Sometimes, not often, an artist changes the world they live in; this was such a time. One December, in 1843, an author unleashed a story on a slumbering, unsuspecting world, and it changed hearts. Charles Dickens captured lightning in a bottle. It had a predecessor in a short story written seven years earlier. The Goblin and the Sexton touched on so many of the themes of A Christmas Carol it makes an excellent Companion and a great Christmas Ghost Story. However, that story didn’t connect and resonate with the world like A Christmas Story.
This is my Number One pick
#1 – A Christmas Carol – 1843
The original, this is the best of all the A Christmas Carol’s. While it’s fun to see the book acted out and it’s themes played with, everything pales in comparison. Written in entirety in a few short months, Dickens basically self-published the book. Published under the imprint of Chapman and Hall, Dickens funded it’s printing. The publishers wanted to place the story in a collection, and since his previous novel flopped, they felt he wasn’t marketable enough to go through the expense of putting the book out as Dickens wanted.
It was the most successful publication of the 1843 holiday season and stays popular even today. There’s a reason for its longevity. Dickens captured something here for all of us. It’s our want to be better people.
In Scrooge, he gives us a seemingly irredeemable monster. Vile, repugnant, and unrepentant, an inhuman entity incapable of absolution. As we travel through the night with Ebenezer, we see he’s not so different from any of us. His trials and choices led him to his fallow condition. In some ways, the spirit of Scrooge lives in us. Whether it’s refusing the company of others, allowing injustice around us assuming it’s not our problem, or putting profit of material above the benefit of spiritual benevolence, we fall short of our best.
Reclamation and restoration in a season of hope are at the core of this story. It’s hopeful strain tugs at our better selves and carries the tender reminder that none are so far removed from salvation that we are lost. Dickens shows us this brilliantly with his inspired words and relatable character.
The backdrop of Christmas was an interesting choice to be sure as the holiday in Victorian England was not immensely popular. He, along with Washington Irving, helped to popularize the holiday and move it from the realm of the bawdy, alcohol-soaked bacchanal to the cozy, hearth, and home of familial celebration. Even in Dickens’s book with the Cratchit clan or his nephew, Fred’s, gift-giving, and fir trees are nowhere to be found. Games, feasting, and warm companionship were the hallmarks of the Dickens Christmas. To make merry and help others do the same.
The book starts with the curse of man and finishes with a blessing. We are all fellow travelers to the grave, and that is our curse. In the meanwhile, we control our lives to make of them what we will. To make the world a better place than what we were left or to leave it alone then. I hope I am a blessing rather than a blot. So as Tiny Tim says, “God bless us, everyone.”