightcap of Scrooge, too, in Eytinge's illustrations closely resemble those of Leech's miser. However, Eytinge gives greater prominence to bottles sitting atop a barrel of oysters and the bodies of various animals heaped up at the spirit's feet, and is more consistent with Dickens's text in his depiction of the "glowing torch, in shape not unlike Plenty's horn" (Stave 3), and the holly wreath head-covering, from which Leech omitted the "shining icicles."

Despite the larger size of Eytinge's "Christmas Present" compared to Leech's "Scrooge's Third Visitor," the overall effect is cluttered in that the artist has crammed too much into the scene because the scale of the figures is much greater and there is little foreground; moreover, Eytinge's Scrooge is not shown in full, his back obscured by the door to his bedroom. Consequently, despite Eytinge's greater three-dimensional realism, the more open composition of Leech's illustration more accurately conveys Scrooge's sense of the miraculous transformation of his chilly sitting-room into a hall of abundance and consumption, an impression undoubtedly assisted by hand-tinting, by the coiling flame and smoke of the spirit's torch, by the cloud of steam rising from the punch bowl (right), and by the vigorous fire in the erstwhile "dull petrification of a hearth." Thus, Leech, although not as faithful to Dickens's letterpress as his successor, more effectively conveys the wonder and luxuriance of the textual scene in Stave Three, "The Second of the Spirits."


message 10: by Kim (new)

Kim | 5957 comments Mod


There Was Nothing Very Cheerful In The Climate

Stave 3

Arthur Rackham

1915

Text Illustrated:

Holly, mistletoe, red berries, ivy, turkeys, geese, game, poultry, brawn, meat, pigs, sausages, oysters, pies, puddings, fruit, and punch, all vanished instantly. So did the room, the fire, the ruddy glow, the hour of night, and they stood in the city streets on Christmas morning, where (for the weather was severe) the people made a rough, but brisk and not unpleasant kind of music, in scraping the snow from the pavement in front of their dwellings, and from the tops of their houses, whence it was mad delight to the boys to see it come plumping down into the road below, and splitting into artificial little snowstorms.

The house-fronts looked black enough, and the windows blacker, contrasting with the smooth white sheet of snow upon the roofs, and with the dirtier snow upon the ground; which last deposit had been ploughed up in deep furrows by the heavy wheels of carts and waggons: furrows that crossed and recrossed each other hundreds of times where the great streets branched off; and made intricate channels, hard to trace in the thick yellow mud and icy water. The sky was gloomy, and the shortest streets were choked up with a dingy mist, half thawed, half frozen, whose heavier particles descended in a shower of sooty atoms, as if all the chimneys in Great Britain had, by one consent, caught fire, and were blazing away to their dear heart's content. There was nothing very cheerful in the climate or the town, and yet was there an air of cheerfulness abroad that the clearest summer air and brightest summer sun might have endeavoured to diffuse in vain.



message 11: by Kim (new)

Kim | 5957 comments Mod


Tiny Tim's Ride

Stave 3

Sol Eytinge, Jr.

1869 Diamond Edition

Commentary:

The scene of Bob Cratchit's carrying his crippled son home from church which Eytinge depicts at the head of the third stave is unusual compared to those scenes in the previous illustrations in that it does not directly involve Scrooge, and we do not see these characters from his perspective. Rather, Scrooge and the Spirit of Christmas Present overhear the Cratchit family's conversation as they await Bob's arrival, and then listen as Bob rehearses for them what the lad said to him as they made with their way home through the streets of Camden Town:

He told me, coming home, that he hoped the people saw him in the church, because he was a cripple, and it might be pleasant to them to remember upon Christmas Day, who made lame beggars walk and blind men see. ["Stave Three, The Second of the Three Spirits"]

As in "In the Tank", Bob is wearing his white, three-foot comforter, and trots past an area railing carrying Tiny Tim and his little crutch. The "iron frame" or leg-brace that Dickens mentions as enclosing Tim's limbs is is not evident. The aerial perspective at the right is exaggerated to include a church in the right-hand margin, and the steps at the left appear to be snow-covered. This, then, is the scene that the Cratchits, Scrooge, and his guide imagine, for it does not actually occur in the text. A similar scene by Harold Coping, executed some fifty-five years later, "Bob Cratchit and Tiny Tim", has impressed itself upon the popular mind, and has often been realized in cinematic and television adaptations — even though Dickens never described it.


message 12: by Kim (new)

Kim | 5957 comments Mod


He had been Tim's blood-horse all the way from church, and had come home rampant

Stave 3

Fred Barnard

1878

Commentary:

Barnard has created a markedly urban scene, which he imbues with a strong sense of community as well-wishers greet Bob and Timothy Cratchit on their way home from church on Christmas morning. Despite his troublesome employer, Bob is cheerful and carefree, transformed into a large child himself through the medium of play. Aside from Sol Eytinge, Junior's vignette for the Ticknor & Fields A Christmas Carol (Boston, 1868), this is the first depiction of Bob and Tiny Tim sailing through the streets of Camden Town together. This illustration is unusual in that it does not realize a moment in the dramatized action, but rather one which is merely reported.

Barnard's markedly realistic style is very different from that of Dickens's original illustrator, the Punch cartoonist John Leech, and the effect of modelling — of using real bodies to produce a three-dimensional effect — is evident, although certainly the realistic public and private buildings in the background provide a suitable social context for the action, and Bob's period costume adds verisimilitude.

"No, no. There's father coming," cried the two young Cratchits, who were everywhere at once. "Hide, Martha, hide!"

"So Martha hid herself, and in came little Bob, the father, with at least three feet of comforter exclusive of the fringe, hanging down before him; and his threadbare clothes darned up and brushed, to look seasonable; and Tiny Tim upon his shoulder. Alas for Tiny Tim, he bore a little crutch, and had his limbs supported by an iron frame.

"Why, where's our Martha?" cried Bob Cratchit, looking round.

"Not coming," said Mrs Cratchit.

"Not coming!" said Bob, with a sudden declension in his high spirits; for he had been Tim's blood horse all the way from church, and had come home rampant. "Not coming upon Christmas Day?"

Martha didn't like to see him disappointed, if it were only in joke; so she came out prematurely from behind the closet door, and ran into his arms, while the two young Cratchits hustled Tiny Tim, and bore him off into the wash-house, that he might hear the pudding singing in the copper.

"And how did little Tim behave?" asked Mrs Cratchit, when she had rallied Bob on his credulity, and Bob had hugged his daughter to his heart's content.

"As good as gold," said Bob, "and better. Somehow he gets thoughtful sitting by himself so much, and thinks the strangest things you ever heard. He told me, coming home, that he hoped the people saw him in the church, because he was a cripple, and it might be pleasant to them to remember upon Christmas Day, who made lame beggars walk, and blind men see." [Stave Three, "The Second of the Three Spirits"]


Thus, Scrooge witnesses the joyful family reunion and overhears the above dialogue in which the narrator interprets Bob's behavior as being like that of a race-horse; but all Scrooge actually sees is Bob and Tim as they arrive at the Cratchit family door. The illustration, therefore, extends the text of the novella in a way that the original Leech illustrations, faithful realizations of textual passages, did not.

Details:



Clock Tower Resembling Big Ben



Old woman, mother and child, beggar


message 13: by Kim (new)

Kim | 5957 comments Mod


He had been Tim's blood horse all the way from Church

Stave 3

Arthur Rackham

1915

Text Illustrated:

'What has ever got your precious father, then?' said Mrs. Cratchit. 'And your brother, Tiny Tim? And Martha warn't as late last Christmas Day by half an hour!'

