Episode 47: Christmas 1843 – The Gift That Keeps on Giving

Welcome to Tea, Toast and Trivia.

Good morning, Good Afternoon, Good Evening, – wherever you are, thank you for listening in.

The tradition of gifts at Christmas has been with us for a very long time.  Tonight, I am going back a couple of centuries to discuss a gift that returns to us every Christmas to remind us of the true spirit of the holiday season. So put the kettle on and add to the discussion on TeaToastTrivia.com. I am your host Rebecca Budd and I’m looking forward to sharing this moment with you.

Charles John Huffam Dickens

A great deal of history occurred in the year, 1843.  On January 2nd, Wagner’s opera, “Der Fliegende Holländer” premiered in Dresden. May 22nd, the first wagon train departed from Independence Missouri for Oregon.  On July 2nd, newspapers reported that an alligator plummeted to earth during a thunderstorm in Charleston, South Carolina.   August 15th , the Tivoli Gardens opened in Copenhagen.  August 25th,  the typewriter was patented by Charles Thurber. November 13th  saw the eruption of Mt. Rainier in Washington State. November 28th,  Great Britain and France officially recognized Hawaii as an independent nation.  What happened on these dates changed our world and the lives of many who were involved in these events (although I really wonder about the alligator story even though it has been recorded by several reputable sources).

However, there is one day that stands out in particular: December 19, 1843.   Let me give you a hint with a few sentences.

MARLEY was dead: to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that. The register of his burial was signed by the clergyman, the clerk, the undertaker, and the chief mourner. Scrooge signed it: and Scrooge’s name was good upon ‘Change, for anything he chose to put his hand to. Old Marley was as dead as a door-nail.

Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

December 19, 1843 was the day when Christmas was given a gift that continues to keep on giving.   “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens was published in London by Chapman and Hall.  To be clear, others had written stories and poems about Christmas, but “A Christmas Carol” was different; for in those marvelous staves, Charles Dickens spoke to the heart of poverty, despair and the plight of young children.  Best of all, he offered redemption to a world longing for fairness and compassion.

In his preface his wrote,

A Ghost Story of Christmas

I HAVE endeavoured in this Ghostly little book, to raise the Ghost of an Idea, which shall not put my readers out of humour with themselves, with each other, with the season, or with me. May it haunt their houses pleasantly, and no one wish to lay it.

A Christmas Carol 

Their faithful Friend and Servant, C. D.

December, 1843.

 

 

Charles Dickens at the Blacking Warehouse

Charles Dickens wrote from bitter experience. He lived in poverty; he felt firsthand what deprivation could do to the human spirit.    In 1824, when only 12 years old, he saw his father, along with his mother and young siblings, incarcerated in the dreaded Marshalsea Prison for debt to a baker.  To support his family and pay for his lodgings, Charles left school to work 10-hour days in a boot-blacking factory. Outside of work without the benefit of family, he roamed the street, exposed to danger and exploitation.  These traumatic events left an indelible influence that would later be validated in his brilliant characters and narratives.  The strength and endurance of his message was embedded within the struggles of ordinary people.

This boy is Ignorance. This girl is Want. Beware them both, and all of their degree, but most of all beware this boy, for on his brow I see that written which is Doom, unless the writing be erased. Deny it!” cried the Spirit, stretching out its hand towards the city. “Slander those who tell it ye! Admit it for your factious purposes and make it worse. And bide the end!” “Have they no refuge or resource?” cried Scrooge. “Are there no prisons?” said the Spirit, turning on him for the last time with his own words. “Are there no workhouses?”

   Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

It’s not convenient,” said Scrooge, “and it’s not fair. If I was to stop half-a-crown for it, you’d think yourself ill-used, I’ll be bound?”

A Christmas Carol changed the conversation by allowing readers to see a different pathway – one that allowed for transformations rather than defeat and despair.  If a greedy, unfeeling miser could be changed into a “a good friend, as good a master, and as good a man, as the good old city knew…” then it was possible to vanquish the horror of poverty and injustice.

“Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, benevolence, were all my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!”

Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

As we celebrate this holiday season, may we seek hopeful outcomes and look for conversations that allow us to envision life-affirming and joyful possibilities.  May we join Ebenezer Scrooge in saying:

“I am as light as a feather, I am as happy as an angel, I am as merry as a schoolboy. I am as giddy as a drunken man. A merry Christmas to everybody! A happy New Year to all the world! Hallo here! Whoop! Hallo!”

Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

Charles Dickens is buried in the Poets’ Corner of Westminster Abbey. The inscription on his tomb reads:

“He was a sympathiser to the poor, the suffering, and the oppressed; and by his death, one of England’s greatest writers is lost to the world.”

But his stories live on.  May we embrace the compassion and joy that are held in the pages of “A Christmas Carol.”

All the very best of the holiday season.

14 Comments Add yours

  1. Beautifully presented. Rebecca, this brought back memories of our visit to Westminster Abbey. Best wishes for a lovely festive season.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Clanmother says:

      Thank you for your amazing support of this podcast initiative. Westminster Abbey is on my bucket list. As I was preparing this podcast, I was thinking of all of the “A Christmas Carol” movies that have been made over the years (and I know that they are in your library!!!). Humanity has overarching narratives that transcend time and space. What was interesting for me to learn was how “A Christmas Carol” influenced the way Victorians viewed Christmas celebrations which included the introduction of the decorated evergreen “Christmas Tree.” All the very very best of the holidays season to you and Carina. Looking forward to our continuing adventures in 2020.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Thank you. The symbolism of the decorated Christmas tree which Charles Dickens once called “that pretty German toy” surely shines brightly as ever. About Christmas movies in my collection, one of the latest addition is “Christmas Story” (2007, Original title: Joulutarina), an English dubbed Finnish film about the man who became Santa Claus. It’s a beautiful little choice for this Christmastime.

        Liked by 2 people

      2. Clanmother says:

        I just found the trailer for Joulutarina – looks wonderful!! I never knew that Charles Dickens once called the Christmas tree “that pretty German toy.” You have marvelous nuggets of information. Love them!

        Liked by 2 people

      3. Dear Rebecca, Carina joins me in wishing you and all your dear ones a Merry Christmas. The quote about ‘that pretty German toy’ is:
        “I have been looking on, this evening, at a merry company of children assembled round that pretty German toy, a Christmas Tree. The tree was planted in the middle of a great…..” – Charles Dickens, A Christmas Tree.
        Enjoy your Christmas Day. Jo and Carina

        Liked by 2 people

      4. Clanmother says:

        You are the very best Jo! Thank you so much for that quote. Merry Christmas to you and Carina. I am glad that we are celebrating it together. Many thanks for your support, encouragement, discussions, ideas – it has been a great 2019. And 2020 will be a continuation of our adventures.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. elisabethm says:

    Listening via Apple podcasts 😊 You could record audio books 😄

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Clanmother says:

      You are so kind! Your encouragement and support of this podcast initiative is heartwarming. Together, we are fostering life-affirming conversations. Many many thanks.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Mary Jo Malo says:

    I have read nearly every Dickens novel! My favorites are Little Dorrit, David Copperfield, Great Expectations, Bleak Housewell, you get it. Like Dostoevsky, his life and values are reflected so genuinely in his work. The redemption of Scrooge is beloved for good reason. Have you seen this about Dickens’ last Christmas and a missing dinner turkey?

    https://blog.railwaymuseum.org.uk/charles-dickens-missing-christmas-parcel/

    Such a perfect example of his humor and compassion.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Clanmother says:

      Oh Mary Jo!! What a treasure you have found. I had to post the article on Twitter and Facebook. Thank you for sharing it with me – it adds so much to this festive time. Have you ever noticed that what happens in “real life” is even more amazing that in novels. I love trains – so much history and stories that come from the sound of a train whistle in the distance. And yes, redemption! The possibility of redemption is the heart of our story. I had been considering my “word” for 2020. I was thinking of redemption or reconciliation. (My 2019 word was resilience). I finally decided on reconciliation. But then, why not have two words…..

      Liked by 2 people

    2. Thank you for sharing the link to the story of the unfortunate turkey incident. I just finished reading it.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Clanmother says:

        Love those archivists!

        Liked by 1 person

  4. I thoroughly enjoyed your discussion of and readings from “A Christmas Carol.” I remember how excited my dad was to read it to me for the first time when I was little.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Clanmother says:

      A Christmas Carol is an extraordinary example of how story has the timeless capacity to capture our hearts. I find the Victoria era an extraordinary time in that there was growing awareness of poverty/exploitation linked with a growing activism in response. Think of the formation of the Royal SPCA, the Elizabeth Fry organization, prison reform, and of course, Wilberforce and the abolition of slavery. So many stories.

      Liked by 1 person

You're invited to join the dialogue

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.