"Christmas stories" by Charles Dickens
дипломная работа: Литература: зарубежная
Chapter I – Charles Dickens life and career and the role of Christmas stories in his creativity
1) Beginning of literary career of Charles Dickens
2) Charles Dickens’ works written in Christmas story genre
- Final creative works and changes in Charles Dickens personality
- Review about his creativity
Chapter II – The ideological theme of Christmas stories of Charles Dickens
- The essence of Christmas stories and characterization of the main heroes
- The differential features between Dickens’ and Irving’s Christmas stories
- Critical views to the stories Somebody’s Luggage and Mrs. Lirriper’s Lodgings”
Charles Dickens generally regarded as the greatest English novelist; he enjoyed a wider popularity than any previous author had done during his lifetime. Much in his work could appeal to simple and sophisticated, to the poor and the Queen, and technological developments as well as the qualities of his enabled his fame to spread worldwide very quickly. His long career fluctuations in the reception and sales of individual novels, but none of them was negligible or uncharacteristic or disregarded, and though he is now admired for aspects and phases of his work that were given less weight by his contemporaries, his popularity has never ceased and his present critical standing is higher than ever before. The most abundantly comic of English authors, he was much more than a great entertainer. The range, compassion, and intelligence of his apprehension of his society and its shortcomings enriched his novels and made him both one of the great forces in XIX century literature and an influential spokesman of the conscience of his age.
Dickens was being compared to Shakespeare, for imaginative range and energy, while he was still in his twenties. He and Shakespeare are the two unique popular classics that England has given to the world, and they are alike in being remembered not for one masterpiece (as is the case with Dante, Cervantes, or John Milton) but for a creative world, a plurality of works populated by a great variety of figures, in situations ranging from the somber to the farcical. For the common reader, both Shakespeare and Dickens survive through their characterization, though they offer much else. Dickens enjoys one temporary advantage in having lived when he did and thus being able to write of an urban industrial world, in which the notions of representative government and social responsibility were current – a world containing many of the problems and hopes that persist a century after his death and far beyond the land of his birth.1
No one thinks first of Mr. Dickens as a writer. He is at once, through his books a friend. He belongs among the intimates of every pleasant tempered and large-hearted person. He is not so much the guest as the inmate of our homes. He keeps holidays with us, he helps us to celebrate the Christmas with heartier cheer, he shares at every New Year in our good wishes: for, indeed it is not purely literary character that he has done most for us, it is a man with large humanity, who has simply used literature as the means by which to bring himself into relation with his follow-men, and to inspire them with something on his own sweetness, kindness, charity, and good-will. He is great magician of our time. His wand is a book, but his power is in his own heart. It is a rare piece of good fortune for us that we are the contemporaries of this benevolent genius… These are the words not of a book-loving Miss Cosyhearts, but of a great American scholar Charles Eliot Norton, respected friend of artists and writers of both sides of the Atlantic: and this specially “friend feelings” were, of course, woke by Dickens’s character as well as by his whole artistic and public personality. “all his characters are my personal friends”-and, again this is not quoted from a bookman of the “Essays of Elia” school, but from Tolstoy, who continued: “I am constantly comparing them with living person, and living persons with them, and what a spirit there was in all he wrote”. Dickens was not deceiving himself nor exaggerating, though he may have been sipping at a sweet that contained some person for him, when he spoke of “that particular relation which subsists between me and the public”.
R.H Horne was able to report, in 1844, that his works were as popular in Germany as in Britain, were available in French, Italian, and Dutch and “some of his works are translated into Russian”. Horne’s information was correct: and, as Professor Henry Gifford has remarked: “no foreign writer of that time (or since) ever because thoroughly domiciled in the Russian imagination”. When Dickens as the rich and the articulate present their homage, but also he was international. It is remarkable feature of English literature that it has given the world, in Shakespeare and Dickens, the two popular classic author, with whom even the greatest of writers, ancient and modern – , Sophocles, Dante, Molier, Goethe, the greatest novelists of France, Russian, and America – are tastes outside, or even inside, their own countries. This of course does not prove, that Dickens is necessarily a greater novelist that Balzac, Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky, or George Eliot: only to recognize that Dickens’s qualities are more readily and widely relished, and have better survived translation into other languages and presentations to other cultures.
Charles Dickens’ pen-name was “Boz”. During his lifetime, Dickens was viewed as a popular entertainer of fecund imagination, while later critics championed his mastery of prose, his endless invention of memorable characters and his powerful social sensibilities. The popularity of his novels and short stories during his lifetime and to the present is demonstrated by the fact that none has ever gone out of print. Dickens played a major role in popularizing the serialized novel. Dickens’ works are characterized by an attack on social evils, injustice and hypocrisy. He had also experienced in his youth oppression, when he was forced to end school in early teens and work in a factory. Dickens’ lively good, bad and comic characters such as cruel miser Scrooge, the aspiring novelist David Copperfield, trusting and innocent Mr. Pickwick have fascinated generations of readers. Dickens's novels combine brutality with fairy-tale fantasy; sharp, realistic, concrete detail with romance, farce, and melodrama; the ordinary with the strange. They range through the comic, tender, dramatic, sentimental, grotesque, melodramatic, horrible, eccentric, mysterious, violent, romantic, and morally earnest. Though Dickens was aware of what his readers wanted and was determined to make as much money as he could with his writing, he believed novels had a moral purpose–to arouse innate moral sentiments and to encourage virtuous behavior in readers. It was his moral purpose that led the London Times to call Dickens "the greatest instructor of the Nineteenth Century" in his obituary.2
During his lifetime, Charles Dickens was the most famous writer in Europe and America. When he visited America to give a series of lectures, his admirers followed him, waited outside his hotel, peered in windows at him, and harassed him in railway cars. In their enthusiasm, Dickens's admirers behaved very much like the fans of a superstar today.
A direct influence of the English novelist is also manifest in the writings of Russian authors of the time. His influence is most definitely felt in Dostoyevsky’s stories of the late fifties (“The Village of Stepanchikovo” and “Uncle’s Dream”) and the novel “The Abused and The Humiliated”.
The end of the XIX century and the beginning of the XX was a period, in the course of which various collections of Dickens’ works (with a number of so-called “complete”) and several books on Dickens were published; a large number of children’s and popular editions of Dickens’ also appeared at that time.
The post-October epoch constitutes an exceptional page in the history of Dickens on Russia. The circulation of his works had never been so high; they had never been staged on such a large scale by our theatres as after the revolution. A fundamental thirty-volume edition Dickens’ works is now being completed.
The way to a better critical evolution of Dickens’ works a swell as to their genuine re-creation in Russian language has been neither straight nor smooth. Criticism had to live through a period a period of “vulgar sociologizing”, the theory and practice of translation had to overcome a vain striving at an “exact” translation of Dickens, i. e. a translation containing a scrupulous counterpart of every formal detail of the original. In addition to translations marked by pure formalism and literalism there exist nowadays a number of brilliant first-rate translations of Dickens.
Some important aspects of the way Dickens’ art was understood and received in Russia are elucidated in a series of articles, which form a special Appendix to the book. The majority of these treat problems, which have hardly if ever been approached by specialists in Dickensian studies. A considerable number of these articles are founded on archive data. They deal with such topics as the translators of Dickens, the earliest responses of the Russian press to the first publication of a novel by Dickens, they provide descriptions of unpublished stage versions of his works; contain an essay of the impact Dickens’ art had on Russian poetry etc.
Both the contents of the Bibliographical index and the articles of the Appendix testify to outstanding importance of the artistic heritage of the great English novelist for the past and present of Russian and also world culture.3
Charles Dickens’ life and career and the role of Christmas stories in his
§1. Beginning of literary career of Charles Dickens.
Charles John Huffam Dickens was born February 7, 1812, in Portsmouth, Hampshire, but left it in infancy. His happiest childhood years were spent in Chatham (1817-1822), and area to which he often reverts in his fiction. From 1822 he lived in London, until in 1860, he moved permanently to a country house, Gad`s Hill, near Chatham. His origins were middle class, if of a newfound and precarious respectability; one grandfather was a domestic servant, and the other an embezzler. His father the clerk in the navy pay office was well paid but his extravagance and ineptitude often brought the family to financial embarrassment or disaster. (Some of his failings and his ebullience are dramatized in Mr. Micawber in the partly autobiographical David Copperfield). In 1824, the family reached bottom. Charles, the eldest son, had been withdrawn from school and was now set to manual work in a factory, and his father went to prison to dept. These shocks deeply affected Charles. Though abhorring this brief descends into the working class, he began to gain that sympathetic knowledge of their life and privations that informed his writings. Also, the image of the prison and of the lost, oppressed, or bewildered child recurs in many novels. Much else in his character and art stems from his period, including, as the XX century novelist Angus Wilson has argued, his later difficulty, as men and author in understanding women: this may be traced to his bitter resentment against his mother, who had, he felt, failed disastrously at this time to appreciate his sufferings. She had wanted him to stay at work when his father’s release from prison and an improvement in the family’s fortunes made the boy’s return to school possible. Happily the father’s view prevailed. His schooling, interrupted and unimpressive, ended at 15. He became a clerk in a solicitor’s office, then a short-hand reporter in the law courts (thus gaining a knowledge of the legal world often used in the novels), and finally, like other members of his family, a parliamentary and newspaper reporter. These years left him with a lasting affection for journalism and contempt both for the law and for Parliament. His coming to manhood in the reformist 1830s, and particularly his working on the Liberal Benthamite Morning Chronicle (1834-36), greatly affected his political outlook. Another influential event now was his rejection as suitor to Maria Beadnell because his family and prospects were unsatisfactory; his hopes of gaining and chagrin at losing her sharpened his determination to succeed. His feelings about Maria then and at her later brief and disillusioning reentry into his life are reflected in David Copperfield Adoration of Dora Spenlow and the middle-aged Arthur Clennam`s discovery (in Little Dorrit) that Flora Finching, who had seemed enchanting years ago, was “diffuse and silly,” that Flora “whom he had left a lily, had become a peony.”4
Much drawn to the theatre, Dickens nearly became a professional actor in 1832. In 1833 he began contributing stories and descriptive essays to magazines and newspapers; this attracted attention and were reprinted as Sketches by “Boz” (February 1836). The same month, he was invited to provide a comic serial narrative to accompany engravings by a well-known artist; seven weeks later the first installment of Pickwick Papers appeared. Within a few months Pickwick was the rage and Dickens the most popular author of the day. The Pickwick Papers was Dickens’s first novel and, although published in the first year of Queen Victoria’s reign, it is widely regarded as the most famous of all pre-Victorian novels. It was originally serialized in monthly numbers from April, 1836 to November, 1837, when Dickens was only twenty-five years old. On the threshold of marriage to Catherine Hogarth, Dickens was obviously pleased with commission to write the Pickwick Papers, and wrote to his fiancée that ‘the emolument is too tempting to resist’. We owe a great dept to Providence, as the first two choices as writers either failed to reply or refused the commission. Chesterton was of the opinion that The Pickwick Papers was Dickens’s greatest novel in the literary genre at which he excelled. During 1836 he also wrote two plays and a pamphlet on a topical issue (how the poor should be allowed to enjoy the Sabbath) and, resigning from his newspaper job, undertook to edit a monthly magazine, Bentley’s Miscellany, in which he serialized Oliver Twist (1837-39). This is one of the most celebrative novels following the publication of Pickwick Papers. It contains many of the classical themes of his best writing such as the plight of orphans in Victorian England; the grinding poverty of that period endured by so many people, and the working of the New Poor Law; and the sow triumph of good nature and strong character over would-be suborners, the lure of temptation, organized persecution and the ravages of the fear, desperation and menace. The literary pedigree of Oliver Twist goes back in direct line to the Gothic novel and the picaresque novels of the eighteens century, most notably those of Smollett and Fielding, which are known to have been among the Dickens’s favorite reading. The novel contains some of Dickens’s most famous characters, many of which have entered the language as exemplars of certain types, most notably: the exploited child – Oliver Twist, himself - who dared to ask for more; the tyrant Bumble, the parish beadle; the diabolic gang leader Fagin, and others. The first complete edition of Oliver Twist, or, the Parish Boys Progress appeared in three volumes in 1838, being published by Richard Bentley of New Burlington Street, London, with whom Dickens was often dispute. For several years his life continued at this intensity. Finding serialization congenial and profitable, he repeated the Pickwick pattern of 20 monthly parts in Nicholas Nickleby (1838-39). Comedy had predominated in Pickwick Papers, tragedy in Oliver Twist. The more complete fusion of the two was effected in Nicholas Nickleby. The two heroes are Ralph Nickleby and his nephew Nicholas. They stand forth, almost from the beginning, as antagonists in battle array the one against the other, and the story is, in the main, the history of the campaigns between them – cunning and greed being mustered on the one side, and young generous courage on the other. Then Dickens experimented with shorter weekly installments for The Old Curiosity Shop (1840-41) and Barnaby Rudge (1841). There is no hero in The Old Curiosity Shop, - unless Mr. Richard Sweveller, “perpetual grand-master of the Glorious Apollos,” be the questionable hero; the heroine is Little Nell, a child. And of all these children, the one who seems to have stood highest in popular favor, and won most hearts.5
Exhausted at last, he then took a five-month vacation in America, touring strenuously and receiving quasi-royal honors as a literary celebrity but offending national sensibilities by protesting against the absence of copyright protection. A radical critic of British institutions, he had expected more from “the republic of my imaginations,” but he found more vulgarity and sharp practice to detest than social arrangements to admire. Some of these feelings appear in American Notes (1842) and Martin Chuzzlewit (1843-44).