'Here's Martha, mother!' said a girl, appearing as she spoke.

'Here's Martha, mother!' cried the two young Cratchits. 'Hurrah! There's such a goose, Martha!'

'Why, bless your heart alive, my dear, how late you are!' said Mrs. Cratchit, kissing her a dozen times, and taking off her shawl and bonnet for her with officious zeal.

'We'd a deal of work to finish up last night,' replied the girl, 'and had to clear away this morning, mother!'

'Well! never mind so long as you are come,' said Mrs. Cratchit. 'Sit ye down before the fire, my dear, and have a warm, Lord bless ye!'

'No, no! There's father coming,' cried the two young Cratchits, who were everywhere at once. 'Hide, Martha, hide!'

So Martha hid herself, and in came little Bob, the father, with at least three feet of comforter, exclusive of the fringe, hanging down before him, and his threadbare clothes darned up and brushed to look seasonable, and Tiny Tim upon his shoulder. Alas for Tiny Tim, he bore a little crutch, and had his limbs supported by an iron frame!

'Why, where's our Martha?' cried Bob Cratchit, looking round.

'Not coming,' said Mrs. Cratchit.

'Not coming!' said Bob, with a sudden declension in his high spirits; for he had been Tim's blood-horse[Pg 83] all the way from church, and had come home rampant. 'Not coming upon Christmas Day!'



message 14: by Kim (new)

Kim | 5957 comments Mod


Bob Cratchit and Tiny Tim

Stave 3

Fred Barnard

1885

Commentary:

This scene, although not realized in the original Chapman and Hall edition of 1843, has given rise to illustrations by Sol Eytinge, Jr. (1869), Fred Barnard (1878 and 1885), and Harold Copping (1924), the last of these being the most widely reproduced. But only Barnard's 1885 character study captures the precise moment of Dickens's text; the other three illustrations allude to an earlier, unnarrated moment in which father and son sail through the snowy streets of Camden Town on Christmas morning, after attending church; notably the female members of the family did not join them, so that Dickens established in the text a special intimacy between Bob and Tim that may reflect his own childhood relationship with his convivial (albeit, debt-ridden) father in Chatham.

"No, no! There's father coming," cried the two young Cratchits, who were everywhere at once. "Hide, Martha, hide!"

So Martha hid herself, and in came little Bob, the father, with at least three feet of comforter exclusive of the fringe, hanging down before him; and his thread-bare clothes darned up and brushed, to look seasonable; and Tiny Tim upon his shoulder. Alas for Tiny Tim, he bore a little crutch, and had his limbs supported by an iron frame! ["Stave Three: The Second of the Three Spirits," Household Edition"


John Dickens (a clerk in the naval pay office) perhaps being the original here for the poorly paid but ever-cheerful clerk in Scrooge's counting house. Although the second Spirit, Christmas Present, have not observed Bob and his son coming home, they are presumed to be in the Cratchits' parlor when father and son enter, so that only the 1885 illustration strictly coincides with Dickens's text.

In studying the wood engraving entitled He had been Tim's blood-horse all the way from church..." that Barnard executed as the first illustration for the 1878 Household Edition of The Christmas Books, one could regard the 1885 photogravure study for the third series of Characters from Dickens as a variant of the original 1878 study. However, Barnard has reconceived the context in which Tim appears on his father's shoulder, coming home from church on Christmas morning: instead on a street scene (which also forms the basis for Harold Copping's later color lithograph), Barnard shows the pair arriving at the Cratchit home in Camden Town — evidently not a semi-detached house, but an apartment, since the open doorway reveals a hallway and staircase behind the figures. The implied viewer, too, has changed from a passerby in the 1878 wood engraving to the waiting Cratchit family and Bob's invisible employer in the 1885 photogravure.

If, as David Parker and Paul Davis have suggested, the Cratchits are a nineteenth-century adaptation of the Holy family, it is noteworthy that, in both Barnard illustrations, Mrs. Cratchit is absent: apparently Barnard values and through his selection of scene and subject compels the viewer to value the father-son relationship, to discount the role of the mother, and to regard the core of the Victorian family as the relationship between a beautiful male child and a doting, vigorous, caring male parent.

The two illustrations — of 1878 and 1885 — present essentially the same happy pair: unable to afford a great coat, Bob wears the same comforter and clothing, and a well-bundled Tim carries an identical crutch. Perhaps because he has been rollicking in the snow with the local boys, in the 1885 illustration Bob has rolled-up trouser-cuffs. But the context of the pair has dramatically changed, so that the scant collection of books on the shelf (right) and the seasonal greenery above the door establish the time of year explicitly, as opposed to the general impression of cold weather that the four comforters in the 1878 wood engraving create. Whereas the 1878 is specifically urban, the 1885 scene might be laid anywhere. What the two scenes share is the evident joy on faces of Bob and his son, despite their lower-middle-class poverty and the boy's handicap.

Harold Copping's 1924 color lithograph "Bob Cratchit and Tiny Tim" probably owes more to the Household Edition's frontispiece than to the 1885 character study, with several young women apparently admiring the boy, even as an adolescent in cloth cap (prefiguring what the lower-middle-class child will become, if he survives his affliction), oblivious to their passing by, shovels the sidewalk outside the area railing. The salient difference is the rich material of Tim's apparel in the later illustration which seems inappropriate to his father's modest income. None of these illustrations shares any kinship with the first such composition, Sol Eytinge's Tiny Tim's Ride", which, although set in the London streets like Copping's and Barnard's 1878 wood engraving, has no genial spectators to greet the father and son on Christmas morning.


message 15: by Kim (new)

Kim | 5957 comments Mod


Bob Cratchit Coming Home

Stave 3

Sol Eytinge, Jr.

Commentary:

After a spirited tour of the busy streets of London at the beginning of "Stave 3: The Second of the Three Spirits," the Spirit of Christmas Present transports Scrooge into the Camden Town home of his clerk, Bob Cratchit. Eytinge's illustration realizes the joyous moment of Bob's homecoming, carrying Tiny Tim on his shoulder. In Eytinge's illustration, Bob has just entered in his top hat and white comforter, and, as he inquires after Martha, the young woman herself is coming out from behind the door, so that the moment realized must be this:

So Martha hid herself, and in came little Bob, the father, with at least three feet of comforter exclusive of the fringe, hanging down before him; and his thread-bare clothes cleaned up and brushed, to look seasonable; and Tiny Tim upon his shoulder. Alas for Tiny Tim, he bore a little crutch, and had his limbs supported by an iron frame!.

"Why, where's our Martha?" cried Bob Cratchit looking round.

"Not coming," said Mrs. Cratchit.

"Not coming!" said Bob, with sudden declension in his high spirits; for he had been Tim's blood horse all the way from church, and had come home rampant. "Not coming upon upon Christmas Day!"

Martha didn't like to see him disappointed, if it were only in joke; so she came out prematurely from behind the closet door, and ran into his arms, while the two young Cratchits hustled Tiny Tim, and bore him off into the wash-house, that he might hear the pudding singing in the copper. [Stave Three, "The Second of the Spirits"]


As in the text, Bob is almost mobbed by his wife and children as Martha makes her surprise entrance, to Bob's wonder and delight. This is the very image of the intensely supportive emotional family life of which Scrooge deprived himself when he permitted his love of gain to supplant his love of Belle. This scene is perhaps based directly upon the homecoming of John Dickens one Christmas when young Charles, his siblings, and parents lived in the four-room house at 16 Bayham Street, Camden Town, as first proposed by Willoughby Matchett in "Dickens in Bayham Street" (Dickensian, July 1909); the Micawbers of David Copperfield occupy a similar house in the selfsame neighborhood.

