From The Illustrated London News, (23 December 1843), 410-411. [The novel was published by Chapman and Hall, London, on 17 December 1843.]

Literature. A Christmas Carol, in Prose. Being a Ghost Story of Christmas. By Charles Dickens.

How shall we convey to our readers the surpassing beauty with which the accomplished author of this seasonable little volume has worked out — or, as he sportively terms it, raised — "the Ghost of an Idea?" By selecting some of its spirituel yet substantial truths — its impressive eloquence, or its unfeigned lightness of heart — its playful and sparkling humour, or its under currents of thought — its gems of world knowledge, or its gentle spirit of humanity — all of which light up every page, and, of a truth, put us in good humour with ourselves, with each other, with the season, and with the author?

The framework of the book is simple enough: Marley, a miser, is "dead as a door nail;" Scrooge, his partner, in liberality as in ledger, is not so dreadfully cut up by the sad event but that he is an excellent man of business on the very day of the funeral, and solemnizes it with an undoubted bargain: he is "a tight-fisted hand at a grindstone" — a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous old sinner! He ices his office in the dog-days, and does not thaw it one degree at Christmas.

There follow extensive excerpts under the headings "Christmas Eve," "The Miser's Fireside," "Marley's Ghost," "The Phantom's Rebuke," "Christmas Morning," and "Blind Man's Buff."

The last of the Spirits takes the miser to a churchyard and shows him, upon the stone of a neglected grave his name, Ebenezer Scrooge; when the vapour of a man relents. . . . "The End of it" is that the Spirit sinks, collapses down into a bed post. [410]

The volume is illustrated with some admirable engravings on steel and wood, by Leech: the former are tastefully coloured, and the latter have the delicacy of fine etchings. Altogether, this is an exquisite work, such as we trust the author will produce many seasons to come. [411]

From The Illustrated London News, (3 February 1844), 67. [The novel had been published by Chapman and Hall, London, on 17 December 1843.]

We have but space for one quotation.—

TO CHARLES DICKENS,
ON HIS "CHRISTMAS CAROL."

Honour to Genius! When its lofty speech
Stirs through the soul, and wakes its echoing strings:
But honour tenfold! When its day-words reach
The selfish heart, and there let loose the springs

Of pity, gushing blood-warm from a breach
Rent in its close-bound, stony coverings.
Yea! Tenfold honour, and the love of men,
The kind, the good, attend on Genius then,
And bless and sanctify those words divine.
Such words, Charles Dickens, truly have been thine;
And thou hast earned true glory with all love:
Long may the torch of Christmas gladly shine
Upon thy home, while voices from above
Music thy carol and again impart
Mirth and good tidings to the poor man's heart. W. W. G.

On 10 February 1844, the theatre reviewer for the ILN praised Dickens's original novella as well as the recently opened dramatic adaptation upon which Dickens had collaborated with Edward Stirling and which featured the renowned Victorian actor O. Smith as Scrooge:

ADELPHI.

When a late celebrated scholar and critic made the witty remark that Boz "would go up like a rocket and come down like a stick," * he forgot in his prediction to say how long the rocket's brilliancy would endure! In our thinking the said rocket has taken root (if we may be allowed the expression) in the sky of intellect, and with its offshoots of light, every one of which becomes more luminous daily, we might say voluminous indeed, will, we have no doubt, be considered by future literary astronomers, a constellation!

Dickens is a great man — a moral chymist who has analyzed the human heart to a nicety. "Shewing the poison and the honey there."

His "Christmas Carol; or Past, Present, and Future," dramatised by Mr. Stirling in a most sterling manner, from the prose story of the modern Fielding, was produced on last Monday with most decided success. The acting of O. Smith, as old Scrooge, the miser, was, throughout, admirable. Wright as Bob Cratchit, the miser's clerk, presiding over his family party, was exceedingly droll. The story on which the piece is founded is too well known to enter into particulars of it: suffice it to say, that it is one of those home-bred, natural esculents that a true dramatic palate likes to enjoy, and as such, from its enthusiastic reception, will no doubt be universally relished, and ought to correct and improve the taste of those who fly to the Continent ** for what can be so abundantly supplied at home.

* "a stick" = a pun based on the rod on which the blackpowder rocket is launched and a late eighteenth-century British theatrical term for an utter incompetent (an analagous expression is "wooden" in the sense of "dull."

** An allusion to the English taste for farces translated from the French.


Victorian Web Overview Charles Dickens A Christmas Carol

Last Modified 6 June 2012