His writing during these prolific years was remarkably various and, except for his plays, resourceful. Pickwick began as high-spirited farce and contained many conventional comic butts and traditional jokes; like other early works, it was manifestly indebted to the contemporary theatre, the 18th century English novelists, and a few foreign classics, notably Don Quixote. But, besides giving new life to old stereotypes, Pickwick displayed, if sometimes in embryo, many of the features that were to be blended in varying proportions throughout his fiction: attacks, satirical or denunciatory, on social evils and inadequate institutions; topical references; an encyclopedic knowledge of London (always his predominant fictional locale); pathos; a vein of the macabre; a delight in the demotic joys of Christmas; a pervasive spirit of benevolence and geniality; exhaustible powers of character creation; a wonderful speech for characteristic speech, often imaginatively heightened; a strong narrative impulse; and a prose style that, if here over dependent on a few comic mannerisms, was highly individual and inventive. Rapidly improvised and written only weeks or days ahead of its serial publication Pickwick contains weak and jejune passages and is an unsatisfactory whole – partly because Dickens was rapidly developing his craft as a novelist while writing and publishing it. What is remarkable is that a first novel, written in such circumstances, not only established him overnight and created a new tradition of popular literature but also survived, despite its crudities, as one of the best known novels in the world.6
His self-assurance and artistic ambitiousness had appeared in Oliver Twist, where he rejected the temptation to repeat the successful Pickwick formula. Thus containing much comedy still Oliver Twist is more centrally concerned social and moral evil (the workhouse and the criminal world); it culminates in Bill Sikes’s murdering Nancy and Fagin’s last night in the condemned cell at Newgate. The latter episode was memorably depicted in George Cruikshank’s engraving; the imaginative potency of Dickens’ characters and settings owes much, indeed, to his original illustrators (Cruikshank for Sketches by “Boz” and Oliver Twist, “Phiz” [Hablot K. Browne] for most of the other novels until 1860s). The currency of his fiction owed much, too, to its being so easy to adapt into effective stage versions. Sometimes 20 London theatres simultaneously were producing adaptations of his latest story; so even nonreaders became acquainted with simplified versions of his works. The theatre was often a subject of his fiction, too, as in the Crummles troupe in Nicholas Nickleby. This novel reverted to the Pickwick shape and atmosphere, though the indictment of the brutal Yorkshire schools (Dotheboys Hall) continued the important innovation in English fiction seen in Oliver Twist – spectacle of the lost or oppressed child as an occasion for pathos or social criticism. This was amplified in The Old Curiosity Shop, where the death of Little Nell was found overwhelming powerful at the time, though a few decades later it became a byword for “Victorian sentimentality.” In Barnaby Rudge he attempted another genre, the historical novel. Like his later attempt in this kind, A Tale of Two Cities, it was set in the late 18th century and presented with great vigor and understanding (and some ambivalence of attitude) the spectacle of large scale mob violence.7
To create an artistic unity out of the wide range of moods and materials included in every novel, with often several complicated plots involving scores of characters, was made even more difficult by Dickens writing and publishing them serially. In Martin Chuzzlewit he tried “to resist the temptation of the current Monthly Number and to keep a steadier eye upon the general purpose and design” (1844 Preface). Its American episodes had, however, been unpremeditated (he suddenly decided to boost the disappointing sales by some American – baiting and to revenge himself against insults and injures from the American press). A concentration on “the general purpose and design” was more effective in the next novel, Dombey and Son (1846-48), though the experience of writing the shorter, and unserialized, Christmas Books had helped him obtains greater coherence.8
§ 2. Charles Dickens’ works written in Christmas story genre.
A Christmas Carol (1843), suddenly conceived and written in a few weeks was the first of these Christmas Books (a new literary genre thus created incidentally). It was published on 19 December 1843, that has preserved the Christmas customs of old England and fixed our image of the holiday season as one of wind, ice and snow without, and smoking bishop, piping hot turkey, and family cheer within. Coming from a family large but not-too-well-off, Charles Dickens presents again and again his idealized memory of a Christmas associated with the gathering of the family which “bound together all our home enjoyments, affection and hopes” in games such as Snap Dragon and Blind Man’s Buff, both of which his model lower-middle-class father, Bob Cratchit, runs home to play on Christmas Eve. Tossed off while he was amply engaged in writing Chuzzlewit, it was an extraordinary achievement – the one great Christmas myth of modern literature. His view of life was later to be described or dismissed as “Christmas philosophy” as the basis of a projected work. His “philosophy,” never very elaborated, involved more than wanting the Christmas spirit to prevail throughout the year, but his great attachment to Christmas (in his family life as well as his writings) is indeed significant and has contributed to his popularity. “Dickens dead?” exclaimed a London costermonger’s girl in 1870. “Then will Father Christmas die too?” – a tribute both to his association with Christmas and to the mythological status of the man as well as of his work. The Carol immediately entered the general consciousness; Thackeray, in a review, called it “a national benefit, and to every man and woman who reads it a personal kindness.” Further Christmas books, essays, and stories followed annually (except in 1847) through 1867. None equaled the Carol in potency, though some achieved great immediate popularity. Cumulatively they represent a celebration of Christmas attempted by no other great author.9
However, Dickens's founding and managing his weekly literary magazines seems to have prevented his producing further complete books exclusively for the Christmas book trade (which he in large measure helped to establish with Carol and its successor, The Chimes). Instead, he developed 'framed tales' in which he would take the lead supported in the production of various chapters by such talented writers as Wilkie Collins and Elizabeth Gaskell. These 'Christmas Stories' were composed between 1850 and 1867, but cannot be classified as falling within a single short fiction subgenre. Dickens's first contribution to an 'Extra Christmas Number' was in fact not a story at all, but a reverie, "A Christmas Tree" inspired by children gathered around that German innovation, the Christmas tree (which never appears in any of the Christmas Books), probably brought to England by Victoria's consort, Prince Albert, whom she had married in 1840. Dickens's second and third short-fiction Christmas offerings, "The Poor Relation's Story" and "The Child's Story" are his contributions to A Round of Stories by the Christmas Fire in the Christmas Number of Household Words (1852). As one reads these "framed tales" it becomes increasingly difficult to sort out which pieces Dickens contributed, especially since all pieces printed in these two journals were unsigned. In 1853, Dickens contributed "The Schoolboy's Story" and "Nobody's Story" to Another Round of Stories by the Christmas Fire in the Christmas Number for Household Words. Other Christmas Stories include The Seven Poor Travellers in the Christmas Number for Household Words (14 Dec., 1854), The Holly-tree Inn (the Christmas Number for Household Words, 15 Dec., 1855), The Wreck of the 'Golden Mary' (the Christmas Number of Household Words, 6 Dec., 1856), The Perils of Certain English Prisoners (the Christmas Number for Household Words, 1857), A House to Let (the Christmas Number for Household Words, 1858), The Haunted House (the Christmas Number for All the Year Round, 1859), A Message from the Sea (the Christmas Number for All the Year Round, 1860), Tom Tiddler's Ground (the Christmas Number for All the Year Round, 1861), Somebody's Luggage (the Christmas Number for All the Year Round, 1862), Mrs. Lirriper's Lodgings (the Christmas Number of All the Year Round, 1863), Mrs. Lirriper's Legacy (the Christmas Number of All the Year Round, 1864), Doctor Marigold's Prescriptions (the Christmas Number of All the Year Round, 1865), Mugby Junction (the Christmas Number for All the Year Round, 1866), and the Collins-dominated No Thoroughfare (the Christmas Number for All the Year Round, 1867).10
Thanks to modern methods of poultry raising as much as to Dickens, that American import, the turkey, began to replace the traditional (bony and greasy) goose as the centerpiece of the Christmas board, as is evident in A Christmas Carol, but the survival of the Christmas pudding abroad owes much to Dickens' image of the Cratchits' pudding singing in the copper. The "jolly Giant, glorious to see" in the Third Stave of A Christmas Carol is the earliest English version of the German Santa Klaus, but in John Leech's coloured illustration he is garbed in green, a pagan vegetation symbol as much as modern English "Father Christmas" accompanied by such pre-Christian paraphernalia as a crown of holly, a flaming link (torch), a yule log, mistletoe, and a steaming bowl of negus (punch). Our North American Santa Claus was invented just twenty years earlier, in Clement C. Moore's A Visit from Saint Nicholas, derived not from the old Roman god Saturn (whose worship from December 17th to 24th had included decorated tree boughs) like Dickens's Ghost of Christmas Present, but from the gift-giving early Christian bishop and saint from Asia Minor.11
One of his sons wrote that, for Dickens, Christmas was "a great time, a really jovial time, and my father was always at his best, a splendid host, bright and jolly as a boy and throwing his heart and soul into everything that was going on.... And then the dance! There was no stopping him!" Amateur magician and actor, Dickens had little Christmas shopping to worry about, and no crowded malls or crass commercialization of the family festival to jangle his finely-tuned nerves. But that time in his boyhood, when he slaved in the blacking factory while his family were in the Marshalsea Prison, weighed heavily somewhere in the back of his mind, and made occasional intrusions, such as Ignorance and Want in A Christmas Carol and the street urchin in The Haunted Man. Mr. Redlaw, a kind but melancholy man, isolated. His many professional accomplishments cannot compensate for the great betrayal of his life, when the woman he loved was wooed and wed by his best friend. One night, Redlaw is haunted by his own ghost, who agrees to strip Redlaw of his painful memories. The ghost throws in an added bonus: everyone Redlaw meets also will lose their bad memories. The “gift” causes havoc in a family of poor but loving villages, because the loss of memories of past pain robs them of the ability to emphasize. The only person unaffected by Redlaw’s strange power is a street urchin. Because the boy never has known kindness, he is never developed a capacity for compassion. Redlaw begins the ghost to remove his curse, but is told that only Milly, the wife of Redlaw’s servant and the embodiment of unselfish love, can cure the villagers. Milly goes visiting the villager’s memory return, and harmony prevails. Redlaw’s regains his own memory when he forgives the man who wronged him. Dickens is obsessed with the theme of memory, and the effect that childhood experiences have on adults. Both Scrooge and Redlaw grew up poor, but became successful after years of hard works. Their accomplishments left them vaguely unsatisfied, just as Dickens’ achievements couldn’t exorcise the pain of his early years. He revisited his traumatic childhood again and again in his novels. “Many people have had worse childhoods than Charles Dickens,” Epstein wrote. “Few have profited by them as much.” The Haunted Man is more psychological than the preceding novellas. The idea of the divided self is embodied by Redlaw and his ghost, and Redlaw’s self-loathing when he infects others with his disease expresses a common idea among those who are depressed – that the people they love would be better off without them.