According to Dickens, the Cratchit family is made up of two daughters, the oldest son ("Master Peter Cratchit," an adolescent), "two smaller Cratchits, boy and girl," as well as Martha and Tiny Tim. Thus, the scene could involve as many as five children, exclusive of Tim and Martha, or as few as four, if Martha is one of the two daughters whom Dickens initially mentions. Eytinge has taken the latter interpretation, with this illustration containing the four: Peter, the lad in the over-sized shirt-collar plunging a fork into the saucepan of potatoes at the fireplace; the two younger children, a boy and girl, immediately in front of their parents (center); and a tall girl (the ribbons in her hair suggest that she is "Belinda") between her mother and the fireplace. In the following scene, "The Wonderful Pudding", Eytinge has included six children at the table as Mrs. Cratchit presents the flaming dessert, so that Martha in the second Cratchit family illustration must be the beaming girl in the right register, the boy in oversize shirt-collar being her slightly younger brother, Peter (perhaps not quite to scale). Aside from the presence of the children, Eytinge interconnects the two scenes with the chair (center in "The Wonderful Pudding," but right of center in "Bob Cratchit at Home"), table and cloth, fireplace, door, and open cupboard up to the ceiling. The playful cat in the foreground, left, of "Bob Cratchit at Home" completes the image of domestic bliss and familial solidarity that was the Victorian ideal, affordable at just fifteen "Bob" or shillings a-week.


message 16: by Kim (new)

Kim | 5957 comments Mod


Bob Cratchit and Tiny Tim

Stave 3

Harold Copping

1924

Commentary:

The snowy Yuletide scene in which Copping illustrates Bob Cratchit's carrying Tiny Tim home from church through the streets of Camden Town may strike the modern Londoner as somewhat improbable, given the long odds against White Christmases at present. As Paul Simons and Will Pavia have ably argued in the London Times for 24 December 2008, that Londoners should be depicted as "scraping the snow from pavements in front of their dwellings" in A Christmas Carol is not so improbable if we assume that the Christmas depicted in that best-seller of 1843 is not the one previous, but rather one of the series from 1817 through 1822, when Dickens was a child of five through ten years of age, and the south of England suffered six White Christmases in swift succession, together with daytime highs of -2 to -6 Celsius. The newspaper columnists attribute this "little Ice Age" to "a series of colossal volcanic eruptions that enveloped the globe in dust and shrouded the sun". This was the same period in which the Shelleys in Switzerland, enduring one of Europe's coldest summers on record, generated the tale that would become Frankenstein (published in 1818). Thus, one may reasonably interpret Dickens's depiction of the Cratchits' Christmas not merely as a paean to the seasonal, middle-class family gathering, but as an invocation of his childhood Christmases with his family before his father fell into debt and was sent to debtors' prison.

In order to permit warmer hues to dominate the scene and sharply contrast the snow underfoot, Copping gives Tiny Tim a velvet snowsuit of intense scarlet, set against red-brown brick row-houses and backed by passengers in red-brown clothing. Complementing the scene Dickens so fleetingly mentions in Stave 3, "The Second of the Three Spirits," or "Christmas Present," Copping offers us a seasonal, lower-middle-class street scene probably quite out of character with the Hungry Forties during which Dickens actually composed the first of the Christmas Books. Bob is respectably clad, with little hint in the picture that his Sunday best is " thread-bare." Copping's Tiny Tim is certainly diminutive—even to the point of having a head out of normal proportions for a child. But the chief objection a New Historicist might raise is the illustration's fundamentally sweet vision of the suburban London streets of the period, especially the clean, well-dressed, cheerful pedestrians who smile benignly as father and son pass. These cheerful Londoners seem a far cry from the necessitous, shabby denizens of the metropolis who would have seen Bob return home from church with his physically challenged son on his shoulder. Although Copping gives us the tiny crutch, he merely suggests the boy's iron leg-brace which the letterpress unequivocal describes as supporting his limbs.

Copping has created in scene which Dickens does not actually give us, for Scrooge and the Spirit in passing through the streets had earlier seen "poor revelers," "innumerable people, carrying their dinners to the bakers' shops." These "dinner-carriers" Copping has blended with Dickens's later image of Bob and Tim arriving at their own door. Penguin's editor of the two-volume Christmas Books (1971), Michael Slater, cites the unpublished notes of eminent Dickensian T. W. Hill: "On Sundays and on Christmas Day, when bakers were legally forbidden to bake bread, people would take their joints of meat, etc., to the bake-houses to cook". Such a young woman, perhaps as much smiling already at the prospect of a piping hot joint as enjoying the sight of the happy father and son, is depicted standing immediately to Bob's left.


message 17: by Kim (new)

Kim | 5957 comments Mod


The Wonderful Pudding

Stave 3

Sol Eytinge, Jr.

Commentary:

In "The Wonderful Pudding", the eleventh full-page illustration, Eytinge continues the heart-warming narrative of the mutually devoted and supportive Cratchit family, who are happy despite the bread-winner's modest income and the affliction of having a physically challenged child. As in the text, the children have crammed their spoons into their mouths to restrain the temptation to scream as Mrs. Cratchit presents her signature dish, the flaming Christmas pudding. In that the illustration describes both the juxtaposition and demeanor of the diners and the unveiling of the pudding, Eytinge appears to have synthesized two separate passages concerning the family dinner:

Bob took Tiny Tim beside him in a tiny corner at the table; the two young Cratchits set chairs for everybody, not forgetting themselves, and mounting guard upon their posts, crammed spoons into their mouths, lest they should shriek for goose before their turn came to be helped.

and, after the main course, and the disappearance of Mrs. Cratchit to the washhouse to retrieve the dessert.

In half a minute Mrs. Cratchit entered: flushed, but smiling proudly : with the pudding, like a speckled cannon-ball, so hard abd firm, blazing in half of half-a-quartern of ignited brandy, and bedight with Christmas holly stuck into the top. [Stave Three, "The Second of the Spirits"]


The scene, set in Bob Cratchit's four-room Camden Town home, is suggestive of John and Elizabeth Dickens's Christmases celebrated in the early 1820s at 16 Bayham Street. It continues the description of the family gathering which Eytinge initiated in "Bob Cratchit at home", with the six children now seated around the table as Mrs. Cratchit presents the flaming dessert. One naturally wonders, since the composition of the scene precedes John Forster's publishing the authoritative biography The Life of Charles Dickens, whether Eytinge learned from Dickens himself in 1868-69 that the original of the Cratchit family was his own in childhood. As becomes a scene in the "domestic sphere," the dominating figure in this scene is that of Mrs. Cratchit, clad in a white apron, but Eytinge has been careful to place the family's provider, Bob Cratchit, at the very center of the illustration, with the smallest child, Tiny Tim, in his arms. One notes a strong family resemblance among the children, the shape of their noses in particular reflecting that feature of their father.


message 18: by Kim (new)

Kim | 5957 comments Mod


The Christmas Pudding

Stave 3

Arthur Rackham

1915


message 19: by Kim (new)

Kim | 5957 comments Mod


Bob Cratchit's Christmas Dinner

Stave 3

Harold Copping

1924

Commentary:

This post-WWI image of a comfortable middle-class Victorian family celebrating Christmas is not entirely consistent with Dickens's descriptions of the privations of the Cratchit family during the height of the Hungry Forties, but it must have had considerable appeal for a readership yearning for the good old days before the cataclysm of the First World War.

