By Seán Ó Ceallaigh
Charles Dickens is one of my own favourite authors. His Pickwick Papers, Oliver Twist, Nicholas Nickleby, The Old Curiosity Shop, David Copperfield, Great Expectations and A Tale of Two Cities, among others, continue to fascinate me. However, had he written nothing but the novella A Christmas Carol, his fame would have been assured.
In it we meet the heartless Mister Scrooge, who from an encounter on Christmas Eve with the ghost of his deceased partner, Jacob Marley, becomes generous and benevolent – his genial young nephew, Fred, and his over worked and badly treated clerk Bob Cratchit, and Bob’s wife and children including the lovable crippled Tiny Tim with whose little prayer ‘God bless everyone’ the story ends.
Dickens has written many other Christmas stories too. Margaret Lane in her introduction to The Oxford Illustrated Dickens referring to the first few stories in the book writes “they are the Dickens we were taught to expect at Christmas – lighthearted, tender, full of recollections of childhood and zest for the amusement of youth, for ghost stories and roast chestnuts and family theatricals and for that Christmas spirit which is the spirit of active usefulness, perseverance.
“They are sentimental here and there but they are not mawkish. They are too high-spirited for that. They are stories to be read in the family circle, to a mixed audience of old and young eager to be amused and not too critical and anyone who has put them to their proper use knows how admirably they still fulfil their purpose.”
However, even if we don’t read any of Dicken’s other Christmas stories, we should. I would suggest – read – or re-read – his Christmas Carol over the next few days while the Christmas atmosphere is still palpable. It is sure to put us in good spirits and to help us to face what could prove to be another doubtful if not dangerous year!
Continue reading in this year’s Christmas Annual