The Vision of Ali Baba

"The Vision of Ali Baba," vignette for "Stave 2. The First of the Three Spirits" by Sol Eytinge, Jr. 5.5 cm high by 9.2 cm wide. The second vignette for the Diamond Edition of Dickens's A Christmas Carol in Prose: being a ghost story of Christmas (Boston: Ticknor and Fields, 1869), top, page 34. 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.]

The strange figure of the Spirit of Christmas Past, at once youthful and aged, a synthesis perhaps of the Christ Child and Father Christmas, speaking softly and gently to his charge, in the text guides Scrooge dressed in "slippers, dressing gown, and nightcap" to the market town, bridge, and school of his childhood. Despite the dreariness of the old school room, "long, bare, and melancholy," Scrooge, standing beside the solitary boy who was himself at Christmas Break, is delighted to see again again his old friend from The Arabian Nights Adventure, a childhood favourite of the story's author, and of his literary alter ego, David Copperfield. The scene makes clear that as a boy Scrooge, like young Charles Dickens, was thoroughly attuned to the power of the invisible world of "Fancy," that is, of literature and the imagination, as is suggested in the passage which Sol Eytinge has chosen to realise:

The Spirit touched him on the arm, and pointed to his younger self, intent upon his reading. Suddenly a man, in foreign garments: wonderfully real and distinct to look at: stood outside the window, with an axe stuck in his belt, and leading an ass laden with wood by the bridle.

"Why, it's Ali Baba!" Scrooge exclaimed in ecstasy. "It's dear old honest Ali Baba! Yes, yes, I Know! One Christmas time, when yonder solitary child was left here all alone, he did come, for the first time, just like that . . . ." ["Stave Two, The First of the Three Spirits"]

"Marley's Ghost"]

Although the text does not so specify, Scrooge joyfully points at the schoolroom window with his upstage (left) arm, urging the Spirit of Christmas Past (readily identified by the stream of light emanating from his head and his cap in the shape of a candle-snuffer), who is apparently standing on a desk since his head is level with Scrooge's. The boy Scrooge, reading intently, does not look up from his book, and is oblivious to the shades immediately behind him. In the previous stave, Scrooge was real and all the phantoms insubstantial; now, he is a spirit visitor who may travel wherever his spirit guide directs him, and is not bounded by walls — or time. Eytinge has captured well Ebenezer Scrooge's ecstatic wonder in the broad smile and eager expression with which the artist has imbued his subject.


Dickens, Charles. A Christmas Carol in Prose: being a ghost story of Christmas, il. Sol Eytinge, Junior. The Diamond Edition. Boston: Ticknor & Fields, 1869.

Last modified 28 December 2010