The Cratchits, all reasonably well-dressed and cheerful, have reached a fever-pitch of anticipation as the head of the domestic side of the Cratchit establishment brings forth the magnificent pudding with some trepidation, lest it not be fully cooked. Although some nineteenth-century illustrators such as E. A. Abbey and Sol Eytinge, Jr., had devoted some space to the Cratchits, elevating Bob to status of co-protagonist, the original illustrations by John Leech show Bob Cratchit only in the tailpiece, sitting down with his employer to enjoy some smoking bishop, a hot punch that Scrooge has concocted on his own hearth. Copping, working in the nostalgic vein after the First World War, elevates Bob to the status of quintessential Victorian Pater Familias revised, a kinder, gentler image of the Victorian father, head of a large family, struggling to see his children educated and having to cope with problems occasioned by his son Tim's illness and physical disability on a modest income, such as that which Dickens's father, John, received while a young father working at the Naval Pay Office (about 15 shillings per week, paid quarterly).

If we compare Copping's treatment of the Christmas dinner with that in the American Household Edition by E. A. Abbey, "'Mr. Scrooge!' said Bob; 'I'll give you Mr. Scrooge, the founder of the Feast!'" (1876) we see a shift in emphasis. The earlier wood-engraving focuses the reader's attention on Bob, his cup raised, and Peter in the oversized collar; Abbey has crowded the younger children and female members of the family to the right margin, and the group are seated around the hearth after dinner. Conversely, Copping has realized an earlier moment, when the Cratchits are still seated around the dining table, cleared of dinner plates and awaiting the reception of the centerpiece of the festive meal, the traditional pudding, flaming with brandy. Mrs. Cratchit, in seasonal scarlet dress and matron's hat, seems almost mesmerized by the flaming pudding, keeping her hands well to either side of the platter. Bob, a secondary focus in the illustration, seems nervous,as if concerned that the pudding may not be fully cooked. However, the boisterous Cratchit children, utensils at the ready, do not share his trepidation. As opposed to the slight decorations evident in Abbey's wood-engraving (rear center and left), Copping, exaggerating the economic status of the family, has positioned decoration and seasonal bric-a-brac on the mantle behind Bob, associating him with the spirit of plenty. In both, Tiny Tim is seated beside his father, but is clearly more robust in Copping's color lithograph (no crutch is evident in either illustration).

A comparable illustration showing the closeness of father and son and the family's enjoyment of the anticipation of the pudding is Sol Eytinge, Junior's "The Wonderful Pudding" from his Christmas 1868 volume devoted entirely to A Christmas Carol. However, Copping is much more likely to have been influenced by the work of John Leech and Fred Barnard, neither of whom offer a comparable scene, and Arthur Rackham, who focuses upon the spare figure of Mrs. Cratchit's carrying the pudding in a single-page wood-engraving. The pictures of Rackham and Copping reinforce the traditional middle-class conception of the appropriate societal role for women, an image somewhat ironic in the context of a picture produced after World War One, when so many women took on male roles and jobs as part of the war effort.


message 20: by Kim (new)

Kim | 5957 comments Mod


"Mr. Scrooge!" said Bob, "I'll give you Mr. Scrooge, the Founder of the feast!"

Stave 3

E. A. Abbey

1876 American Household Edition

Commentary:

Illustrating Dickens' story for an early-Victorian audience, John Leech had not cast Bob and Tim in central roles. His illustrations focused on Scrooge and the spirits. He did not even depict the Cratchit Christmas feast. Bob Cratchit appears in only one of his pictures (fig. 38 ["Scrooge and Bob Cratchit"]), a black-and-white tailpiece showing him sharing the bowl of smoking bishop with Scrooge. But later Victorian illustrators devoted themselves to the Cratchits. Three of the six illustrations E. A. Abbey produced for the American Household edition of 1876, for example, depicted the Cratchits, including a picture of the family circle dominated by Bob and his two sons as they toast "the Founder of the Feast". [Davis, The Lives and Times of Ebenezer Scrooge]

As Davis, notes, Dickens's denying Mrs. Cratchit even a Christian name does tend to relegate to the status of supporting character at best; certainly, she does not appear at all in Leech's original sequence or in Barnard's five woodcuts for the British Household edition, and is overshadowed by her outgoing, bustling husband in those series in which she does make an appearance: Abbey's (in which she sits well to the right-hand margin, presiding over the distaff side of the familial hearth) and Eytinge's (in which she welcomes home her husband, her back towards the viewer in "Bob Cratchit at Home" and is seen only in profile as she serves "The Wonderful Christmas Pudding". Even in the deathbed scene "Poor Tiny Tim!" she is curiously absent, as if even Tim's imagined death is gender-restricted as yet a final opportunity for male bonding.

If Mrs. Cratchit is somewhat marginalized in Abbey's illustration, occupying the right-hand register with her adolescent daughter Martha, the two smaller Cratchits (a boy and a girl), and Beinda, in the accompanying text Dickens lets her speak her mind (even though she is the proverbial homemaker) about the parsimonious skinflint whom the kindly Bob has just charitably dubbed "The Founder of the feast":

At last the dinner was all done, the cloth was cleared, the hearth swept, and the fire made up. The compound in the jug being tasted, and considered perfect, apples and oranges were put upon the table, and a shovel-full of chestnuts on the fire. Then all the Cratchit family drew round the hearth, in what Bob Cratchit called a circle, meaning half a one; and at Bob Cratchit's elbow stood the family display of glass. Two tumblers, and a custard-cup without a handle.

These held the hot stuff from the jug, however, as well as golden goblets would have done; and Bob served it out with beaming looks, while the chestnuts on the fire sputtered and cracked noisily. Then Bob proposed:

"A Merry Christmas to us all, my dears. God bless us."

Which all the family re-echoed.

"God bless us every one!" said Tiny Tim, the last of all.

He sat very close to his father's side upon his little stool. Bob held his withered little hand in his, as if he loved the child, and wished to keep him by his side, and dreaded that he might be taken from him.

"Spirit," said Scrooge, with an interest he had never felt before, "tell me if Tiny Tim will live."

"I see a vacant seat," replied the Ghost, "in the poor chimney-corner, and a crutch without an owner, carefully preserved. If these shadows remain unaltered by the Future, the child will die."

"No, no," said Scrooge. "Oh, no, kind Spirit. Say he will be spared."

"If these shadows remain unaltered by the Future, none other of my race," returned the Ghost, "will find him here. What then? If he be like to die, he had better do it, and decrease the surplus population."

Scrooge hung his head to hear his own words quoted by the Spirit, and was overcome with penitence and grief.

"Man," said the Ghost, "if man you be in heart, not adamant, forbear that wicked cant until you have discovered What the surplus is, and Where it is. Will you decide what men shall live, what men shall die? It may be, that in the sight of Heaven, you are more worthless and less fit to live than millions like this poor man's child. Oh God! To hear the Insect on the leaf pronouncing on the too much life among his hungry brothers in the dust."

Scrooge bent before the Ghost's rebuke, and trembling cast his eyes upon the ground. But he raised them speedily, on hearing his own name.

"Mr. Scrooge!" said Bob; "I'll give you Mr. Scrooge, the Founder of the Feast!"

"The Founder of the Feast indeed!" cried Mrs Cratchit, reddening. "I wish I had him here. I'd give him a piece of my mind to feast upon, and I hope he'd have a good appetite for it."

"My dear," said Bob, "the children. Christmas Day."

"It should be Christmas Day, I am sure," said she, "on which one drinks the health of such an odious, stingy, hard, unfeeling man as Mr. Scrooge. You know he is, Robert. Nobody knows it better than you do, poor fellow."

