A Christmas Carol

A Christmas Carol

"I am the Ghost of Christmas Present," said the Spirit. "Look upon me!"The holiday season brings the chance to give, and what better gift is there than one of the most beloved stories in the English language? This year, we at Atria Books are offering a free ebook edition of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, the perfect companion for a cozy night by the fire.Since its pub...

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Title:A Christmas Carol
Author:Charles Dickens
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Edition Language:English

A Christmas Carol Reviews

  • Bill  Kerwin

    It has been a decade since I last read this classic, so I decided to look at it again, taking note of what I have forgotten or imperfectly remembered and also garnering any new insights my older (and I hope wiser) self could now find within it.

    But first, I decided to do a little research, and discovered the great irony underlying the book’s creation: how this tale that warns against miserliness was born because of Dickens' acute need for money, and how its publication resulted in a dispute about

    It has been a decade since I last read this classic, so I decided to look at it again, taking note of what I have forgotten or imperfectly remembered and also garnering any new insights my older (and I hope wiser) self could now find within it.

    But first, I decided to do a little research, and discovered the great irony underlying the book’s creation: how this tale that warns against miserliness was born because of Dickens' acute need for money, and how its publication resulted in a dispute about the distribution of profits.

    Dickens was already famous in 1843, but the sales of the recent installments of

    were less than half of what he had received for the individual numbers of his previous novels. His publishers Chapman and Hall were so alarmed that they invoked a clause in Dickens contract which demanded that they be reimbursed for the printing cost of the

    installments. Dickens was alarmed too, but also hurt, offended...and worried. A large mortgage payment would soon be due, and his wife had just given birth to their fifth child. Still, he was convinced that his idea for a yuletide novella would yield an ample return and make up for the

    deficit.

    He financed the sumptuous edition of

    himself—colored plates, colored title page, gilt embossed front cover, gilt-edged pages, etc.—and insisted that the price not exceed the sum of 5 shillings (still expensive: one third of Cratchit’s weekly salary). Dickens waited eagerly for the money to roll in, but, although the sales were indeed phenomenal, Dickens gained little money from them. Although the cost of producing the elegant volume must have cut deeply into the profits, Dickens was convinced Chapman and Hall were cheating him and he refused to do business with them for the next fifteen years.

    But enough of money matters, for now! What follows are a few random observations on this, the latest of my many readings.

    1) How thoroughly Marley’s Ghost is surrounded by iron objects: doorknocker (large Victorian doorknockers were typically iron), iron door nails, iron coffin nails, iron chain and iron metal strong box. Helps us see what hard, unrelenting old sinners Marley and his partner really are.

    2) In addition to being hard of heart, Scrooge is a man with a deliberate philosophy of self-exoneration. It consists of two principles: 1) taxpayers fund the poor houses and prisons, thereby discharging in full their obligation to all of their fellow human beings, and 2) death by starvation, although it may seem regrettable, is actually a positive good as proven by science (because Malthus!), and relieves the rest of us of the burden of a surplus population. This philosophy is the shield that protects Scrooge from feeling the pains of sympathy and compassion.

    3) The first emotion produced in Scrooge by the Ghost of Christmas Past is sadness at this own boyhood loneliness, but the second emotion is his joy in the books that consoled him and helped him empathize with others:

    , the old romances (

    ), and realistic fiction (

    ). In Ebenezer’s coming transformation, the sadness and its memory are of course necessary, but no more necessary than this joy.

    4) At Fezziwig’s Christmas party, the guest list is inclusive: the family and the clerks of course, but also the housemaid, the baker, the cook, the milkman, and a boy and a girl from down the street whom the Fezziwigs fear are mistreated by their masters and mistresses. Scrooge’s defense of his employer Fezziwig's little party which may only have cost “a few pounds” is even more eloquent than I remembered:

    If I were dictator, I would compel our 21st century employers to listen to the above words at least four times a year. (Exception: employers who, in order to increase the volume of key strokes, forbid all family photographs and personal items in their data entry cubicles. No,

    guys should have to listen to the above passage on a loop, eight hours a day, for the rest of their lives.)

    5) In my favorite movie version, the Alastair Sim

    (1951), Ebenezer sees his former fiance as an old woman (still beautiful of course) nursing the sick and dying in the shadowy corners of the poorhouse. It is moving, certainly, but how much more effective—and crueler—is the Dicken’s original! There, Scrooge sees her happy in the recent past, a contented wife and mother surrounded by a whirlwind of children.

    6) In the past I have viewed the temporal structure of the tale (ghost past, ghost present, ghost future) as an effective but obvious device. But the more I think about it, the more profound it seems, psychologically and spiritually. This, after all, is the pattern of every true conversion, the manner in which we grow in sympathy toward our fellow human beings: we reflect upon the emotionally charged sense impressions of the past, observe their consequences for good or ill manifested in the present, and then—on the basis of these observations—we make a decision to act in a new way, a way which draws us grow closer to love. Certainly St. Augustine would have understood, for it was how he envisioned the Trinity, as a model of love in action:

    .

