December 24, 2011, by Stephen Mumford

A Christmas Carol

At this time of year, the splendid A Muppet Christmas Carol movie usually finds its way into our DVD player. And after seeing such a heart-warming feast I always reach for the family copy of the original book and read a few of its classic passages to the children. We have a wonderful early printing of the classic story. It’s not quite the first edition, with green endpapers, but it is one that followed soon afterwards with yellow endpapers and still with the hand-coloured illustrations that were financially unsustainable despite the book’s success. It is a splendid little object. Charles Dickens (played by Gonzo in the movie) is my favourite author.

It wouldn’t be quite so lovely an item were it not for the fact that within is Dickens’ delicious prose and rich story telling. Our family favourite, read-out every year, is Dickens’ initial description of Scrooge:

“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, shrivelled 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 dog-days; and didn’t thaw it one degree at Christmas.”

This bleak opening makes the conversion to the spirit of Christmas all the more joyful. And it makes us all seek to banish the Scrooge within us. Maybe we could change our foolish ways and let peace and good will reign. Could there be an end to war and selfish exploitation? Might the spirit of Christmas last all year round? If there is any chance of that happening, works of literature will surely play a part. Dickens challenges not just Scrooge but the spirit of Scrooge that still resides inside us all.

Peace on Earth and good will to all!

Posted in English Studies