"My dear," was Bob's mild answer, "Christmas Day."

"I'll drink his health for your sake and the Day's," said Mrs. Cratchit, "not for his. Long life to him. A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! He'll be very merry and very happy, I have no doubt!"

The children drank the toast after her. It was the first of their proceedings which had no heartiness. [Stave Three, "The Second of the Three Spirits,"]


In fact, although this dialogue spills over onto the twenty-eighth page, Abbey has attempted to convey the perfect harmony and good will that pervades the Cratchit hearth prior to Bob's raising his tumbler. Mrs. Cratchit looks demurely at her her husband as he pronounces the toast, and does not remonstrate with her charitable spouse.

Possibly aided by John Forster's The Life of Charles Dickens (1872, volume 1), Abbey has constructed a family gathering in the front parlor of the four-roomed house in Camden Town (shared by the real-life family of John Dickens, at 16 Bayham Street, and the fictional family of the Micawbers in David Copperfield) which parallels the Dickens family in the early 1820s:

There were six Dickens children then who correspond to the six Cratchits: Fanny is the eldest Cratchit, Martha; Charles is Peter; Letitia is Belinda; Frederick and Harriet are the unnamed Cratchits, also a boy and girl; and the youngest, Alfred, is Tiny Tim. [Hearn, 119]

With this identification, one can see in Abbey's illustration that the illustrator has placed Peter immediately to the right of the father, and Tim, under Bob's protective hand, to the father's left. The little girl, sitting immediately before the fire, her back towards the viewer,would be the equivalent of Harriet Dickens. In the female-dominated right-hand register, Mrs. Cratchit (Dickens) is at the top of a parenthesis, and immediately below her are Belinda Cratchit, Martha Cratchit, and the unnamed Cratchit son who corresponds to Fred Dickens. The faces of the three Cratchit females bear a striking similarity in profile. The wreath above the fireplace is an interpolation implying a halo for this blessed family. Although we recognize Bob's checkered trousers from his initial appearance in Abbey's series, his double-breasted jacket seems to grown longer and more stately than the short suit jacket he wears in the Cornhill sliding scene. Even though the text is explicit about the entire family's drinking the toast ("The children drank the toast after her"), in order to avoid any suggestion that the Cratchit children are imbibing an alcoholic beverage, Abbey does not provide any of them with a tumbler: the youngest boy (right, on Belinda's lap) appears to be eating a small apple, and only the two adults have tumblers — presumably filled with the jug of steaming punch from the hearth, immediately above Tiny Tim's head.

Details:



Bob Cratchit (John Dickens) raises the toast



Mrs. Cratchit Elizabeth Dickens) reluctantly does likewise



Peter Cratchit (young Charles Dickens) in the oversized collar



Belinda Cratchit and Martha Cratchit ((Letitia and Fanny Dickens)



Timothy Cratchit and the youngest Cratchit daughter (Alfred and Harriet Dickens)



message 21: by Kim (new)

Kim | 5957 comments Mod


The way he went after that plump sister in the lace tucker!

Stave 3

Arthur Rackham

1915

Text Illustrated:

But they didn't devote the whole evening to music. After a while they played at forfeits; for it is good to be children sometimes, and never better than at Christmas, when its mighty Founder was a child himself. Stop! There was first a game at blind man's-buff. Of course there was. And I no more believe Topper was really blind than I believe he had eyes in his boots. My opinion is, that it was a done thing between him and Scrooge's nephew; and that the Ghost of Christmas Present knew it. The way he went after that plump sister in the lace tucker was an outrage on the credulity of human nature. Knocking down the fire-irons, tumbling over the chairs, bumping up against the piano, smothering himself amongst the curtains, wherever she went, there went he! He always knew where the plump sister was. He wouldn't catch anybody else. If you had fallen up against him (as some of them did) on purpose, he would have made a feint of endeavouring to seize you, which would have been an affront to your understanding, and would instantly have sidled off in the direction of the plump sister. She often cried out that it wasn't fair; and it really was not. But when, at last, he caught her; when, in spite of all her silken rustlings, and her rapid flutterings past him, he got her into a corner whence there was no escape; then his conduct was the most execrable. For his pretending not to know her; his pretending that it was necessary to touch her head-dress, and further to assure himself of her identity by pressing a certain ring upon her finger, and a certain chain about her neck; was vile, monstrous! No doubt she told him her opinion of it when, another blind man being in office, they were so very confidential together behind the curtains.


message 22: by Kim (new)

Kim | 5957 comments Mod


Ignorance and Want

Stave 3

John Leech

1843

Text Illustrated:

“Forgive me if I am not justified in what I ask,” said Scrooge, looking intently at the Spirit’s robe, “but I see something strange, and not belonging to yourself, protruding from your skirts. Is it a foot or a claw?”

“It might be a claw, for the flesh there is upon it,” was the Spirit’s sorrowful reply. “Look here.”

From the foldings of its robe, it brought two children; wretched, abject, frightful, hideous, miserable. They knelt down at its feet, and clung upon the outside of its garment.

“Oh, Man! look here. Look, look, down here!” exclaimed the Ghost.

They were a boy and girl. Yellow, meagre, ragged, scowling, wolfish; but prostrate, too, in their humility. Where graceful youth should have filled their features out, and touched them with its freshest tints, a stale and shrivelled hand, like that of age, had pinched, and twisted them, and pulled them into shreds. Where angels might have sat enthroned, devils lurked, and glared out menacing. No change, no degradation, no perversion of humanity, in any grade, through all the mysteries of wonderful creation, has monsters half so horrible and dread.


Commentary:

In this three-quarter-page wood-engraving in Dickens's Christmas Carol, Stave Three, "The Second of the Three Spirits", Scrooge must confront the social consequences of the unbridled capitalism he so vigorously defends in Stave One. Leech's whimsical style, although it may be described as caricature verging at times on cartoon, was more rigorously realistic and less emblematic than Browne's; perhaps the finest example of his work in this vein for Dickens is "Ignorance and Want" in A Christmas Carol. The street urchins, although symbols of the forces unleashed by the factory system and the new capitalistic applications of Malthusian population theories, are shockingly real, while the desiccated trees and smoking factory chimneys in the background constitute a heightened realism amounting to visual commentary on Dickens's scene to reveal Scrooge as the exemplar of the entire upper-middle class.

Undoubtedly, along with Fred Walker, an illustrator working in the manner of Daniel Vierge and other French illustrators of the mid-century, Leech was instrumental in shaping the new "Sixties'" style, of which George Du Maurier, Marcus Stone, and Fred Barnard were the leading exponents. As Michael Steig remarks in Dickens and Phiz (1978),

Leech was never really comfortable in Browne's and Cruikshank's favorite technique, etching. He became known primarily as the designer of straightforward, humorous, wood-engraved cartoons — in our modern sense — for Punch. In turn, Leech's art influenced Punch artists and illustrators including Tenniel, Du Maurier, and Keene, while simultaneously the dominant mode of book illustration by these artists and such others as Marcus Stone, Fred Walker, and John Everett Millais became by the 1860s almost totally divorced from Browne's mode. Thus, wood engraving replaced etching, a quasi-caricatural way of drawing characters became a blander, rather idealized style, and emblem and allusion disappeared almost totally. It is not insignificant that some of these younger artists had pretensions to high art, nor that Millais in particular may have been slumming (though for very good pay) when he did illustrations for Trollope and others.