How he struck his contemporaries in these early years appears in R.H. Horne’s New Spirit of the Age (1844). Dickens occupied the first and longest chapter, as …manifestly the product of his age….a genuine emanation from its aggregate and entire spirit…. His mixes were extensively in society, and continually. Few public meetings in a benevolent cause are without him. He speaks effectively…. His influence upon his age is extensive – pleasurable, instructive, healthy, reformatory….12
Mr. Dickens is private, very much what might be expected from his works… His conversation is genial… He has personal activity, and is fond of games of practical skill. He is a great walker, and a very much given to dancing Sir Roger de Coverley. In private, the general impression of him is that of a first-rate practical intellect, with “no nonsense” about him.13
He was indeed very much a public figure, actively and centrally involved in his world, and a man of confident presence. He was reckoned the best after-dinner speaker of the age; other superlatives he attracted included his having been the best shorthand reporter on the London press his being the best amateur actor on the stage. Later he became one of the most successful periodical editors and the finest dramatic recitalist of the day. He was splendidly endowed with many skills. “Even irrespective of his literary genius,” wrote an obituarist, “he was an able and strong-minded man, who would have succeeded in almost any profession to which he devoted himself” (Times, June 10, 1870). Few of his extra literary skills and interests were irrelevant to the range and mode of his fiction. 14
§3 Final creative works and changes in Charles Dickens’ personality.
Privately in these early years, he was both domestic and social. He loved and family life and was a proud and efficient householder; he once contemplated writing a cookbook. To his many children, he was a devoted and delightful father, at least when they were young; relations with them proved less happy during their adolescence. Apart from periods in Italy (1844-45) and Switzerland and France (1846-47), he still lived in London, moving from an apartment in Furnival’s Inn to larger houses as his income and family grew. Here he entertained his many friends, most of them popular authors, journalists, actors or artists, though some came from the law and other professions or from commerce and a few from the aristocracy. Some friendships dating from his youth endured to the end, and, though, often exasperated by the financial demands of his parents and other relatives, he was very fond of some of his family and loyal to most of the rest. Some literary squabbles came later, but he was on friendly terms with most of his fellow authors, of the older generation as well as his own. Necessarily solitary while writing and during the long walks (especially through the streets at night) that became essential to his creative processes; he was generally social at other times. He enjoyed society that was unpretentious and conversation that was genial and sensible but not too intellectualized or exclusively literary. High society he generally avoided, after a few early incursions into the great houses; he hated to be lionized or patronized.15
He had about him “a sort of swell and overflow as of a prodigality of life.” an American journalist said. Everyone was struck by the brilliance of his eyes and his smart, even dandyish appearance (“I have a fondness of a savage for finery,” he confessed). John Forster, his intimate friend and future biographer, recalled him at the Pickwick period:
the quickness, keenness, and a practical power, the eager, restless, energetic outlook on each several feature [of his face] seemed to tell so little of a student or a writer of books, and so much of a man of action or business in the world. Light and motion flashed from every part of it.
He was proud of his art and devoted to improving and using it to good ends (his works would show, he wrote, that “Cheap Literature is not behind-hand with the Age, but holds its place, and strives to do its duty”), but his art never engaged all his formidable energies. He had no desire to be narrowly literary.16
A notable, though unsuccessful, demonstration of this was his being founder-editor in 1846 of the Daily News (soon to become the leading liberal newspaper). His journalistic origins, his political convictions and readiness to act as a leader of opinion, and his wish to secure a steady income independent of his literary creativity and of any shifts in novel readers’ tastes made him attempt or plan several periodical ventures in the 1840s. The return to daily journalism soon proved a mistake – the biggest fiasco in a career that included few such misdirection and failures. A more limited but happier exercise of his practical talents began soon afterward: for more than a decade he directed, energetically and with great insight and compassion, a reformatory home for young female delinquents, financed by his wealthy friend Angela Burdett-Coutts. The benevolent spirit apparent in his writings often found practical expression in his public speeches, fund-raising activities, and private acts of charity.17
Dombey and Son (1846-48) was a crucial novel in his development, a product of more thorough planning and maturer thought and the first in which “a pervasive uneasiness about contemporary society takes the place of an intermittent concern with specific social wrongs” (Kathleen Tillotson). Using railways prominently an effectively, it was very up-to-date, though the questions pose included such perennial moral and religious challenges as are suggested by the child Paul’s first words in the story: “Papa, what is money?” Some of the corruptions of money and pride of place and limitations of “respectable” values are explored, virtue and human decency being discovered most often (as elsewhere in Dickens) among the poor, humble and simple. In Paul’s early death Dickens offered another famous pathetic episode; in Mr. Dombey he made a more ambitious attempt than before at serious and internal characterization. David Copperfield (1849-50) has been described as a “holiday” from this larger social concerns and most notable for its childhood chapters, “an enchanting vein which he had never quite found before and which he was never to find again” (Edmund Wilson). Largely for his reason and its autobiographical interest, it has always been among his popular novels and was Dickens’ own “favorite child.” It incorporates material from the autobiography he had recently begun but soon abandoned and is written in the first person, a new technique for him. David differs from his creator in many ways, however, though Dickens uses many early experiences that had meant much to him – his period of work in the factory while his father was jailed, his schooling and reading, his passion for Maria Beadnell, and (more cursorily) his emergence from parliamentary reporting into successful novel writing. In Micawber the novel presents one of the “Dickens’ characters” whose imaginative potency extends far beyond the narratives in which they figure; Pickwick and Sam Weller, Mrs. Gamp and Mr. Pecksniff, and Scrooge are some others.
Dickens’ journalistic ambitions at last found a permanent form in Household Words (1850-59) and its successor, All the Year Round (1859-88). Popular weekly miscellanies of fiction, poetry, and essays on a wide range of topics, these had substantial and increasing circulations, reaching 300,000 for some of the Christmas Numbers. Dickens contributed some serials – the lamentable Child’s History of England (1851-53), Hard Times (1854), A Tale of Two Cities (1859), and Great Expectations (1860-61) – the essays, some of which were collected in Reprinted Pieces (1858) and The Uncommercial Traveller (1861, later amplified). Particularly in 1850-52 and during the Crimean War, he contributed many items on current political and social affairs; in later years he wrote less – much less on politics – and the magazine was less political, too. The Uncommercial Traveller is a collection of Dickens’ memories rather than of his literary purposes; but it is due to him to say that memory is often more startling in him that prophecy in anybody else. They have the character which belongs to all his vivid incidental writing: that they attack themselves always to some text which is a fact rather than an idea. He was one of those sons of Eve who are fonder of the Tree of Life than of the Tree of Knowledge – even of the knowledge of good and of evil. He was in this profoundest sense a realist. Critics have talked of an artist with his eye on the object. Dickens as an essayist always had his eye on an object before he had the faintest notion of a subject. All these works of his can best be considered as letters; they are notes of personal travel, scribbles in a diary about this or that that really happened. But Dickens was one of the few men who have the two talents that are the whole of literature – and have them both together. First, he could make a thing happen over again; and second he could make it happen better. He can be called exaggerative; but mere exaggeration conveys nothing of his typical talent. Mere whirlwinds of words, mere melodramas of earth and heaven do not affect us as Dickens affects us, because they are exaggerations of nothing. If asked for an exaggeration of something, their inventors would be entirely dumb. They would not know how to exaggerate a broom-stick. He always began with a fact even when he was most fanciful; and even when he drew the long bow he was careful to hit the white. Other distinguished novelists contributed serials, including Mrs. Gaskell, Wilkie Collins, Charles Reade, and Bulwer Lytton. The poetry was uniformly feeble; Dickens was imperceptive here. The reportage, often solidly based, was bright (sometimes painfully so) in manner. His conduct of these weeklies shows his many skills as editor and journalist but also some limitations in his tastes and intellectual ambitions. The contents are revealing in relation to his novels: he took responsibility for all the opinions expressed (for articles were anonymous) and selected and amended contributions accordingly; thus comments on topical events and so on may generally be taken as representing his opinions, whether or not he wrote them. No English author of comparable status has devoted twenty years of his maturity to such unremitting editorial work, and the weeklies’ success been due not only to his illustrious name but also to his practical sagacity and sustained industry. Even in his creative work, as his eldest son said,
no city clerk was ever more methodical or orderly than he; no humdrum, monotonous, conventional task could ever have been discharged with more punctuality, or with more businesslike regularity.18
The novels of these years, Bleak House (1852-53), Hard Times (1854), and Little Dorrit (1855-57), were much “darker” than their predecessors. Presenting a remarkably inclusive and increasingly somber picture of contemporary society, they were inevitably often seen at the time as fictionalized propaganda about ephemeral issues. They are much more than this, though it is never easy to state how Dickens’ imagination transforms their many topicalities into an artistically coherent vision that transcends their immediate historical context. Similar question are raised by his often basic fictional characters, places and institutions on actual originals. He once spoke of his mind’s taking “a fanciful photograph” of a scene, and there is a continual interplay between photographic realism and “fancy” (or imagination). “He describes London like a special correspondent for posterity” (Walter Bagehot, 1858) and posterity has certainly found in his fiction the response of an acute, knowledgeable, and concerned observer to the social and political developments of the “moving age.” In the novels of the 1850s, he is politically more despondent emotionally more tragic. The satire is harsher, the humor less genial and abundant, the “happy-endings” more subdued than in early fiction. Technically, the later novels are more coherent, plots being more fully related to themes, and themes being often expressed through a more insistent sue of imagery and symbols (grim symbols, too, such as the fog in Bleak House or the prison Little Dorrit). His art here is more akin to poetry than to what is suggested by the photographic or journalistic comparisons. “Dickensian” characterization continued in the sharply defined and simplified grotesque and comic figures, such as Chadband in Bleak House or Mrs. Sparsit in Hard Times but large-scale figures of this tyle are less frequent (the Gamps and Micawbers belong to the first half of his career). Characterization also has become more subordinate to “the general purpose and design” moreover Dickens is presenting characters of greater complexity provoke more complex responses in the reader (William Dorrit for instance). Even the juvenile leads had usually been thinly conceived conventional figures, are not often more complicated in their make-up and less easily rewarded by good fortune. With his secular hopes diminishing, Dickens becomes more concerned with “the great final secret of all life” – a phrase from Little Dorrit, where the spiritual dimension of his work is most overt. Critics disagree as to how far so worldly a novelist succeeds artistically in enlarging his view to include the religious. These novels, too, being manifestly an ambitious attempt to explore the prospects of humanity at this time raise questions, still much debated, about the intelligence and profundity of his understanding of society.