    Oh, speaking of how painful memories can inspire a person to action, I forgot to tell you the rest of the story about

    and money. Another factor that reduced Dickens' yuletide revenue stream was a cut-rate bit of plagiarism issued two weeks after

    by Parley’s Illustrated Library called

    . Parley's claimed they owed Dickens nothing because what they had published was not a piracy, but an "analytical condensation" of the tale, and, in addition, they had

    . (For example, in their version, Tiny Tim sings a song about a little child freezing in the snow.) Dickens sued and won, but Parley’s went bankrupt, and instead of gaining any money from his legal ordeal, Dickens was forced to pay 700 pounds in court costs.

    Now, here comes the good news: This painful experience so disillusioned Dickens with English civil law that he used it as his inspiration

    for what is arguably his finest, most mature creation, the masterpiece

    . So I guess Dickens gained something from the experience after all.

    On that high note, I will leave you. And God bless us, everyone!

  • Mary

    It's a family tradition to read A Christmas Carol (original, unabridged) aloud each Christmas season and then to watch at least one film version on Christmas Eve (this year it was the Muppets' Christmas Carol - very authentic - with Michael Caine).

    Over the years, we have discussed the 19th century slang and customs enough so that the reading is becoming smoother and smoother without much need for editorial asides. This year we focused on favorite phrases "Marley was dead, to begin with." "the m

    It's a family tradition to read A Christmas Carol (original, unabridged) aloud each Christmas season and then to watch at least one film version on Christmas Eve (this year it was the Muppets' Christmas Carol - very authentic - with Michael Caine).

    Over the years, we have discussed the 19th century slang and customs enough so that the reading is becoming smoother and smoother without much need for editorial asides. This year we focused on favorite phrases "Marley was dead, to begin with." "the misanthropic ice", "solitary as an oyster", "Come in and know me better, man!" and we talked about Charles Dickens as the rock star of the mid-1800's. It is such a wonderful, timeless story and by re-reading it every year we become better and better acquainted with the characters. We continue to marvel at Dickens' powers of description and treasure the multitude of secondary characters like Topper, the plump sister, Mr. and Mrs. Fezziwig, the little Cratchits and more. I can't wait to read it again!

  • Kalliope

    With lots of:

    Merriment

    Christmas Love

    Generous and very Christmasy Gifts

    Copious and Delicious Food

    Not too much drinking

    Christmas Games

    Another watch of

    And of course...Fascinating and Beautiful Books

    And to remember what Scrooge learnt:

  • Bookdragon Sean

    I read this every year at Christmas, and I always will do. Simply because of the atmosphere it evokes. This story is Christmas as far as I’m concerned. It wouldn’t be the same without it. It is perfectly festive and is also appropriately didactic. It is an allegory for what happens to those that are unnecessarily bitter and twisted, refusing to take part in a joyful occasion. It is a glimpse at what could happen to someone who rejects their family upon trivial grounds, and let’s themselves be se

    I read this every year at Christmas, and I always will do. Simply because of the atmosphere it evokes. This story is Christmas as far as I’m concerned. It wouldn’t be the same without it. It is perfectly festive and is also appropriately didactic. It is an allegory for what happens to those that are unnecessarily bitter and twisted, refusing to take part in a joyful occasion. It is a glimpse at what could happen to someone who rejects their family upon trivial grounds, and let’s themselves be set apart. It is also a suggestion that one shouldn’t be so concerned with money. Money isn’t everything; it certainly didn’t buy ol’ Scrooge happiness. But, Christmas did and will do so again.

  • Lola  Reviewer

    I shall start by introducing you to Ebenezer Scrooge. According to the narrator, the cold-hearted, unholy and inconsiderate man we have as main character.

    While he is described as such:

    I shall start by introducing you to Ebenezer Scrooge. According to the narrator, the cold-hearted, unholy and inconsiderate man we have as main character.

    While he is described as such:

    Part of me was surprisingly not negatively thinking about the old man. Some despised him, but I couldn’t do such a thing, because he may have said hurtful things to people, but it’s not like he ruined someone’s life.

    He has some good in him, and I could see it from the start somehow. Now I am not sure if this is all coming from my having viewed the movie prior to reading this, if that's the reason why I became attached to him and empathized with him, because of everything he went through but, one thing I know is that I never ‘hated’ Scrooge.

    Don't worry if you're not too fond of him at first. He does, as you surely know already, have a fantastic and noticeable character development!

    See, I was sure there was good in him…*wink* *wink*

    This may sound quite strange to you, maybe, but I didn’t find an even, adequate and well-fitting atmosphere in this book. Sure, most scenes were sad or merry or eerie but it’s like, in my point of view, the author neglected it and concentrated more on the writing and characterization – for those elements to be outstanding (and they were!) – than the story itself.

    Tiny Tim – especially him – Scrooge and Fred are people that will be carefully buried inside my mind and will rest there for as long as I will cherish them, which is forever.

    Also, since this is a short novel, though containing a simple, well-plotted and easy to follow story, we don’t see the secondary characters as often as we may wish. For instance, Tiny Tim is my favorite of them all (I wasn’t able to resist him), but I could only read of him here and there, tiny bits of information, which is a little disappointing but, ultimately, understandable.

    Oh, even though this surely isn’t the best Christmas book I have read so far, it is a classic and, truthfully, how many of them make us see the importance of being kind to others, open-minded and thoughtful? How many warm our hearts? How many make us imagine our future transform into a better one? If you enjoyed this classic and the themes included, you may also find yourself appreciating the endearing story that is

    !

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