In the Punch satirical picture Cartoon, No. 1 — Substance and Shadow (15 July 1843), Leech had criticized artists for ignoring social issues such as the homelessness, unemployment, starvation, and grinding poverty of Scrooge's Surplus Population. One may assume that his depiction of the allegorical but intensely realized figures of Ignorance and Want in A Christmas Carol is a graphic exemplar of how the artist with a social conscience may address such contentious issues. Resident artist at Punch, John Leech perhaps had insufficient leisure to illustrate full-length Dickens novels; furthermore, he always had so many irons in the fire, so to speak, that he was notoriously unreliable when it came to delivering his drawing on time to publisher, a fact that may have deterred Phiz from agreeing to work with him on the illustrations for Martin Chuzzlewit.

A Note on the Industrial Backdrop:

The question of whether the buildings in the background of "Ignorance and Want" are nineteenth-century factories with tall smokestacks or prisons and workhouses surrealistically grouped together is an interesting one since the backdrop may suggest that Leech felt empowered to extend the scene beyond its textual equivalent to deliver a visual indictment of capitalism and industrialism. In reality, such buildings as workhouses and prisons would not have been adjacent to one another in an urban setting.

Parenthetically, the blackened trees in "Ignorance and Want" may be "leafless" because the backdrop is a December scene, but they look blighted, withered, and dessicated, and to the smoke from the factory smokestack drifts down the right-hand margin of the vignetted edge towards the tree (plural), whose condition, like the condition of the children, is therefore a direct byproduct of the industrial factory, which contaminates society, implies the illustrator, as it does the environment.

Certainly the big blocks of building behind Scrooge and the Spirit of Christmas Present might be one of the 1830s Poor Law's "new" workhouses such as that at Southwell. However, even the rather rudimentary workhouse or refuge depicted in the Illustrated London News for December, 1843, would not have had the sort of industrial smokestack that Leech has made prominent in Ignorance and Want. Textually it would make sense that the picture should reinforce the Spirit's rhetorical strategy of casting Scrooge's own words about prisons and workhouses back at him when he asks about what "resources" society is providing for the destitute children. One can discern a very slender chimney emanating from a stove used for heating the women's ward in a Refuge for the Destitute — Ward for Females from the Illustrated London News for 23 December 1843, but it looks nothing like Leech's chimney. Although the buildings in Leech's background look a bit like the new Pentonville Prison, the guard tower (the only structure that breaks the roofline of Pentonville) looks nothing like the factory chimneys in Pennel's sketch, or the factory chimney still standing at Chipping Norton, or that at the pump-house, Albert Dock. The typical Victorian factory not only had the enormous chimney for discharging smoke well away from the precincts, but was also well lit by a great many windows as in the Butcher Works, Sheffield.

In Preston, Lancashire, an industrial town noted for its numerous smokestacks of the type seen in Leech's illustration, the workers rioted and were attacked by the army just the year before Dickens wrote A Christmas Carol. The industrial smokestacks of a Preston factory in the background of Harry French's illustration of Gradgrind's Coketown (Preston) office in Hard Times suggest an industrial complex like that in Leech's illustration or the mill complex such at Salford. For the Chartists, industrial mills or factories were flashpoints for revolution because of their long hours and tedious, unsafe working conditions; they were using the boycott strategy to force the government into adopting the principles of the Charter for parliamentary reform. In consequence, the appearance of industrial smokestacks in Leech's plate would have constituted a topical allusion that many of Dickens's readers would have immediately recognized.

Some twenty-five years later, the theme of the deleterious societal effects of "Want and Ignorance" struck realist illustrator Sol Eytinge, Junior, as timely in post-Civil War America, as he posited that substandard housing and urban blight (as suggested by the backdrop of his rendition of this narrative moment) were the direct concomitants of societal neglect of the poverty-stricken underclass represented by the two children in his wood-engraving. In place of Leech's blighted tree, emblematic of the consequences of the factory system, Eytinge has a bird of ill-omen haloed by the setting moon. In keeping with the serious subject of the illustration, Eytinge has given us a sombre Druid rather than "a jolly Giant, glorious to see." The implied movement of the 1868 "dark" plate is entirely upward and downward, with the pillar-like tenement blocks in the background complementing the pillar-like figures of Scrooge and his spirit-guide. Finally, as the chimes strike midnight, Leech's Spirit of Christmas Present is fading, even though the text does not so specify; rather, he vanishes utterly at the moment that the church-bell strikes twelve, presumably on the night of the last of twelve days of Christmas. In contrast, Eytinge's leaden spirit clasps his collar with his left hand against the chill; his holly and berry head-dress, however, seems to have wilted if we compare it to its rendering in Eytinge's The Spirit of Christmas Present five plates earlier, and in the frontispiece, in which the crown is more luxuriant and the figure both more nimble, youthful, jolly, vigorous, and benign.

Original Page:




message 23: by Kim (new)

Kim | 5957 comments Mod


Want and Ignorance

Stave 3

Sol Eytinge, Jr.

1869 Diamond Edition

Commentary:

Like the illustrators of the Household Edition, Sol Eytinge, Jr., was composing within a pictorial tradition established by Dickens and his original graphic artists, so that, for example, in drawing "Want and Ignorance" in A Christmas Carol in Prose: being a Ghost Story of Christmas he did not have an entirely free hand since even many of his American readers in the Christmas season of 1868 would have been thoroughly aware of Leech's 1843 small but radical woodcut "Ignorance and Want". Since Dickens's prophetic Christmas Present warns mankind about the graver dangers represented by the shivering, ragged, diminutive, pock-marked male figure, Ignorance in Leech's illustration —

Beware them both, and all of their degree, but most of all beware this boy, for on his brow I see that written which is Doom, unless the writing be erased. [Stave 3]

— Eytinge has chosen to reverse the order of their names in the title and render them squatting rather than standing, for their power drives humanity to the condition of animals. Leech's figures, though ill-clad, are markedly human, and the girl even seems to turn towards her ill-clothed brother in concern; in contrast, Eytinge's quasi-naked, dark figures, who have qualities of "The Boy" in Dickens's last Christmas Book, The Haunted Man (1848), more closely realize Dickens's description of these factory children as cowed animals rather than embryonic adult human beings: "meager, ragged, scowling, wolfish; but prostrate, too, in their humility." Whereas Leech's Spirit of Christmas Present reprovingly points a chastising finger at Scrooge for assisting in the creation of such social ills, Eytinge's melancholy figure points downward as the text describes, with the small slum children kneeling at his feet as the spirit cries, "Oh, Man! look here. Look, look, down here!"

In neither illustration, curiously, do the allegorical children cling to the spirit's garments; however, at least in Eytinge's there is an urban as opposed to the factory backdrop that Leech substituted. In place of Leech's blighted tree, emblematic of the consequences of the callous capitalistic and factory systems, Eytinge has a bird of ill-omen haloed by the setting moon. In keeping with the serious subject of the illustration, Eytinge has given us a sombre Druid rather than "a jolly Giant, glorious to see." The implied movement of the 1868 "dark" plate is entirely upward and downward, with the pillar-like tenement blocks in the background complementing the pillar-like figures of Scrooge and his spirit-guide. Finally, as the chimes strike midnight, Leech's Spirit of Christmas Present is fading, even though the text does not so specify; rather, he vanishes utterly at the moment the bell strikes twelve, presumably on the night of the last of twelve days of Christmas. In contrast, Eytinge's leaden spirit clasps his collar with his left hand against the chill; his holly and berry head-dress, however, seems to have wilted if we compare it to its rendering in Eytinge's "The Spirit of Christmas Present" five plates earlier, and in the frontispiece, in which the crown is more luxuriant and the figure both more nimble, youthful, jolly, vigorous, and benign.


message 24: by Xan (new)

Xan  Shadowflutter (shadowflutter) | 889 comments Love this opening line:

"... awakening in the middle of a prodigiously tough snore."

