For the last several Christmas Eves I have made some kind of traditional Victorian holiday food or drink. It started mostly as way to figure out what the heck wassail really was after years of singing about it but expanded to sugar plums and figgy pudding. I had perused a list of Tudor holiday delights but let’s just say that I don’t think that I have the intestinal fortitude for most of that. This year, I decided to read Dickens’ A Christmas Carol for similar reasons. Over the years I have seen many animated or film interpretations of the story, but I had never read it. In between the figgy pudding and wassail, I managed to give it a shot.
It is pretty much what you would think. More enjoyable than watching it because Dickens OWNED the English language and WORKED it, the only discernible difference is the Ghost of Christmas Past. I recall that generally being a female in most adaptations. The one that visits Jim Carrey’s Scrooge is much closer to accurate. Described as having a candle like head with an “extinguisher for a cap” it’s more interesting property was its shape shifting, “the figure fluctuated in its distinctness: being now a thing with one arm, now with one leg, now with twenty legs, now a pair of legs without a head, now a head without a body”. It was as if it morphed into people from Scrooge’s past to heighten the effect of the lesson being delivered. More detailed descriptions of Scrooge’s nephew and his life appear in the written form, also, and seem to hold more importance than the downtrodden Cratchit family.
The particular edition that I read had an excerpt about Dickens’ first public reading which was of A Christmas Carol. Apparently he was coerced to do his first reading outside of his social circle as a trial run to test his reading chops in front of an uncritical and nominally educated audience of country folk. It was a benefit for a debt ridden adult vocational school which most likely appealed to Dickens’ childhood experiences with poverty and the workhouse. Most historians seem to blame his extensive touring and reading career that followed with his ill-health and eventual death at 58. Bah humbug.
Next year, I’m going to tackle making a drink called the Smoking Bishop since it is Scrooge’s drink of choice when he offers Bob Cratchit a raise. Besides, it sounds kind of naughty and vaguely anti-papist. God bless us, everyone!