"No beggars implored him to bestow a trifle" (1905), a headpiece 7.2 cm by 7.5 cm, vignetted (p. 3), is Brock's method of communicating Scrooge's reputation in the community as a parsimonious curmudgeon whom even the most brazen local beggar is afraid to approach for a charitable donation. It is, ironically, a scene not described in the text. Whereas the narrator stipulates a negative — that no beggar is prepared to undertake the challenge of soliciting spare change from the formidable miser — the illustrator must demonstrate the reluctance on the face of a beggar, whom E. C. Brock depicts as a crossing-sweeper. Previous illustrators after John Leech have generally shown Scrooge's uncharitable, anti-Christmas sentiment through depicting him interacting with the local charity collectors, with his nephew, and with his clerk. Charles Green's approach is as novel as Brock's in that the illustrator of the Pears edition depicts a solitary but apparently complacent Scrooge absorbed in reading the evening paper, perhaps the financial or business section. But the person who must tolerate with Scrooge's parsimonious disposition more than any other is Bob Cratchit, as both Fred Barnard demonstrates in the 1878 Household Edition illustration "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?". With a more extensive program of illustration in his 1868 volume, Sol Eytinge, Junior, was able to underscore Scrooge's crusty exterior and anti-Christmas sentiments in a number of scenes, including one with Bob Cratchit and another with the charity-collectors, but beginning with a situation-establishing view of Scrooge's counting house in the City, "Scrooge and Marley's," vignette for "Stave I. Marley's Ghost". E. C. Brock's approach, in contrast, is both more economical and more humorous, as the scruffy, ill-clad crossing-sweeper is obviously agitated by the approach of the well-dressed Scrooge. Here, then, is the economic context of the tale, the Hungry Forties, epitomized in the figures of the affluent capitalist and a middle-aged, under-employed member of the proletariat.

Scanned image and text by Philip V. Allingham. [You may use this image without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose as long as you (1) credit the person who scanned the image and (2) link your document to this URL in a web document or cite the Victorian Web in a print one.]

Passage Illustrated

Oh! But he was a tight-fisted hand at the grind- stone, Scrooge! a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous, old sinner! Hard and sharp as flint, from which no steel had ever struck out generous fire; secret, and self-contained, and solitary as an oyster. The cold within him froze his old features, nipped his pointed nose, shriveled his cheek, stiffened his gait; made his eyes red, his thin lips blue and spoke out shrewdly in his grating voice. A frosty rime was on his head, and on his eyebrows, and his wiry chin. He carried his own low temperature always about with him; he iced his office in the dogdays; and didn't thaw it one degree at Christmas.

External heat and cold had little influence on Scrooge. No warmth could warm, no wintry weather chill him. No wind that blew was bitterer than he, no falling snow was more intent upon its purpose, no pelting rain less open to entreaty. Foul weather didn't know where to have him. The heaviest rain, and snow, and hail, and sleet, could boast of the advantage over him in only one respect. They often "came down" handsomely, and Scrooge never did.

Nobody ever stopped him in the street to say, with gladsome looks, "My dear Scrooge, how are you? When will you come to see me?" No beggars implored him to bestow a trifle, no children asked him what it was o'clock, no man or woman ever once in all his life inquired the way to such and such a place, of Scrooge. Even the blind men's dogs appeared to know him; and when they saw him coming on, would tug their owners into doorways and up courts; and then would wag their tails as though they said, "No eye at all is better than an evil eye, dark master!"

But what did Scrooge care? It was the very thing he liked. To edge his way along the crowded paths of life, warning all human sympathy to keep its distance, was what the knowing ones call "nuts" to Scrooge.

         [Stave One, "Marley's Ghost," p. 4-5]

Commentary

With an extensive program of illustration to complete, E. C. Brock sets the keynote in a line-drawing showing Scrooge's lack of empathy and inability to relate to others. However, the other dimension of the little street scene (the street being implied by the sweeper's brush, the post, and Scrooge's topcoat) is the illustrator's making manifest the grimy beggar's agitation. Although John Leech did not have the luxury of using one of his eight illustrations to reveal Scrooge's character in such a scene in the little scarlet volume of 1843, other illustrators recognized the importance of establishing the protagonist as a curmudgeon so that his redemption and transformation would be all the more heart-warming, an exemplification of the triumph of the wisdom of the heart over the wisdom of the head. In the 1910 Charles Dickens Library volume of The Christmas Books, Harry Furniss adopted an equally novel approach, using a composite of five scenes to reveal Scrooge's psychology, Scrooge Objects to Christmas. Ebenezer Scrooge, like Thomas Gradgrind in Hard Times for These Times is a man of facts, not of sentiment, when the story opens, and he recognizes a humbug when he sees him — and here the humbug recognizes that he would be wasting his time appealing to so unsentimental a passerby as Ebenezer Scrooge, even though the well-dressed bourgeois certainly possesses the means to be charitable.

Relevant Illustrations from the 1843 and later Editions

Left: John Leech's interpretation of Scrooge's meeting the ghost of his former partner, Marley's Ghost. Right: Charles Green, the business-oriented, solitary dinner of the miser, Scrooge's Christmas eve, in the 1912 Pears volume. [Click on images to enlarge them.]

Left: Harry Furniss's composite scene in which an anti-Christmas Scrooge scowls at his nephew, Scrooge objects to Christmas (1910). Right: Fred Barnard's dramatisation of Scrooge's attitude towards Christmas, "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?" (1878)​​ [Click on images to enlarge them.]

Above: Sol Eytinge, Junior's headpiece establishing Scrooge's business persona, "Scrooge and Marley's," vignette for "Stave I. Marley's Ghost" (1868). ​[Click on image to enlarge it.]

References

Dickens, Charles. Christmas Books, illustrated by Sol Eytinge, Jr. The Diamond Edition. Boston: Ticknor and Fields, 1867.

___. Christmas Books, illustrated by Fred Barnard. Household Edition. London: Chapman and Hall, 1878.

___. Christmas Books, illustrated by A. A. Dixon. London & Glasgow: Collins' Clear-Type Press, 1906.

___. Christmas Books, illustrated by Harry Furniss. The Charles Dickens Library Edition. London: Educational Book, 1910.

___. A Christmas Carol in Prose, Being a Ghost Story of Christmas, illustrated by John Leech. London: Chapman and Hall, 1843.

___. A Christmas Carol in Prose: Being a Ghost Story of Christmas, illustrated by Sol Eytinge, Jr. Boston: Ticknor & Fields, 1868.

___. A Christmas Carol in Prose, Being A Ghost Story of Christmas, illustrated by John Leech. (1843). Rpt. in Charles Dickens's Christmas Books, ed. Michael Slater. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1971, rpt. 1978.

___. A Christmas Carol and The Cricket on the Hearth, illustrated by C. E. [Charles Edmund] Brock. London: J. M. Dent, 1905; New York: Dutton, rpt., 1963.

___. A Christmas Carol, illustrated by Charles Green, R. I. London: A. & F. Pears, 1912.

___. A Christmas Carol, illustrated by Arthur Rackham. London: William Heinemann, 1915.

___. Christmas Stories, illustrated by E. A. Abbey. The Household Edition. New York: Harper and Brothers, 1876.

Guiliano, Edward, and Philip Collins, eds. The Annotated Dickens. New York: Clarkson N. Potter, 1986. Vol. 1.

Hearn, Michael Patrick, ed. The Annotated Christmas Carol. New York: Avenel, 1976.


Last modified 18 September 2015