That sets the mind a wandering with quite an image. Perhaps the snore is trying to consume the blankets? Love that line.

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

"Surplus population," mentioned when discussing Tiny Tim's future. A reference to Malthus? Or a more general comment about the plight of many children?

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

Scrooge seems to be quite the empath and push over. What's with that? If this keeps up, we'll have to change his name. I always thought it was the Ghost of Christmas Future that scared the bejeebers out of him.


message 25: by Peter (new)

Peter | 3199 comments Mod
Xan Shadowflutter wrote: "Love this opening line:

"... awakening in the middle of a prodigiously tough snore."

That sets the mind a wandering with quite an image. Perhaps the snore is trying to consume the blankets? Love..."


Hi Xan

I think “surplus population” is probably a reference to Malthus. If so, ACC is a rather interesting and effective counter argument.


message 26: by Peter (new)

Peter | 3199 comments Mod
Kim

What a stocking-full of illustrations you have provided. Thank you.

With so many illustrations, and those illustrations spanning a large period of time, there is lots to think about and consider.

First, I found the word “extend” to explain and discuss the scope of the illustrations very interesting. Looking at the illustrations and reading the commentaries you can see how illustrators not only had ACC on their mind but also the time period in which they drew their illustrations. I had never considered this point before.

Next, I was intrigued how various commentators saw the Cratchit’s as a representing of the Holy Family, or representing Dickens own family, and even various stages in between. Perspective is an interesting companion.

Also, I was happy to read how the original Leech illustrations still hold up as the template for all those who came after him.

ACC is a novella that has become ingrained into our culture.


message 27: by Mary Lou (new)

Mary Lou | 2451 comments Peter wrote: "ACC is a novella that has become ingrained into our culture."

This is the understatement of year!

(Sorry... haven't figured out how to do italics on the phone...)


message 28: by Alissa (new)

Alissa | 317 comments Peter wrote: "Tiny Tim is arguably one of the most recognizable characters in Dickens. Why do you think Tiny Tim has become so well known to readers?"

I like Tiny Tim. He is sweet, innocent, and a bit precocious with that church comment. He puts Oliver to shame.

I think the most memorable part of Tim is his crutch and his famous line, "God bless us, every one."


message 29: by Alissa (new)

Alissa | 317 comments Mary Lou wrote: "I was intrigued by this turn of phrase:

There were great, round, pot-bellied baskets of chestnuts, shaped like the waistcoats of jolly old gentlemen, lolling at the doors, and tumbling out into th..."


I like that section too. I was very impressed by Dickens's luscious description of the marketplace. The foods are personified and seem to be flirting.

"There were ruddy, brown-faced, broad-girthed Spanish onions, shining in the fatness of their growth like Spanish Friars, and winking from their shelves in wanton slyness at the girls as they went by, and glanced demurely at the hung-up mistletoe."

"...the French plums blushed in modest tartness from their highly-decorated boxes..."


message 30: by Kim (new)

Kim | 5957 comments Mod
Peter wrote: "Kim

What a stocking-full of illustrations you have provided. Thank you.

With so many illustrations, and those illustrations spanning a large period of time, there is lots to think about and consi..."


That's the truth! I was thinking as I was copying those commentories it couldn't have taken Dickens much longer to write the book than it was for me to get and paste the commentaries. :-)


message 31: by Tristram (new)

Tristram Shandy | 4645 comments Mod
Alissa wrote: "Mary Lou wrote: "I was intrigued by this turn of phrase:

There were great, round, pot-bellied baskets of chestnuts, shaped like the waistcoats of jolly old gentlemen, lolling at the doors, and tum..."


Yes, that's one other instance of how perfectly Dickens was able to give his readers a sense of the alluring qualities of food and how his characters enjoy it. Just think of the numerous social gatherings in PP, of Ruth Pinch's preparing a pudding and Mrs. Gamp sitting down to her dinner in MC, of Mr Micawber's presiding over the festivities his family shares with David Copperfield, or of Nicholas Nickleby's attending the Crummleses farewell dinner ...


message 32: by Mary Lou (new)

Mary Lou | 2451 comments Tristram wrote: "Dickens was able to give his readers a sense of the alluring qualities of food and how his characters enjoy it...."

I still have no idea what "apoplectic opulence" means.


message 33: by Tristram (new)

Tristram Shandy | 4645 comments Mod
Peter wrote: "Xan Shadowflutter wrote: "Love this opening line:

"... awakening in the middle of a prodigiously tough snore."

That sets the mind a wandering with quite an image. Perhaps the snore is trying to ..."


It's quite efficient how Scrooge's own words are constantly thrown into his teeth by what the Ghost of Christmas Present shows him: Seeing a little boy like Tiny Tim and his family eventually makes Scrooge aware of what he has been saying. It's different to be indifferent to the "surplus population" when one representative of them has all of a sudden got a face, and a context. In a similar, though less personalizing way, Scrooge's words about workhouses, prisons and the treadmill as appropriate ways of dealing with the destitute will dawn upon him as gross and cruel at the end of his walk with the Ghost.

The Cratchit family - although I sincerely doubt that poverty and need on a daily basis, going along with backbreaking work will not eventually lead to the wear and tear of family relations - show to Scrooge that there are things money can't buy: After all, they are with each other, and he is sitting alone. In a similar way, the miners, the lighthouse and the ship are - I agree with Mary Lou - places where men are isolated and under pressure, but even those people feel their kinship with humankind through the spirit of Christmas. These places show Scrooge that so far he has been more isolated from mankind, more of an outcast than any of the people in those places. When Scrooge hears his nephew talk about him at the Christmas Party, he only hears put into words what has been shown to him all alone.

Paradoxically, his lust for money has estranged Scrooge from the human race and made him a loner. I'd call this a paradox because apparently he must have turned to Money as a reaction to the loss of people dear to him. In the end, however, he is more isolated with his money than he would have probably been with less of that useful substance.


message 34: by Tristram (new)

Tristram Shandy | 4645 comments Mod
Peter wrote: "We met Scrooge’s nephew very early in the story. Why do you think it was necessary to bring him into the story again?"

My answer to that question is uninspired but straightforward: On the one hand, Fred is the only living relative Scrooge has (and so the closest he will ever come to family), and on the other hand, his nephew is the son of the sister he loved so much. Therefore, in a way Fred is a proxy, and Scrooge must realize with horror that the dismissive and grumpy way he has treated his nephew would probably have hurt his sister had she been alive, as being a treatment indirectly received by herself.


message 35: by Tristram (new)

Tristram Shandy | 4645 comments Mod
The following passage is my favourite quotation from the Third Stave:

"'There are some upon this earth of yours,' returned the Spirit, 'who lay claim to know us, and who do their deeds of passion, pride, ill-will, hatred, envy, bigotry, and selfishness in our name; who are as strange to us and all our kith and kin, as if they had never lived. Remember that, and charge their doings on themselves, not us.'"


Dickens was referring to the hypocrisy and holier-than-thou activities of the supporters of Sabbatarianism of his day and age, but it is a sentiment that seems to have its raison d'être at all times. Even in our time, religion is still used by fanatics or hypocrites as a pretext for spreading hatred and death, even at Christmas, as we just experienced in France.


message 36: by Tristram (last edited Dec 20, 2018 04:15AM) (new)

Tristram Shandy | 4645 comments Mod
Mary Lou wrote: "Tristram wrote: "Dickens was able to give his readers a sense of the alluring qualities of food and how his characters enjoy it...."

