Christmas Morning: "At the same time there emerged from scores of bye-streets . . . innumerable people, carrying their dinners to the bakers' shops"
10.8 x 7.6 cm. vignetted
Dickens's A Christmas Carol, The Pears' Centenary Edition of The Christmas Books, vol. 1, page 77.
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But soon the steeples called good people all, to church and chapel, and away they came, flocking through the streets in their best clothes, and with their gayest faces. And at the same time there emerged from scores of bye-streets, lanes, and nameless turnings, innumerable people, carrying their dinners to the bakers' shops. The sight of these poor revellers appeared to interest the Spirit very much, for he stood with Scrooge beside him in a baker's doorway, and taking off the covers as their bearers passed, sprinkled incense on their dinners from his torch. And it was a very uncommon kind of torch, for once or twice when there were angry words between some dinner-carriers who had jostled each other, he shed a few drops of water on them from it, and their good humour was restored directly. For they said, it was a shame to quarrel upon Christmas Day. And so it was. God love it, so it was.
In time the bells ceased, and the bakers were shut up; and yet there was a genial shadowing forth of all these dinners and the progress of their cooking, in the thawed blotch of wet above each baker's oven; where the pavement smoked as if its stones were cooking too. ["Stave Three: The Second of The Three Spirits," p. 76-77]
The second of the six scenes that Green has included for the third stave is a vignetted intended to communicate how perfectly ordinary urbanites greet Christmas morning; the picture does not focus on the members of Scrooge's class, the wealthy capitalists of the metropolis, nor on the religious experience of the Christian festival — and yet this is not the secular celebration of the festival that includes the giving of presents and the consumption of vast amounts of food and drink. This modern "Dickensian" Christmas does not actually appear in the eight plates of the 1843 edition that the socially conscious John Leech constructed in the midst of the troubles of the Hungry Forties. The holiday custom that Green's lithograph commemorates is lower-middle class and working class Londoners' taking their dishes for cooking to the local baker's, for after the bread had been baked in the early hours, people without proper cooking facilities could utilise the baker's oven for a modest fee. It is likely that the adolescent girl (centre) is carrying a fowl, whereas the boy and girl are likely carrying pies to be baked on Christmas morning. Punch cartoonist John Leech recorded for The Illustrated London News's 1848 "Christmas Supplement" a rather more diverse group in terms of age and class in Fetching Home the Christmas Dinner, and some five years later another great visual interpreter of Dickens, Hablot Knight Browne or "Phiz" published in the same illustrated weekly a picture of working and lower-middle class members picking up the ingredients for a yuletide feast for which they had subscribed all year, The Goose Club (24 December 1853). By 1912, such scenes were likely less common.
Whereas Leech takes a panoramic and caricatural approach, depicting the London streets and the bakers' customers with greater vigour than Green and pays considerable attention to the cityscape backdrop of shops, apartment buildings, and the parish church, his image is congruent with Green's in that responsibility for bringing home the goose seems to have fallen to women and children, there being three conspicuous males in a crowd of some thirty people.
In his eight illustrations in the 1843 edition of the novel, John Leech, Dickens's sole visual interpreter for the first of the Christmas Books, provides two highly significant realisations, the first in comic mode, the hand-tinted coloured etching of Scrooge's Third Visitor and the second, more tragic, a black-and-white picture of the dire poverty that is corroding the heart of the great nation, Ignorance and Want. In contrast, some twenty-five years later, Sol Eytinge, Jr. celebrated the Cratchits' family feast in The Wonderful Pudding, although her, too, concludes the third stave with a reminder of the social ills of the nineteenth century, Want and Ignorance, set against the backdrop of an American tenement rather than, as in Leech's, an English factory. The Christmas toast, in which even the children participate, rather than the sheer abundance of food in the markets and middle-class homes, is the subject of E. A. Abbey's "Mr. Scrooge!" said Bob; "I'll give you Mr. Scrooge, the Founder of the feast!" Consequently, Green's treatment of the street scene in which the working poor and lower middle class take their dishes to the local baker's to be cooked is unusual in the 19th c. canon of illustrated Carols, which tend contrast abundance and want, plenty and poverty.
It is likely that, in researching material for his illustrations of the Christmas Books, Charles Green consulted the Illustrated London News annual Christmas Supplements of the 1840s for visual inspiration. Certainly, John Leech's cartoon Fetching Home the Christmas Dinner and its effusive commentary "Fetching Home the Christmas Dinners" by columnist "Cousin Charles" in the 1848 edition of that supplement contains many children visiting the local bakeries of Mr. Rusk and Mr. Baker to pick up freshly-cooked pies, poultry, and "joints" (lamb, beef, and pork), including a child who, like the boy in Green's illustration, is wearing a Scots cap:
As for the little boy with the Glengarry bonnet and the short trousers — proof alike of his poverty and of his growth — the mode in which he carries the pie, and the look of intense hunger as well as of deep admiration which he bestows upon it, is proof positive of a foregone conclusion in his mind that he will do more delightful duty to the pie than that of carrying it in his hands. We fear, however, from the shortness of his trousers, which is symptomatic of a household not so overburdened with means as it is with children, that he will not be allowed carte blanche at the dainty. [The Illustrated London News (23 December 1848): page 407]
Illustrations from the original (1843), the Ticknor & Fields (1867), and American Household Editions (1876)
Left: John Leech's iconic treatment of Scrooge's third visitor, The Second of the Three Spirits. Right: Sol Eytinge, Junior's tribute to seasonal cooking, The Wonderful Pudding. [Click on images to enlarge them.]
Above: E. A. Abbey's 1876 engraving of the Cratchit family ironically attributing the bounty which they have enjoyed to Bob's parsimonious employer, "Mr. Scrooge!" said Bob; "I'll give you Mr. Scrooge, the Founder of the feast!". [Click on the image to enlarge it.]
Charles, Cousin. "Fetching Home the Christmas Dinners." Illustrated London News, Christmas Supplement, No. 350 Vol. 13 (23 December 1848): pp. 407-410.
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. 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.
Leech, John. "Fetching Home The Christmas Dinner." Illustrated London News, Christmas Supplement, No. 350 Vol. 13 (23 December 1848): page 408.
Phiz (Hablot Knight Browne). "The Goose Club." Illustrated London News, Christmas Supplement. 18 December 1853.
Last modified 26 August 2015