Dickens’ spirits and confidence in the future had indeed declined. 1855 was “a year of much unsettled discontent for him,” his friend Forster recalled, partly for political reasons (or, as Forster hints, his political indignation was exacerbated by a “discontent” that had original purposes). The Crimean War, besides exposing governmental inefficiency, was distracting attention from the “poverty, hunger, and ignorant desperation” at home. In Little Dorrit, “I have been blowing off a little of indignant steam which would otherwise bow me up…,” he wrote, “but I have no present political faith or hope – not a grain.” Not only were the present government and Parliament contemptible but “representative government is become altogether a failure with us …the whole thing has broken down…and has no hope in it.” Nor had he a coherent alternative to suggest. This desperation coincided with an acute state of personal unhappiness. The brief tragicomedy of Maria Beadnell’s reentry into his life, in 1855, finally destroyed one nostalgic illusion and also betrayed a perilous emotional immaturity and hunger. He how openly identified himself with some of the sorrows dramatized in the adult David Copperfield:
Why is it, as with poor David, a sense come always crushing on me, now, when I fall into low spirits, as of one happiness I have missed in life and one friend and companion I have never made?19
This comes from the correspondence with Forster in 1854-55, which contains the first admissions of his marital unhappiness; by 1856 he is writing, “I find a skeleton in my domestic closet is becoming a pretty big one”; by 1857-58, as Forster remarks, an “unsettled feeling” had become almost habitual with him, “and the satisfactions which home should have supplied, and which indeed were essential requirements of his nature, he had failed to find in his home.” From May 1858, Catherine Dickens lived apart from him. A painful scandal arose, and Dickens did not act at this time with tact, patience, or consideration. The affair disrupted some of his friendships and narrowed his social circle, but surprisingly it seems not to have damaged his popularity with the public.
Catherine Dickens maintained a dignified silence, and most of Dickens’ family and friends, including his official biographer, Forster, were discreetly reticent about the separation. Not until 1939 did one of his children (Kate) speaking posthumously through conversations recorded by a friend, offer a candid inside account, it was discreditable to him, and his self-justifying letters must be viewed with caution. He there dated the unhappiness of his marriage back to 1838, attributed to his wife various “peculiarities” of temperament (including her sometimes laboring under “a mental disorder”), emphatically agreed with her statement that “she felt herself unfit for the life she had to lead as my wife, “ and maintained that she never cared for the children nor they for her. In more temperate letters, where he acknowledged her “amiable and complying” qualities, he simply and more acceptably asserted that their temperaments were utterly incomparable. She was, apparently, pleasant but rather limited such faults as she had were rather negative than positive. Though family traditions from a household that knew the Dickenses well speaks of her as “a whiney woman” and a shaving little understanding of, or patience with, the artistic temperament.
Dickens’ self-justifying letters lack candor in omitting to mention Ellen Ternan, an actress 27 years his junior his passion for whom had precipitated the separation. Two months earlier he had written more frankly to an intimate friend:
The domestic unhappiness remains so strong upon me that I can not write, and (waking) cannot rest, one minute. I have never known a moment’s peace or content, since the last night of The Frozen Deep.
The Frozen Deep was a play in which he and Nelly (as Ellen was called) had performed together in August 1857. She was an intelligent girl, of an old theatrical family reports speak of her as having “a pretty face and well-developed figure” – or “passably pretty not much of an actress.” She left the stage in 1860; after Dickens’ death she married a clergyman and helped him run a school. The affair was hushed up until the 1930s, and evidence about it remains scanty, but every addition confirms that Dickens was deeply attached to her and that their relationship lasted until his death. It seems likely that she became his mistress, though probably not until the 1860s; assertions that a child, or children, resulted remain unproved. Similarly, suggestions that the anguish experienced by some of the lovers in the later novels may reflect Dickens’ own feelings remain speculative. It is tempting indeed, to associate Nelly with some of their heroines (who are more spirited and complex, less of the “legless angel,” than most of their predecessors), especially as her given names, Ellen Lawless, seemed to be echoed by those of heroines in the three novels – Estella, Bella and Helena Landless – but nothing definite is known about how she responded to Dickens, what she felt for him at the time, or how close any of these later love stories were to aspects or phrases of their relationship.20
“There is nothing very remarkable in the story,” commended one early transmitter of it, and this seems just. Many middle-aged men feel an itch to renew their emotional lives with a pretty young girl, even if, unlike Dickens, they cannot plead indulgence for “the wayward and unsettled feeling which is part of the tenure on which one holds an imaginative life.” But the eventual disclosure of this episode caused surprise, shock or piquant satisfaction, being related of a man whose rebelliousness against his society had seemed to take only impeccably reformist shapes. A critic in 1851, listing the reasons for his unique popularity, had cited “above all, his deep reverence for the household sanctities, his enthusiastic worship of the household gods.” After these disclosures he was, disconcertingly or intriguingly a more complex man; and, partly as a consequence, Dickens the novelist also began to be seen as more complex, less conventional, than had been realized. The stimulus was important, though Nelly’s significance, biographically and critically, has proved far from inexhaustible.
In the longer term, Kathleen Tillotson’s remark is more suggestive: “his life-long love affair with his reading public, when all is said, is by far the most interesting love-affair of his life.” This took a new form, about the time of Dickens’ separation from his wife, in his giving public readings from his works, and it is significant that, when trying to justify their enterprise as certain to succeed, he referred to “that particular relation which subsists between me and public.” The remark suggests how much Dickens valued the public affection, not only as a stimulus to his creativity and a condition for his commercial success but also as a substitute for the love he could not find at home. He had been toying with the idea of turning paid reader since 1853, when he began giving occasional readings in aid of charity. The paid series began in April 1858, the immediate impulse being to find some energetic distraction from his marital unhappiness. But the readings drew on more permanent elements in him and his art: his remarkable histrionic talents, his love of theatricals and of seeing and delighting an audience, and the eminently performable nature of his fiction. Moreover, he could earn more by reading than by writing, and more certainly; it was easier to force him to repeat a performance than create a book.
Tired and ailing though he was, he remained inventive and adventurous in his final novels. A Tale of Two Cities (1859) was an experiment, relying less than before on characterization, dialogue and humour. It was well for him, at any rate, that the people raised in France. It was well for him, at any rate, that the guillotine was set up in the Place de la Concorde. Unconsciously, but not accidentally, Dickens was here working out the whole true comparison between swift revolutionism in Paris and slow evolutionism in London. Sidney Carton is one of those sublime ascetics whose head offends them, and who cut it off. For him at least it was better that the blood should flow in Paris than that the wine should flow any longer in London. And if I say that even now the guillotine might be the best cure for many a London lawyer. An exciting and compact narrative, it lacks too many of his strength to count among his major works. Sydney Carton’s self-sacrifice was found deeply moving by Dickens and by many readers; Dr. Manette now seems a more impressive achievement in serious characterizations. The French Revolution scenes are vivid, if superficial in historical understanding. Great Expectations resembles Copperfield in being a first person narration and in drawing on parts of Dickens’ personality and experience. Compact like its predecessors, it lacks the panoramic inclusiveness of Bleak House, Little Dorrit, and Our Mutual Friend, but though not his most ambitious, it is his most finely achieved novel. The hero Pip’s mind is explored with great subtlety, and his development through a childhood and youth beset with hard tests of character is traced critically but sympathetically. Various “great expectations” in the book found ill founded – a comment as much on the values of the age as on characters’ weaknesses and misfortune. Our Mutual Friend, a large inclusive novel, continues this critique monetary and class values. London is now grimmer than ever before, and the corruption, complacency, and superficiality of “respectable” society are fiercely attacked. Many new elements are introduced into Dickens’ fictional world, but his handling of the old comic – eccentrics are sometimes tiresomely mechanical. How the unfinished Edwin Drood would have developed is uncertain. Here again Dickens left panoramic fiction to concentrate on a limited private action. The central figure was evidently to be John Jasper, eminent respectability as a cathedral organist was in extreme contrast to his haunting low opium dens and, out of violent sexual jealousy, murdering his nephew. It would have been his most elaborate treatment of the themes of crime, evil, and psychological abnormality that had recurred throughout his novels; a great celebrator of life, he was also obsessed with death.
How greatly Dickens personally had changed appears in remarks by friends who met him again, after many years, during the American reading tour in 1867-68. “I sometimes think…,” wrote one, “I must have known two individuals bearing the same name, at various periods of my own life.” But just as the fiction, despite many developments still contained stylistic and narrative features continuous with the earliest work, so, too, the man remained a “human hurricane” though he had aged considerably, his health had deteriorated, and his nerves had been jungled by traveling ever since his being in a railway accident in 1865. Other Americans noted that, though grizzled, he was “as quick and elastic in his movements as ever.” His photographs, wrote journalist after one of the readings, “give no idea of his genial expression. To us he appears like hearty, companionable man, with a deal of fun in him,” but that very day Dickens was writing, “I am nearly used up,” and listing the afflictions now “telling heavily upon me.” His pride and the old-trouper tradition made him conceal his sufferings. And, if sometimes by an effort of will, his old high spirits were often on display. His fame remained undiminished, though critical opinion was increasingly hostile to him. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, noting the immense enthusiasm for him during the American tour, remarked: “One can hardly take in the whole truth about it, and feel the universality of his fame.” But in many respects he was “a sad man” in these later years. He never was tranquil and relaxed. Various old friends were now estranged or dead or for other reason less available; he was now leading a less social life and spending more time with young friends of a caliber inferior to his former circle. His sons were caused much worry and disappointment, “all his fame goes for nothing,” said a friend, “Since he has not the one thing. He is very unhappy in his children.” His wife was not all dreary, however. He loved his country house, Gad’s Hill, and he could still “warm the social atmosphere wherever he appeared with that summer glow which seemed to attend him.” T.A. Trollope, who wrote that, despaired of giving people who had not met him any idea of
The general charm of his manner….His laugh was brimful of enjoyment….His enthusiasm was boundless….He was a hearty man, a large-hearted man….a strikingly manly man.
Only a week before his death he was at the theatre,
In high spirits, brim-full of joie-de-vivre. His talk had all the sparkle of champagne, and he himself kept laughing at the majesty of his own absurdities, as one droll thought followed another….at times still so young and almost boyish in his gaiety. (Lord Redesdale, Memories, 1915)
His health remained precarious after the punishing American tour and was further impaired by his addiction to giving the strenuous “Sikes and Nancy” reading. His farewell readings tour was abandoned when, in April 1869, he collapsed. He began writing another novel and gave a short farewell season of readings in London, ending with the famous speech, “From these garish lights I vanish now for evermore…” – words repeated, less than three months later, on his funeral card. He died suddenly at Gad’s Hill on June 9, 1870, and was buried in Westminster Abbey. People all over the world mourned the loss of “a friend” as well as a great entertainer and creative artist and one of the acknowledged influences upon the spirit of the age.21
§4. Review about Charles Dickens’ creativity.