I still have no idea what "apoplectic opulence" means."


Hmmm, an opulence that is apoplectic or lead to apoplexy? At any rate, it sounds like an expression that can best be voiced by someone with fat cheeks.


message 37: by Mary Lou (new)

Mary Lou | 2451 comments Tristram wrote: "it sounds like an expression that can best be voiced by someone with fat cheeks. ..."

I'm glad I wasn't taking a sip of tea as I read this. Congratulations, Tristram - you actually made me snort. :-)


message 38: by Tristram (new)

Tristram Shandy | 4645 comments Mod
Mary Lou wrote: " you actually made me snort. :-)"

Which is a blessing in this kind of weather, isn't it?


message 39: by Julie (new)

Julie Kelleher | 1253 comments Mary Lou wrote: "As a younger reader, I never cared for the visits to the miners, etc. I thought it wasn't to do specifically with Scrooge, so it was superfluous to the plot. Now when I read it, it see the poignancy. ..."

I love those sections. Moving from one to the other gives the section such a sweeping, cinematic feel, even though it predates cinema.


message 40: by John (new)

John (jdourg) | 1054 comments Tristram wrote: "Peter wrote: "We met Scrooge’s nephew very early in the story. Why do you think it was necessary to bring him into the story again?"

My answer to that question is uninspired but straightforward: O..."


I agree and also think it is necessary closure to circle back to family when issues of mortality are faced. A universal thing and therefore something everyone can connect to deep in their bones, so to speak.


message 41: by Alissa (last edited Dec 20, 2018 06:41PM) (new)

Alissa | 317 comments Apoplectic means "angry," but the older meaning was "struck dumb" or "paralyzed," which I think is what Dickens meant. Opulence means "wealth" or "luxuriousness."

So, "apoplectic opulence" means a wealth that is so fabulous it stops you in your tracks.

"There were great, round, pot-bellied baskets of chestnuts, shaped like the waistcoats of jolly old gentlemen, lolling at the doors, and tumbling out into the street in their apoplectic opulence."

I'm trying to visualize what this looks like. A waistcoat is basically a vest. So, the chestnuts burst forth like a big belly from a fat man's waistcoat in apoplectic opulence? My goodness!


message 42: by Alissa (new)

Alissa | 317 comments The Ignorance and Want scene was the most powerful/disturbing for me. A dark transition from the lightness of Fred's house.

This boy is Ignorance. This girl is Want. Beware them both, and all of their degree, but most of all beware this boy, for on his brow I see that written which is Doom, unless the writing be erased. Deny it.’ cried the Spirit, stretching out its hand towards the city. `Slander those who tell it ye. Admit it for your factious purposes, and make it worse. And abide the end.’

This paragraph is a little confusing. When the Spirit says, "Deny it," does he mean Ignorance? And what does he mean by, "Abide the end?"


message 43: by Alissa (last edited Dec 20, 2018 07:27PM) (new)

Alissa | 317 comments Why bring Fred back? I agree with everyone's points about the connection to Fan and family. I also think that Scrooge needed motivation to go to Fred's dinner, which Scrooge had previously turned down. When Scrooge saw them having fun, he got involved emotionally and played along with the game, even though the shadows couldn't see or hear him. Scrooge and the reader can see that Fred's dinner is an invitation worth accepting.

I also think we needed more backstory on Fred, which this scene fulfills. Here, we learn that Fred is a happy man with a wife and many friends, who pities Scrooge and wants to give him another chance at happiness. He forgives Scrooge and doesn't hold his grumpiness against him.


message 44: by Tristram (new)

Tristram Shandy | 4645 comments Mod
Julie wrote: "I love those sections. Moving from one to the other gives the section such a sweeping, cinematic feel, even though it predates cinema."

An interesting observation, Julie! When I take a look at the transitions from Stave Three to Stave Four, and from that latter to Stave Five, I must say that I have the same feeling. Dickens's writing here is quite innovative, and I wonder what it must have been like for contemporary readers.


message 45: by Tristram (new)

Tristram Shandy | 4645 comments Mod
Alissa wrote: "This paragraph is a little confusing. When the Spirit says, "Deny it," does he mean Ignorance? And what does he mean by, "Abide the end?""

I'm not sure whether I have found the master key to that passage, Alissa, but I'd read it like this: The boy stands for Ignorance, and when Ignorance suffers poverty and deprivation, it may turn towards crime. Therefore if you slander those who point out this conclusion to you, if you simply close your eyes to it, i.e. deny it, or if you use this development for your private political ends, i.e. "your factious purposes", you will make crime and deprivation worse, and you will have to "abide the end", i.e. face the music.


message 46: by Mary Lou (new)

Mary Lou | 2451 comments Alissa wrote: "Apoplectic means "angry," but the older meaning was "struck dumb" or "paralyzed," which I think is what Dickens meant. Opulence means "wealth" or "luxuriousness."

So, "apoplectic opulence" means a..."


Well, Alissa - that works as well as anything I've come up with. :-) Whatever CD meant by it, I think I'm going to try to work "apoplectic opulence" into conversations whenever possible. It's got a lovely sound to it, and will have people scratching their heads while thinking how cultured I must be.


message 47: by Xan (last edited Dec 22, 2018 10:31AM) (new)

Xan  Shadowflutter (shadowflutter) | 889 comments At first I thought "Apoplectic opulence" was a bit of an oxymoron, but then I thought CD might mean opulence to the point of being eye-popping and even incandescent.


message 48: by Vanessa (new)

Vanessa Winn | 46 comments I thought the same, Xan -- 'apoplectic opulence' recalled the great oxymorons that Dickens peppered throughout Bleak House. I believe Sir Leicester Dedlock suffered an apoplectic fit (stroke), related to its meaning of paralysis that Alissa mentioned. It's the flip-side of wealth and overeating, like gout.


message 49: by Vanessa (new)

Vanessa Winn | 46 comments Julie wrote: "Mary Lou wrote: "As a younger reader, I never cared for the visits to the miners, etc. I thought it wasn't to do specifically with Scrooge, so it was superfluous to the plot. Now when I read it, it..."

I felt, as Peter suggested in his intro, that these scenes are symbolic -- of light, and the Light of God at Christmas time, represented by the Spirit and his torch. The Spirit shows Scrooge the miners, who 'labour in the bowels of the earth,' gathered round a fire. The lighthouse keepers also sit round a fire, and 'shed a ray of brightness on the awful sea.' He doesn't mentioned the lights on the ship, but I feel they're implied in contrast to the ship moving 'through the lonely darkness over an unknown abyss, whose depths were secrets as profound as Death.'
This passage reminds me of Genesis.

Does anyone else see a resemblance between the Ghost of Christmas Present, with his robe and beard, etc, and Father Christmas? Not the 20th Century Santa, but the older figure.


message 50: by Vanessa (new)

Vanessa Winn | 46 comments Tristram wrote: "The Cratchit family - although I sincerely doubt that poverty and need on a daily basis, going along with backbreaking work will not eventually lead to the wear and tear of family relations - show to Scrooge that there are things money can't buy."

I also struggled with doubts about this portrayal, Tristram. I was so relieved that Mrs. Cratchit speaks her mind about Scrooge when her husband toasts him. And how to reconcile this picture of domestic happiness when they are faced with life-threatening Want in the form of Tiny Tim? He is such a contrast to the symbolic children under the Spirit's robes. I suppose we're seeing the Cratchit family at their best on Christmas day.


« previous 1
back to top