Scrooge's Christmas Eve
11 x 7 cm. vignetted
Dickens's A Christmas Carol, The Pears' Centenary Edition of "The Christmas Books," vol. 1, page 28.
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Scrooge took his melancholy dinner in his usual melancholy tavern; and having read all the newspapers, and beguiled the rest of the evening with his banker's-book, went home to bed. ["Stave One: Marley's Ghost," p. 26-28]
The actual caption on page 28 is a re-working of Dickens's text on the facing page; "Scrooge took his melancholy dinner in his usual melancholy tavern" becomes merely "Scrooge's Christmas Eve" in the "List of Illustrations" (p. 19). Having dispensed with the business of the day, a well-dressed Scrooge pays little attention to his dinner as he studies the commercial section of an evening newspaper (undoubtedly the The Times) with intense concentration before he turns his attention to his favourite reading-matter: his bank-book. Green places Scrooge in a private booth, the curtain suggesting his apartness from the rest of humanity. Scrooge, not wasting a minute — for time is money to the capitalist — still has his topcoat on so that, once he has finished reading, he can depart quickly. Green's capitalist, however, looks more like a late nineteenth-century banker or captain of industry than a businessman of the early 1840s — and he hardly looks "melancholy" in his thorough enjoyment of what he is reading. Nevertheless, Green's depicting Scrooge as a reader who can escape his present surroundings through engagement with print prepares us for the schoolroom scene, a flashback in which young Master Scrooge's only friends and companions are literary figures from Dickens's own childhood reading: Robinson Crusoe, Valentine and Orson, and Ali Baba from The Arabian Nights. Unfortunately as an adult reader Scrooge has substituted fact for fantasy, and Utilitarian discourses and possibly (since he quotes it) the Reverend Thomas Robert Malthus's Essay on the Principles of Population (1798) for works of imaginative sympathy.
Relevant Illustration from the Charles Dickens Library Edition (1910)
Above: Harry Furniss's presenting a variety of scenes on Christmas Eve simultaneous, including a vignette of Scrooge at a hastily consumed meal in an impersonal public house, Scrooge's Solitary Dinner (1910). [Click on image to enlarge it.]
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. Vol. 1.
____. 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.
Last modified 2 August 2015