Ralph Waldo Emerson, attending one of Dickens’ readings in Boston, “laughed as if he must crumble to pieces,” but, discussing Dickens afterward, he said:
“I am afraid that he has too much talent for his genius; it is a fearful locomotive to which he is bound and can never be free from it nor set to rest…. He daunts me! I have not the key.”
There is no simple key to so prolific and multifarious an artist nor to the complexities of the man, and interpretation of birth is made harder by his possessing and feeling to need to exercise so many talents besides his imagination. How his fiction is related to these talents – practical, journalistic, oratorical, histrionic – remains controversial. Also the geniality and unequaled comedy of the novels must be related to the sufferings, errors and self-pity of their author and to his concern both for social evils and perennial grieves and limitations of humanity. The novels cover a wide range, social, moral, emotional, and psychological. Thus, he is much concerned with very ordinary people but also with abnormality (e.g. eccentricity, depravity, madness, hallucinations, dream states). He is both the most imaginative and fantastic and the most topical and documentary of great novelists. He is unequal too; a wonderfully inventive and poetic writer, he can also, even in his mature novels, write with a painfully slack conventionality.
Biographers have only since the mid-20th enough to explore the complexity of Dickens’ nature. Critics have always been challenged by his art, though from the start it contained enough easily acceptable ingredients, evident skill and gusto, to ensure popularity. The earlier novels were and by and large have continued to be Dickens’ most popular works: The Pickwick Papers, Oliver Twist, Martin Chuzzlewit, A Christmas Carol, and David Copperfield. Critics began to demur against the later novels, deploring the loss of the freer comic spirit, baffled by the more symbolic mode of his art, and uneasy when the simpler reformism over isolated issues became a more radical questioning of social and assumptions and institutions. Dickens was never neglected or forgotten and never lost his popularity, but for 70 years after his death he received remarkably little serious attention (George Gissing, G.K. Chesterton, and George Bernard Shaw being notably exceptions). F.R. Leavis, later to revise his opinion, was speaking for many, in 1948, when he asserted that “the adult mind doesn’t as a rule find in Dickens a challenge to an unusual and sustained seriousness”; Dickens was indeed a great genius, “but the genius was that of a great entertainer.”
Modern Dickens criticism dates from 1940-41, with the very different impulses given by George Orwell, Edmund Wilson, and Humphry House, in the 1950s, a substantial reassessment and re-editing of the works began, his finest artistry and greatest depth now being discovered in the later novels – Bleak House, Little Dorrit, and Great Expectations – and (less unanimously) in Hard Times and Our Mutual Friend. Scholars have explored his working methods, his relations with the public, and the ways in which he was simultaneously an eminently Victorian figure and an author “not of an age but for all time.” Biographically, little had been added to Forster’s massive and intelligent Life (1872-74), except the Ellen Ternan story, until Edgar Johnson’s in 1952. Since then, no radically new view has emerged, though several works – including those by Joseph Gold (1972) and Fred Kaplan (1975) – have given particular phases or aspects fuller attention. The centenary in 1970 demonstrated a critical consensus about his standing second only to William Shakespeare in English literature, which would have seemed incredibly 40 or even 20 years earlier.
Charles Dickens` s Christmas stories.
§1. The essence of Christmas stories and characterization of the main heroes of these works
Who ever understood children better than he? Other writers have wondered at them, he understands them, - the romance of their fun, the fun of their romance, the nonsense in their ideas, and the ideas in their nonsense. He wrote a portion of one of his best Christmas serials – “Boots at the Holly-Tree Inn” – it is called – a story of baby love which would have drawn smiles and tears from Mr. Grangrind, and which, as was recognized on the spot as absolutely true to nature by a mother in the gallery, whose sympathy I thought at the time would be too much for Mr. Dickens himself. We could picture better than he that curious animal, the British boy? Why he understood him in every phrase and under every aspect of his existence, whether he was the pupil of Dr Blimber` s classical academy or of Mr. Fagin `s establishment of technical education. Who, again, fathomed more profoundly that sea whose dimples so often deceive us as to its depth, the mind of a young girl? …
As seasonably welcome as either plum – pudding let us say, or as mince pies – and, happily, just as inevitable for many years past, on the animal coming round of December – have been the successive Christmas numbers of Mr. Dickens `s periodical have long since come to look for ward to them very succeeding twelvemonth almost as were mothers of course. We would as soon think, somehow of celebrating Christmas without, for example, dangling a pendant bunch of mistletoe overhead or without wreathing green branches and red berries about the paneling of our homerooms, as without according once more a welcome, not merely upon our hearths, but within our hearts to some new tale or series of tales more or less appropriate to the season – to the holy – days and the holly – nights of Christmas – tide-tales told by our Great Novelist at regular intervals now during a goodly span of one whole score of years – between 1845, the first memorable year thus celebrated by Mr. Dickens with the best of all his Christmas Books, The “Christmas Carol”, and the last year, 1865, hardly less noticeable in its turn as the year within which he produced about the finest of all his Christmas Numbers, “Doctor Marigold”. Happily his Christmas story – teller appears to be fairly exhaustible. He never seems to lack, year after year, some ingenious device – some device perfectly new and original in itself, and never previously thought of as a medium for the relation of as series or cluster of narratives – upon which, as upon a connecting thread, he can string together the priceless, pearls, blown eggshells, winter daisies or what not, making up the miscellaneous assortment of each successive Christmas Number. Here, in “Mugby Junction”, is the last, and certainly not the least surprising evidence of this extraordinary ingenuity of his in the way of imaginative contrivance. It is as different from “Doctor Marigold”, in the root idea of it, and in the whole manner and treatment of it, as Doctor Marigold was, in each of those particulars, different from Mrs. Lurriper. Each of Christmases short – stories stands absolutely “per se” – must be regarded as distinctly “sui generis” - “none but itself can be its parallel”. It was the same one year with “Poor Traveler” - another with the “Wreck of the Golden Mary” – another with the “Holly-Tree Inn”. Mr. Dickens never repeats himself. One while a “Lodging Housekeeper” – another Cheap Jack – now a Boots – now a Railway Polter – his identity is swallowed up, as one way say (and say, too, without one atom of extravagance) in the last of his great realistic idealizations.
…The main excellence, value, and attraction, however, of the number all lie as a matter of course in the for opening papers from the hand of our great novelist. Foremost among them, do our thinking, being beyond all comparison the best of the four – the story of “The Signalman.” Brief though it is, it is perfect as a work of art. It shows again, and in a remarkable manner, Mr. Dickens `s power in his mastery of the terrible. The pathetic force of it is truly admirerable. It is, surely, the finest Tale of Presentment that has ever yet been told. … immediately after “The Signalman” in excellence – and thoroughly delightful, if only by way of contrast, commend us to “The Boy at Mugby”- own brother to Trabb `s boy in “Great Expectations” – a friend of their heart to Tom Scott, in the “Old Curiosity Shop” – worthy of being comrade and associate of Bailey Junior in “Martin Chuzzlewit”. …22
Mr. Dickens has this Christmas earned our admiration by the freshness with which he tells his animal story. The Christmas number of “All the Year Round” is, it is well-known, a batch of stories connected together by the editorial narrative which professes to account for the collection of so many separate tales. Of the separate tales now published we do not propose to speak also one of them is by Mr. Dickens himself. They are well-selected batch of short- stories, which, however, call for no special remark. The interest of the critic and of the reader will rest upon Mr. Dickens introductory narrative, which is even better in its way than the introduction to “Mrs. Lirriper `s Lodging’s. Mrs. Lirriper was one of our author’s most characteristic sketches…. But this year Mr. Dickens has become forward with a character destined to be more popular than even Mrs. Lirriper. Doctor Marigold is only a sketch, but it is masterly sketch, and one that deserves a place in our memories beside the picture ever drawn by Charles Dickens. Doctor Marigold is the name of a Cheap Jack who delights us with his eloquence, with his cleverness, and with his goodness. Mr. Charles Dickens is particularly happy when he can get an equelent character, and all his more memorable personages, as Sam Weller, Mrs. Gamp, and the rest, are chiefly memorable for the peculiar eloquence with which they assert themselves. Doctor Marigold has all the eloquence of a Cheap Jack, asserts himself with vigom, and is very amusing.
This is the style of the man who is exhibited before us in many such amusing attitudes and Mr. Dickens, displaying his characteristics, has the opportunity of indulging in his broadest humor. At the same time, however, he shows the more serious aspect of the man`s character. We all know the story clown who had to crack his jokes in the saw – dust while his wife was dying in the room hard by. Cheap Jack in his fashion has to amuse the crowd that comes to buy his wares while his child is dying in his arms. The situation here is an old one, but Mr. Dickens has touched it with new feeling and set it before us in the tenderest light.
… It is not certainly by these lighter efforts that Charles Dickens ought to be judged. The two characteristics to which he owes his reputation are beyond all doubt his sentiment, and his share of that humor which really forms a part of sentiment, though it is often considered as independent of it. As a sentimentalist, Charles Dickens in his best moments has not often been surpassed in English literature. His bizarre and grotesque literary taste, and the curious light under which he sees almost all the common things and the common events of life, drag him down, in his intervals of weakness into the mere. But, with all his failings and vulgarities, Charles Dickens at his best is a very great author, and a consummate sentimentalist. His attempts to portray or to caricature or to satirize the upper classes of society has always been ludicrous failures. When Charles Dickens enters the drawing-room his genius deserts him, and hurries down the kitchen stairs into more congenial company. One is in danger, accordingly, of forgetting the astonishing poem with which he draws life in its less polished but equally healthy and vigorous forms. His sympathy for poor people is real and unaffected, and helps to make him the great writer he is; and when we look through all the romantic literature of the day, and see how little genuine feeling there is that comes up in power and pathos to Mr. Dickens `s feeling for the poor, we can not but acknowledge the charm that this trait lends to most of Christmas. There is warmth and a cheering in his stories that reminds one of the mistletoe and the holly. Nor is Charles Dickens satisfied with being himself full of warm-heartedness and sentiment. Whatever he is describing, whether it is animate or inanimate nature must fall in with and follow in his train. Orpheus, as the legend goes, made the trees come dancing after him, and Charles Dickens is not above performing the same feat with the chairs and tables, and the rest of the furniture of the room upon which his fancy descends. He has only to strike the night key-note, and immediately a concert begins about him, in which the kettles on the hearth begin to sing, the fire to talk, and the fire-irons and the fender to smile, and all together to chime in with the lyrical poem which forms the chief subject – matter of the chapter. Nobody expects to find in his Christmas stories the sentiment and the humor which might be looked for in larger works, but it is not difficult to discover something to the same tare. Doctor Marigold `s description of little Sophy `s death, for example, is not meant to compete with twenty similar pictures that Charles Dickens has drawn already; but there are little pathetic touches in it which no one in our day, except Mr. Thackeray and Mr. Dickens, is in the habit of producing. Little Nell is a far more finished portrait than little Sophy, but little Sophy bears quite the same relation to little Nell that a Christmas members of “All the Year Round” does to a two-volume novel. …
The pity is that he doesn’t turn his attention annually to something a little better, and on a larger scale. A Christmas books by Charles Dickens used to be one of the entertainments of the season. It has been succeeded by a witty and pleasing chapter in which Charles Dickens attempts to carry off the absurdity and the dead weight of the chapters which he joint-stock company have added to his. The Irish legend which comes second in “Doctor Marigold `s Prescription”, and which is “not to be taken bedtime”, might we believe, be taken with perfect impunity at that or any other hour, even in the most haunted house. The narrative of the composer of popular conundrums, like popular conundrums in general, is very deadly; it is possible the gentlemen who has devoted so much of his valuable time to composing Chapter III in “Doctor Marigold `s Prescription”. Stories a Quakeress, of a detective policeman, and a murderer man `s ghost follow. They are very poor and very stupid, and are only fit for perusal in a railway train at the critical period when all the daily papers have been exhausted, and no book or periodical of any kind is to be had within a hundred miles. “Doctor Marigold `s Prescription is to be had for moderate sum. Charles Dickens is doubtless worth it all; but we very much doubt whether his assistants are worth the paper on which their efforts of genius have been printed.23
This was the extra Christmas Number of “All the Year Round,” 1863. Mrs. Lirriper was vastly popular, and Charles Dickens revived her the following year, in “Mrs. Lirriper `s Legacy”. Noticing this the “Saturday Review” wrote: “the twelve page in which, last Christmas, Mr. Dickens made her a familiar friend to so many thousands of people are perhaps the most inimitable of his performances”, but regrettably Charles Dickens had now sentimentalized her – “The last half of Charles Dickens `s contribution to the present number might almost have been written by the authors of the stories which make up the rest, and anything less flattering could scarcely be said” – probably by James Fidzjames Stephen.
