If anyone doesn’t have a fairly good guess as to what I might be talking about today from the title of this blog post…well I don’t really have any idea what to tell you.
As everyone probably is aware, Christmas is in exactly one week. In honor of the holiday, I am going “off script” and talking about Charles Dickens Christmas books. This isn’t a really far leap from the script, as many of Dicken’s novels -did- make the Top Ten. Just none of them were his Christmas ones (I think. If I find out otherwise down the road, I will make sure to update this). A Christmas Carol was not Dickens’ only Christmas novel.
This book, which is what I am using for today’s entry, has this to say in its introduction.
“Charles Dickens is sometimes described as the man who invented Christmas. While this is something of an exaggeration, no writer did more to promote the virtues that we associate with the Christmas season-charity, generosity, benovolence, kindness–than Dickens did. In 1843, at the age of thirty-one, Dickens–then, the most popular living writer in England, and one of the most popular around the world–wrote his “Ghostly little book” (as he referred to it in his Preface), A Christmas Carol. It proved immensely popular, and was to become one of Dickens’s best-known stories and one of the best-loved works of nineteenth century fiction. Nearly every year thereafter, until his death in 1870, Dickens published at least one story for the Christmas season, with the intent to (as he wrote later) “awaken some loving and forbearing thoughts, never out of season in a Christian land””.
The book I linked above is an amazing one to get. It not only has A Christmas Carol, but the other full lenght Christmas novels that Dickens released (via serialization mostly) as well as short stories he wrote for his own publication, including at least one co-authored with Wilkie Collins. I haven’t read all the short stories in here, but that’s more because the book is so huge that I didn’t have the chance to yet, not that I don’t want to read all of them.
Why am I writing this without reading the entire book? I hear the voice in my head that pretends to be my audience asking. Well, I read the novels, and really, in preparation for Christmas I am really writing about A Christmas Carol, but also about the lesser known novels. It’s a spread the awareness that Dickens wrote more Christmas stuff that gives the same warm feelings as Christmas Carol does, but has the advantage that you haven’t seen it in some form or another every.single.year of your whole life (FYI: For those of you that weren’t aware, there’s even a Barbie movie that is A Christmas Carol. And while it’s Barbie, I have to say it’s actually a pretty entertaining adaptation. If you have to watch Barbie movies, it’s on the better side).
One that he wrote, The Chimes, was damned at the time of publication stating that it would incite class warfare. Oddly, it would probably be damned today if it was published, as it not only dares to satirize and cartoonize what people of means think of the poor, it then dares to show that the poor are not inferior, that they are worthy of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness too. It’s amazing how many of the attitudes that the nobility/wealthy of Dickens time had towards the poor/lower income/non nobility are alive and well in America in the 21st century. But, even with the political commentary, it’s still a story that leaves you with a feeling much like A Christmas Carol.
All of Dickens Christmas stories have a supernatural element, except one, The Battle of Life, which is set a hundred years or so prior to the other stories.
I think, honestly, that Dickens Christmas stories must have been very much like all of the Christmas movies and shows are for us today. We watch things like It’s A Wonderful Life, or if you’re my mom, the feel good Hallmark channel Christmas movies. And, really, without Dickens, I don’t know if any of these things would exist. They all pretty much employ the feel good, the encouraging good will towards men and charity mixed with supernatural or “magical” events that Dickens does. At some points while reading, I did feel like I was watching something on the Hallmark channel, but at the same time, I was more into it than I would have been with one of those movies. The original is always better than the pale imitation 😉
The introduction to the book ended in the same way I want to end this entry.
“Had Charles Dickens never written a Christmas story other than A Christmas Carol, his name and literary legacy would still be inextricably bound up with the holiday season. The stories collected in this volume are a testament to his virtuosity as awriter who could find new angles from which to approach the Christmas story, and inspire readers to think of Christmas, as he wrote in A Christmas Carol, ‘as a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time; the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely'”