Happy Birthday, A Christmas Carol!

I’m suppose to be cooking for a party on Saturday night but it’s the 176th anniversary of the publication of A Christmas Carol: In Prose Being A Ghost Story of Christmas (didn’t know it had a subtitle, did you? Almost as long as the current publishing fashion). If you read yesterday’s post, you know what an important role this book plays in my family. The edition we have was printed in 1938 with illustrations by Everett Shinn. I can’t imagine anyone not knowing the story of A Christmas Carol but I thought it’d be of interest to highlight the story’s progress through Shinn’s evocative images.

The miserable, miserly man himself–Ebeneezer Scrooge!
Scrooge is visited by his kind nephew, the son of his beloved late sister. Every year he comes by and asks his uncle to Christmas dinner, and every year he’s refused. But here he warmly greets Scrooge’s poor clerk, Bob Cratchit which makes Scrooge even more mad!!
That night, Scrooge is visited by his dead partner, Jacob Marley, who has taken pity on him and in an attempt to save him from his fate tells him he will be visited by 3 ghosts.
The ghost of Christmas Past appears and takes him back to the miserable school where young Scrooge’s father had banished him. Such a pitiable, sad boy, alone on Christmas day.
Then the spirit takes him to the scene of a great party thrown annually by his first boss, old Mr. Fezziwig, who, despite being not a great businessman, was nevertheless a fabulously generous host! Why, even Scrooge would dance and at one he met a girl, the love of his life, who he eventually lost to his ambitious pursuit of profit.
The second ghost–a vast mountain of a ghost surrounded by a lavish feast and excellent wine–bangs into his room and takes the startled Scrooge on a round of the celebrations he will miss in the morning.
After invisibly attending his nephew’s party, Scrooge and the ghost peek into the happy home of his clerk, Bob Cratchit. As poor a dwelling as it may be, still it is gaily lit and his clerk full of cheer surrounded by his merry wife and five children. That’s Tiny Tim on the left with his crutch laid across his lap who sings out God bless us every one! at the family toast. “Spirit,” Scrooge asks the ghost. “Tell me if Tiny Tim will live.” The ghost replies, “I see a vacant seat, in the poor chimney corner, and a crutch without an owner, carefully preserved.”
The jolly second ghost no sooner disappears when the third ghost slowly approaches him out of the dark. “Ghost of the Future! I fear you more than any Specter I have seen,” Scrooge exclaims. And well he should for the ghost leads him on a hellish trip through the aftermath of his death. No one mourns him. In fact, they cheer. What more can a man who so hardheartedly turns away from human suffering, without any remorse, even with self-righteous glee, can expect but a dank and ignored grave. Nothing at all. Take heed, Mr. President.
Scrooge does–HE DOES!–see the errors of his way, a testament to our miraculous ability to change the course of our lives.

“It was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge,” Dickens wrote. “May that be truly said of all of us, and all of us! And so, as Tiny Tim observed, God Bless us, Every One!”

And now I better run off and start cooking for our own Fezziwig feast!