Mr. Charles Dickens to the delights of hundreds of thousands is himself again in “Mrs. Lirriper `s Lodgings. The public can have the satisfaction of renewing its old pleasure, and reading something new which Charles Dickens has scarcely, if ever, surpassed. Mr. Lirriper is entitled to rank with Mrs. Nickleby and Mrs. Gamp. And when Charles Dickens writes at his best, it is surprising how very unlike him are all his imitators, and how subtle and numerous are the touches by which he maintains his superiority. There are one or two faults in Mrs. Lirriper, as it seems to us especially her turn for verbal epigrams and little smartnesses of language, which appears inconsistent with the simple ungrammatical shrewdness and volubility of her utterances. The general impression she produces is not that of a woman who would say of the opposition lodgings in her street that the bedrooms advertised night-porter is “stuff”. Nor would she be likely, we should have thought, to say to teeth, “that they are nuisances from the tune we cut them to the tune they cut us.” But if even this criticism is right – and we must acknowledge that the enormous observations of lodgings could alone have revealed to Mr. Dickens so many secrets of the life led in them may have introduced him to epigamic landladies – this is very small blot in a great performance. There are only twelve pages of Mrs. Lirriper, and yet she is so drawn in that show space that we can scarcely believe that there really no such person, and that a fortnight ago no one had ever heard of her. She is one of those creations which show how genius is separated from mere clever analysis. She stands by us like living character, and not, as ever in the works of Charles Dickens is so common, as a peg on which funny drolleries and references to some physical peculiarities is hung. She is quite the lodging-keeper; fills her house as well as she can; hates Mrs. Wozenham, her rival, with a true professional hatred; and yet she has a goodness, and overflow of humor and sense, and benevolence quite her own. The abundance of by-remarks that proceed from her is inexhaustible and although, by the characteristic oddity of expression they are tolerably well connected with her, they are often instances of the drollest and happiest fancies that have come from Charles Dickens. What, for example, can be more far-fetched and yet more true that Mrs. Lirriper `s view of photographs, as “wanting in mellowness as a general rule and making you look like a new-ploughed field”; or the description a boy with a parcel, as “a most impartment young sparrow of a monkey whistling with dirty shoes on the clean steps and playing the harp on the airy railings with a hoop stick”, or her confession, as to Norfolk Street, strand, that “of a summer evening when the dust and waste paper lie in it, and stray children play in it, and a kind of gritty calm and bake in it, and a peal of church bell practicing in the neighborhood, it is truffle dull”. At the same time, it must be owned that any single detached oddity, however happy can not give any idea of successful whole. For in those of Charles Dickens `s works which, in comparison with “Martin Chuzzlewit” or “David Copperfield”, are utter failures, there were never wanting some scattered happiness of this sot, and it might be possible to pick a sparkling sentence or two even out the vast waste of “Little Dorrit”. Things become amusing, when said by Mrs. Lirriper or Mrs. Gamp, which would scarcely raise a smile if they came from one of the sharm funny people who in themselves are mere blanks. …
How true to nature, even to their most trivial details, almost every character and every incident in the works of the great novelist whose dust has just been laid to rest, really were, is best known those whose tastes or whose duties led them to frequent the paths of life from which Charles Dickens delighted to draw. But none, except medical men can judge of the rare fidelity with which he followed the great Mother through the devious paths of disease and death. In reading “Oliver Twist”, “Dombey and Son”, or “Chimes”, or even “No Thoroughfare” the physician often felt temped to say, “What a gain it would have been devoted his powers to the medical art!” It must be forgotten that his description of hectic (in Oliver Twist) has found its way into more than one standard work, in both medium and surgery; that he anticipated the clinical researches of Mr. Dax, Broca, and Hughlings Jackson, on the connection of right hemiplegia with aphasia: and that his descriptions of epilepsy in Walter Wilding and of moral and mental insanity in characters too memorous, to mention, show the hand of a master. It is feeble praise to add that he was always just, and generally generous, to our profession. Even his descriptions of our Bob Sawyers and their less reputable friends always wanted the quarseness, and, let us add, the unreality, of Albert Smiths; so that we ourselves could well afford to laugh with the man who sometimes laughed at us, but laughed only as one who loved us. One of the later efforts of his pen was to advance the interests of the East London Hospital for children; and his sympathies were never absent from the sick and suffering of every age. 24
As usual as Christmas the extra member of Household of Words contains a story, the greater part of which is writing by Charles Dickens, but which on this occasions less a festive tribute to the season that a celebration of the great qualities displayed by our race in recent emergences, Crimean and Indian. The reader may, indeed, object to this description that there is no mention of India or the Crimea in its pages, that its scenery belongs to fable land, and that its characters and incidents are purely imaginary. But the moral elements are the same in either case, in his events and the ideal narrative, and there is so far and identity in both series of transcriptions that the novelist may be charged with a public function and convicted of a patriotic interest in political crisis. In the prevalent spent of criticism we have little doubt that Charles Dickens will be sat on his trill for this great irregularity. It may be argued that “The Perils of Certain English Prisoners and the treasure in women, children, silver and jewels” are a sort of professional or preoccupied ground, and that the novelist has no title to seek in public transactions which are passing under his eyes materials for his idealization, or to furnish romantic types of the actual achievements which his well ascribe to the heroism of the countryman and contemporaries. His readers on the other hand, may reply to this objection that it’s clearly symptomatic of a growing tendency to extend patterned rights over the residue of creation, and so may evince their sympathy with the trespasser. At all events, his offence has its phrase of utility, and is not insignificant as a part of the dispensation by which national virtues are kept alight, and their splendor lives in familiar observation. From the “Iliad” downwards men of imagination have been foremost to display the qualities of their respective races when raced to heroic hates of emotion and action; they have labored to bring these into high relief and to range them monumentally for recognition and honor; and in gathering fame themselves out of such endeavors, they have rendered no pity service to their compatriots, in these days, when the men of imagination for the most part write novels, or, in other words, when the novelists for the most part do the work of men of imagination, there is no reason that we know about why they should neglect this portion of it. Originally the chief minis trance in the behalf was poets, but the poets of this day have hung their harps upon the welowes and taken to celebrate their “soul agonies” and personal inconveniences. The writer who would touch a national theme at all must at least have some claim to be considered national himself – national in his fame or national in his sympathies, and we question if anyone of his harshest critics will deny that this qualification is possessed by Charles Dickens.
… Short and slight as this story is, it enables Charles Dickens to bring out the salient traits so recently displayed by his countrymen and country – women amid hardships and dangerous which have never been existed. Their intrepidity and self-confidence, their habit of grumbling at each other without occasion and of helping each other when occasion arises, the promptitude with which they accommodate themselves to any emergency and the practical ability with which they surmount every embarrassment the latent sympathy between gentle and simple, the rude and refined which common hazards stimulate and common sufferings sanctify; in short, the sprit of mutual reliance of receptoral service and sacrifice, which they have exhibited in fact Charles Dickens hast striven to reproduce in fiction. It was impossible that he should touch this or any theme whatever without infusing into it some of his humor or of the force of his genius. But he has evidently to content with the very fullness of his subject, which leaves little margin for imaginative decoration. These awful horrors of which we know the literal particulars have been mingled with such spectacles of moral grandeur and heroism that invention can hardly elevate or ingenuity enhances them. … Where the reported reality is so astounding it is only the talent of Charles Dickens, employed for a legitimate purpose, which could induce us for a moment to listen to the echo.
“Christmas is good time: a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time: the only time I know of in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of other people below them as if they really feel fellow – passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys.”
Last thirty years he was always on a trip – he left England and came back, ran from London and returned over again, he departed from public work and again immersed in it. At times, among these throwing, romantic dreams of a young maiden took him away. But as a whole, he was of a great geniality and communicated with his friends, whom he attracted due to his charm and vigorous energy. Besides, he, in all possible ways, searched new means to strengthen the communicable relations with the reader – contrary to varying forms of the creativity, counter to changes in public taste, to spite of attacks of creative powerlessness that enthusiastic appreciation of public was switched from his novel to him, but in any other field of activity; that in this sphere passing improvisations have found a place that appeared in his novels in connection with necessity to issue novel publications. And he has found – all over again in Christmas stories and amateur performance, then editorial work, and soon – in public readings of his compositions. The listed art impulses were not always realized by Charles Dickens, more often he was urged on with material reasons and crave of public work, he was never given to one thing, especially to the detriment of his novels. And only one sphere of his creative activity had the direct connection with his artistic world – “Christmas Stories”.25
The idea about first of them, “Christmas Songs”, came to his mind in grandiose meeting in Manchester where, acting together with Disraeli and others, he stated his conviction that the education is capable to serve the sanction of all social problems in England. He has created “Song” during the night walks across London streets, when he still was writing “Martin Chuzzlewit”. This thing has been conceived to return the arrangement of the reader depressed with the failure of his novels. In Christmas days, 1843, “Song” published in excellent edition, with the illustrations of the well-known artist, a good friend of Charles Dickens., John Leach. The successes of the enterprise, direct reaction of readers have convicted him of necessity to continue the started business. The next year, he printed “The Chimes” illustrated by his friends-artists. And then, excluding 1847, extremely intense because of work on the novel “Dombey and Son”, he annually published one Christmas story: “The Cricket on the Heart”, “Battle of Life”, etc – the last one published in 1848. Becoming the editor of “Household Words” and till his death, Dickens Charles frequently included in “Christmas Number” specially written story even if it is not on a Christmas theme at all.
Among these later Christmas stories there are a lot of interesting biographical materials-as "Christmas Tree", the other had the huge popularity-"Seven Poor Travelers", "Mrs.Lirriper’s Lodgings", "Dr.Marigold’s Prescriptions" and so on. But as a whole, Dickens genius was close within the framework of the story, humor, which had no boundaries, pathos, spending on a trifle, decorated with sentimentality, there is the complete absence of overtones which is put into a work with great thematic spheres of life, and that is why the stories raise from the level of boring journalistic prose, there is not even that tension and true action, which differentiate the best examples of Victorian journalistic novelistic,-this can be said not about the last story written with Wilkie Collins. With the exception of one, Christmas stories"-are not great success of Dickens. "Novelette" or "story"-are not suitable for him. "Battle of Life" and "The haunted man" deserved great success, luck even when it just appeared and nowadays, these creative works caused enormous interest as the witness of the attachment of Dickens to his life experience, here changed into highly enterprise stories. “Cricket on the Heart” was very popular at his time; the figure of the girl-wife is described pathetically – central in “David Copperfield” – and an amazing ability to see freakish images, faces, and pictures on the red-hot coal, highly described; the biggest success got “The Chimes”, story helps to understand the social position of Charles Dickens and by the way shows the extraordinary role of an author as the political satiric.
In the context of Charles Dickens creative activity, the complex analysis of social defects and their interdependence is emphasized, preparing grandiose linen of the later masterpieces: kind motives of villains in “The Chimes” directed ideas prompting earlier name of the novel Little Dorrit – “No One Guilty”. Only one Christmas story is read with great pleasure till the present days – the earliest, Christmas Song, and this merited success where the short form is revealed in the most profitable way: energetic action, natural dialogue, simple plot. From that point of view we can realize the whole idea about social problems disturbing Charles Dickens, however, here these problems understood as a myth accompanying Dickens from his childhood, and the scene appeared amazingly natural, as if simple, clear, logic dream.
In Martin Chuzzlewit Charles Dickens has already tried to create the world of dreams, one way or another presents in all his novels. In the eve of murder of Montague Tigg, John Chuzzlewit dreams of the end of life: something strange, disturbed, as if the city is seen above from the bird flight, a lot of people hurrying in the streets – they are familiar, but they look strange, they pass as the chilly memories of everything what had happened to hi in his life. This type of dream takes its origin from the Arabic tales, where the heroes of the story fly on the carpet-plane or on the wings of the magic bird above the cities, countries. Lesage used this idea in his own story, but the scenes of social life and morality is described by the author and he showed the contrast between – wealth and poverty, guilt and innocence, old and youth, death and birth.
In Christmas song, in the dreams of Scrooge, these two themes merged as a whole –we see the world by these contrasts and we also are informed about past life of Scrooge, his gone childhood that will never return and lost innocence. In the latent depth of Scrooge’s visions Dickens Charles hides his personal pains, suffered in the factory of Warren: we find ourselves in the horrible darkness after the warm bedroom; from the hot fire we are taken away to the deserted, bare plains, to the sea; we just sit at the holiday table – and already see thrown children: the name of a girl – Poverty, the name of a boy – Ignorance. That time Dickens convicted that the crime, poverty, inequality, violence which he hated and was afraid of in modern society, - all these is cause of uneducation, I think everybody should think like that if they need and desire better future for themselves and for their nation. Charles Dickens always believed in education, but his thoughts about the methods of education essentially changed. But, then, coming back from America, he did not change his mind that only education is able to stop the deep-rooted evil, where he saw consequence of injustice and severely arranged society, where the human is only economic unit.
This idea presents in two firstly written Christmas stories, but in The Chimes Charles Dickens gives it as thesis in the form of political satire that in Christmas Song, accompanying it with horrible scene facing Scrooge children – Ignorance and Poverty – he expresses his past sufferings and ideas. Scrooge is last who could be appealed to – all kind-hearted generous men, who are able to reorganize the society with personal nobility and generosity. The difficulty, however, presents because Scrooge is partly hero of typical story with ghosts; but this Christmas story, myth about expiation and condescended for good fortune, is necessary for holiday, promising changes better future. We can not mark Scrooge as the true merchant. Like Pickwick, he passes through purifying fire of world sufferings, only for this reason he should experience his own childhood, to see childhood of Little Tim, by the spirits of Poverty and Ignorance to see general childhood. And in the middle of our lives we are under the power of the death – “…christmas holidays… when people… visit their relatives, they see their close peoples even in poor and destitute persons, they are just as we, walking across on the road of death, but there are also another type of men who choose another ways” – so, even in our childhood we are on the threshold of the end. In the visions of Scrooge, he sees the childhood of him come to the end and his heart becomes rough; he visions the death of Tim, and other kids’ too – Ignorance and Poverty – come forward as the bulletin of something more terrible: “mostly care about the boy, the “death” follows him”: the nightmares of Scrooge were so horrible – but, all depends on the occasion, whether to sit with the kid by the fire or to be “a little boy lost in the snow-storm”, about what Little Tim sang about, with the thin, pity, low voice, and sang it truly splendidly. Neither in the Christmas stories nor in “The Chimes” there is no consecutive scenes of social abuse, and there is only one means to stop all this – praying; but these nightmares make us to understand how the life is unsafe and the small happiness, joy of us is unlasting, then the vague idea appears that all these emotions have connection with something forgotten in our childhoods, and also it has connection with Christianity. These thoughts belonged to Charles Dickens: “How joyful is to feel like a child, at times.” Essentially, Dickens talked about various themes in his Christmas stories, however, he used narrative form of writing, and rearranged it as the stories which he read in his childhood and related them with his biggest wish. That is why the Christmas stories make reader to think deeply on it and gives sentimental emotions. This idea concerns another books of Charles Dickens too. That is why the novel Oliver Twist is wide-read all over the world, and lovely book of the readers. Impression of the Christmas stories on readers was surprising. Dickens’ heart filled with generous feeling. Thackeray wrote: “You blessed everyone who read this story.” Unfortunately, Charles Dickens got less profit from the great circulation of the stories than he counted on.26
Blessed with ageless appeal, the stories of Charles Dickens were the drawing force behind the Victorian era’s revival of the previously declining Yuletide tradition. Universally popular almost from the moment of publication, they are widely regarded as the catalyst that rekindled the joy of Christmas in Britain and America. Originally published in the weekly periodical Household Words, which Dickens edited until his death, these short-stories capture the very essence of Christmas as it was meant to be… a joyous celebration of family and friends.
§2. The differential features between Dickens’ and Irving’s Christmas stories.
Dickens, Charles is fairly considered as the first writer who invented this genre in England. Christmas stories appeared not accidentally in Dickens’ creative activity. They rose completely naturally, so these stories corresponded to his inner logics of the artistic method. This condition was marked by such a penetrating historian of literature – Lois Cazamian, who subtitled the chapter about Charles Dickens as “La Philosophie de Noel”, in his book of English socialistic novel.
However, it does not mean that the genre of Christmas stories did not exist until Dickens in other countries, even in little bit different form. The existence and appearance of this genre in the epoch of Romanticism in literature is so natural and possible, because Christmas story appear due to national beliefs spread in different countries, some kind of magic happening at Christmas night. For romanticists, as it is known, orientating in using folklore for material; decorated with mystic, dark, “ballad” tones, Christmas national fantastic had to be quite comprehendible.
That is why it is necessary that writers of one nation have to create Christmas stories under the direct influence of literature of another nation. Difference of styles, an approach to the theme and its development, make us to suppose that there is no interdependence between them.
For this reason, we can talk about the realistic type of Christmas stories, close to Charles Dickens, - on the book of sketches of a great American writer, Washington Irving.
Firstly, however, it is important to note that the elucidating basis of Christmas ideology, the talk is not about the concept “Christmas of church”, but about the “religion of the heart”, the cult of home preached by Irving and Dickens, true, with sentimental philistine-religious elements, however, not composed integral element of his genre.27
The book of Washington Irving was written, mainly, about England and became famous due to its London publication in 1820.
Five sketches were dedicated to Christmas theme in his book. Irving concerns to England, as many romanticist writers concerns to the past of their countries. That is why, we will not find the descriptions of cities and mode of life in the cities. That city romanticism, which brought up Dickens Charles and formed his character and manners as a writer, was not mentioned by Washington Irving. The city for Irving is a world of “business”, assemblage of businessmen, always busy, always hurrying to somewhere, completely indifferent to each other. We know that Charles Dickens in his urban landscape can find people from another mode of life, from different level of society. They are equally unusual, ekzotic, and more archaic than middle townsman. Irving acts in different way. He searches for archaism out of cities, for example, conservative romanticists in rural regions, in the villages.
Rural life appeals Washington Irving not only by its beautiful parks and gardens, by its ancient castles and picturesque churches and cottages, but also by that social advantage which villages could save despite to cities.
Here, in peaceful rural silence there is not that social contrast, yet, which is typical for big modern cities. From Irving’s point of view, every inhabitant of the villages is satisfied with their place in society and treatment between various estates is built in harmony.
This conservative social-political tendency of Washington Irving we have to remember in analyzing of his Christmas stories.
Describing Christmas holiday in England, Irving shows happy rural life. Christmas, Irving considers, puts into people’s hearts peace and love. Christmas is a time when everybody restores old relationships with family and friends, which is weakened with the course of time. Sons and daughters who left their homes return to their family to remember nostalgic memories of childhood, by the fire. Everyone become younger and loves each other at Christmas. This period of year gives great enjoyment, because of warm and comfortable family atmosphere at the fireplace. Short cloudy days, and dark nights, empty landscape covered with snow make people to gather tighter at homes and evaluate simple joys of family members much more than usually. Bright red flames illuminating room, - this is like the artificial sun, lit up faces and making them to smile to everybody who newly came. Christmas – is the time of hearty hospitality for everyone, it is time of secular games and entertainment. As if, all the doors and hearts are widely opened to the most sincere fun. At this universal holiday unity, says Irving, disappear all boundaries between different social levels, so peasant and peer approach to one another attacked by the similar joy.
The sweet noise of songs come from old nobiliary manors, tables are served, decorated with different meals, sweets, and so on. But peasant’s cabin is also decorated with evergreen branches, they invite the passer-by to in their homes to warm themselves, and to shorten long winter nights, listening old legends and Christmas stories.
Washington Irving describes the ideal influence of Christmas holiday to the society. Charles Dickens wholly accepts this ideology of Christmas, changing it into complete world outlook in his Pickwick Papers. But here, the differences between them appear over again: Washington Irving, with the strict accuracy of ethnographer, shows the Christmas holiday in villages, pedantically restoring ancient patriarchal traditions, but Dickens finds his Christmas idyll in any place and in any family, he is not interested in the form of holiday and its historical meaning. Describing his freak, Washington Irving’s mood changes, because his freak and his customs now in modern England – are occasional saved fragments of past, condemned to be forgotten, to die.
In the meaning of historical contradiction and in a concrete direction of his sympathies, Washington Irving is older than Dickens, Charles for one generation. Many things, here, have not lost its utopian elements of the XVIII century, and there is much influence of artificial archaic of conservative romanticism.
Typical that Irving describes old knights’ armour in old house or under the vault of Westminster Abbey, in more natural atmosphere for it, but in Charles Dickens’ creative activity we will find them already in the Old Curiosity Shop, where they are adapted to new form of life and turned from the objects of superior honor to the objects of the purchase and sale.
Both of these writers are connected by the moral-hedonistic aim of their creative activity. Washington Irving is not purposed to show the right way by the sermon, but just to entertain and cheer up. Moral value of his stories arises naturally. He ends his Christmas series with these words:
“Significantly more pleasant to be appreciated than to teach, to be in a role of the companion than to be a teacher… if I accidentally succeed to smooth just a wrinkle on somebody’s anxious face and to make one’s aggravated with sadness heart to forget all the evil and sufferings just for a time; if I can disseminate the hatred of people to each other, help them to look at the world and human nature with happy sight and to inspire people with more optimistic treatment to themselves and to their relatives and family, so, it means that I writings were not vain.”
Charles Dickens in his “Sketches by Boz”, he continues an idyll line of Christmas stories started by Washington Irving.
As like as Irving, in Charles Dickens’ stories the theme is not about the religious ideology, but only specifics which found for itself special symbolics of social philosophy.
However, Dickens had the same gentle feelings to Christmas, as Irving, and similarly considering this holiday as source of spiritual reconciliation, have strength fighting to each other, and possibility of their conciliation in other conditions, in a condition of modern bourgeois society: transferring the contradictions seen by him to the real class circumstances, he orientates to the truly existing struggle and sympathizes forces that really takes forward.28
True, real, democratic Dickensian views to life creates realistic and progressive basis of his creative activity even in his Christmas stories.
This clear social orientation of Christmas theme was absent in Dickens’ early creative works.
It became possible in that stage of development of Dickens as a writer, when the realistic nuances of his creative activity began to prevail on the utopian ones.
Three Christmas stories in 1843, 1844 and 1845 (Christmas Carol in prose, The Chimes, and The Cricket on the Hearth) testifies of a mature mastership and quite determined views of an author to the bourgeois reality.
These sentimental stories about involving of all people to the world of fair and mutual support are the basic differentiating character of the poor man in a contrast with the rich man, as to the philosophy of Dickens.
Christmas evening – is the time when the unexpected miracle, changes, and reconciliations are possible in the world of social inequality and “steady” injustice. In this evening, relentless rules of class struggle and economic inequality suddenly stop operating with complete strength and its result – mutual hatred of people to each other – yield its place to love and brotherly feelings. This is evening (it can be not only Christmas evening, but also the New Year Evening as in “The Chimes”), when cruelty of the modern world get eliminated, and humanity for a moment becomes the happy society in Telem Abbey.
“From the childhood till present day, - says idyll nephew of the non-idyll uncle Scrooge, - Christmas holiday appears to me as the day of joy, forgiving, goodwill, enjoyment, - only one day on the calendar when I deeply believe that all people, men and women, as if hide the closed hearts of themselves and accept the people from lower society, and even only for a day became friends with them, walking across to the “grave”, but not another type of men who move opposite ways”. (“Christmas Carol in prose”)
These happy transformations, sure, can not happen as ordinary reality, because Charles Dickens is not so great realist. Dickens needs whole arsenal of fantastic tales, and many spirits come down from the skies to make miracles. Christmas utopia of Dickens wholly consists of fantastic, and reveals its fragility and shortness. Despite this sounds like paradox, the degree of the fantastic of his Christmas stories is criterion of realness of Dickens’ outlook.
In the literature of XVIII century people changed, became better, sympathized and became noble as the result of mental influence of good example, confluence of circumstances.
As the example to such “happy” fortune, following hero in spite of his will and conscious, taking him to the condition of harmony, and despite to the apparent difficulty and obstacles, can be given as “Wilhelm Maister” by Goethe. But this moral regeneration of people in other novels of XVIII century is significantly simpler, not so high-principled and philosophical form.
Villains repent just for “happy” logics of the creative work, plot brings them eventually, to the optimistic climax, and for this purpose there is no need to other extraneous characters (“Tom Johns”).
The novel of the XVIII century aims to show that society is able to isolate, to neutralize the villain with the help of their own strength, depriving him from any opportunity to counteract against good even if he has not repented, or has not repented definitely.
Such satisfactory plot reflects deep belief of the writer to the positive, vital opportunity of bourgeois society, where despite of the existence of defects and injustice, he tries to find the power and humans, who would be able to take the depressed virtue under his protection.
The novel of Goldsmith “Wakefield priest” has similar theme. Even if the priest’s family is poor, beginning from the prison and finishing by imaginary death of priest’s lovely daughter Olivia, “revived” at the end of the novel, nevertheless, the happy-ending organically follows from the here expressed philosophy of life. Thus, author does not express his villain Tornguil as the originator of all misfortune of the family, quite repented. And, nevertheless, this goes right due to that among the oppressed people but also among the strong people, there are men who care for the “law and justice”. Uncle of villain, Sir William Tornquil, appears to be a kind personality, whose purpose is to make happy suffered man and to punish the criminal.
Similar cases are less and less in the novels of Charles Dickens. Villains as Kvilp, Riderhood, Rigo-Blandoir, Uri Gip or Ralph Nickleby need to be punished cruelly, relentlessly. They perish not being forgiven by the author, who does not believe that they can radically change to the better in the frame of reality. Only Scrooge can change because it happens to him in the Christmas night. Christmas stories of Charles Dickens about good villains – are the most fantastic fantasies about the impossibility, realized exactly as impossibility. These sensibleness inventions, impossible in reality, are rather significant. And not without reason, common joy and vitality of their color constantly are accompanied by the shade of sentimental sadness, concerning to that this is only a tale. To the order with the funny inventions, author constantly shows also unfunny inventions, which always exist in the world, contrary to one fantastic night composed by the writer himself, which he himself half believe.
And as the joyful flames of the fireplace seems to be brighter because of the darkness in the rooms, darkness in the streets, similar in the Christmas stories of Charles Dickens holiday night is fantastic and full of kindness, because only this night of the year is able to bring changes to better. And if the poor man celebrates a joyful holiday in this evening and if the rich men join to them, then in the future there will be many gloomy everyday life and severe tests, where this magic clocks of the human unification will disappear. This hopelessness of “merry Christmas”, its fictitiousness constantly felt in Charles Dickens’ Christmas stories and add to them original melancholic color.29
Charles Dickens trying to save the idyll should limit its scale; leave the great social-philosophical questions, so idyll is powerless contrast to the bourgeois society. Dickens finds idyllic symbiosis of poor with the rich, about what he dreams in his sentimental stories, not in the world where openly happens class struggle, but in the “small world” of intimate family life. Idyll of Dickens, expelled from the sphere of big social laws, appears too correlated with the insignificant events of family life, getting meaning and sense by the subjective perception of the participants of this event. Miracles of this idyll – is the miracles of the “small world” with its dissolution about daily life cares and psychological microscopis Dickens such a realist that he describes that the manufacturer is not able to feel sorry for the working man’s misfortune, when he acts as the businessman on official reason. And some operator, coming to the poor man’s home for “personal reason”, and feeling atmosphere of love, mutual understanding and support dominating there, can suddenly be moved, and change even for a time, even for a night refuse his operational essence.
The author attributes to this “domestic” ideology special, all-conquering authority. He searches for the means among the oppressors of the modern capitalism, which could unite poor men with the rich man, serving as the bridge to them from the other, gloomy world.
Some characters of the human Dickens wanted to announce as common for all people, as the humanist of the last century. Dickens can not do this in the field of the wide social question, because in the XIX century it was already appeared and formed as class ideology. The questions of common outlook, life philosophy, conscience or honour of bourgeois or poor man will be defined completely differently in Dickens, and author will emphasize that differentiation. But some nuances of similarity, some of the opportunity of rapprochement he will try to find in all people. This is secondary for society, but nevertheless, Dickens uses it as the basis of his utopia of the human unification. This basis – is sentimental ideology of the family. Abstracted “family” feelings can be unifying power for all the people. Rich father can understand his poor father, because they both are fathers. The rich person in due time, probably was little badgered boy, and that is why he is able suddenly to be touched, when he meets as little badgered boy as he himself.
Characterizing avidity and callousness of English bourgeois, Engels wrote:
“Of course, these English bourgeois – are good husbands and fathers…”
In the ideology of Dickens and Haskell, “domesticity” (because it is understood as the abstract category, as the nobility of any “human generally”) is equivalent to the ability of exploitator to leave his class limits to the wide sphere human commonwealth. In the limited form XVIII century’s ideology had great ideological influence.
In his three main Christmas stories Dickens produced not only the principles of “domestic”, “Christmas world outlook”, but also he set steady form to express it.
Christmas Carol in prose, The Chimes and The Cricket on the Hearth are unified by their mood and similarity of the compositions.
They are related also by the unity of the narrative intonation. In all three stories, more and less, appear the figure of the story-teller sitting by the fireplace and addressing to his listeners also sitting there, too. He as if continues conversation, which then gradually develop to the related narration, and thus, by its presence emphasizes Christmas spirit.
“The cattle started the first. Do not object that Mrs. Pirinbingle thinks differently. I know better. Let her repeat endlessly that she can not tell who began the first; but I say the cattle. I guess I should know? For the Holland clocks standing at the corner, the cattle began five minutes earlier than the cricket started its song”.
The Cricket on the Hearth begins as this.
The Christmas Carol in prose begins with the establishment of the fact, that Marley was as dead as the door nail.
“Let me, - go on. – it does not mean that I certainly know that there is nothing more dead than the door nail” – etc., with the sound of the friendly conversation with the listeners.
The Chimes begins with description of the night wind, howling on the walls of an old empty church:
“Oh, Lord! Save us from it, - us, sitting around the fire. It has horrible sound, - of the midnight wind, howling in the church.
Oh! On the campanile! That is where he whistles and growls with the anger! – etc. “And so I am going to tell the story about such bells in such an old church”.
Gradually, the voice of the story-teller weakens and disappears, conceding its place to the narration, and, however, in order to appear in the end of the story. Thus, the impression of the story by the fire keep presenting till the end of the narration.
In many stories story teller reminds us about his presence, interfering into the story:
“As to my mind, I do not agree with Toby’s opinion about the bells, so I do not doubt that he had much time to think deeply about it and also develop it. I will stand for Toby, but I doubt that he stood at the doors of the church any day or any week. The matter is that Toby was messenger, and he was waiting for the order.”
In The Cricket on the Hearth, when the talk begins about Tekleton, the story-teller appears again:
“Did I tell you that one eye of him is always widely opened and another almost closed; and the almost closed one was just more expressive? I suppose I did not”.
And not only story-teller’s personality, but also fiction of the listener, whom he addresses, appears in the narration from time to time:
“But as to the stuffing tobacco, Dot was the master of it; how dexterously she fired the rolled scrap of the paper when he needed to light the grape stalk, - that was an art, sir, real art”.
However, the appearance of the fiction “story-teller on the fire” sometimes interrupted by the real story-teller, an author, Charles Dickens.
This is one of the not numerous examples:
“Bright light spread all over the room, and curtains in the Scrooge’s room moved.
Curtains of his room, I say, were moved by the invisible hand. Not those curtains what was hung near his legs, and nor at his head, but the curtains before his face. The curtains of his bed were moved, and waking up Scrooge came to be face to face with the supernatural visitor, who moved the curtains: as close to him as I am close to you now, and me, near your elbow as the ghost!”
That person who told that the curtains were moved – is fiction author of the story, “story-teller by the fire”. The man who appears near the reader’s elbow as the ghost is – Charles Dickens himself.
Both story-tellers do not bother one another and all these interlacing of intonations develop newer lyric-humorous shade.
However, that is not all. Fiction of the story-teller means also another thing: with the help of the fiction is emphasized that the told accidents are just a tale, not more. Despite of there area lot of sad and even horrible things, as the same the story is false, or the story with the happy-ending should not be taken so close to heart, too serious.
Because of that, story-teller before beginning to tell the story makes some joke that will not offend anybody.
This little domestic joke, yet little bit concerning to the context of the narration, gives people safety and presentiment about the happy-ending.
For example, in Christmas Carol it happens as follows:
Mention about the funeral of Marley makes me return back to the beginning of my story. There was no doubt that Marley is dead. It should be comprehended because there will be no extraordinary thing in the occasion which I am going to tell. If we doubted that Hamlet’s father was dead until the raising of the curtains, then his night walks under the burst of the eastern wind would not amaze us such as appearing of any other gentleman in the dark empty place, - for example in the cemetery of St. Peter.
Or it can be said also about Toby in The Chimes, when author describes his inconveniences in his work as messenger, and poor Toby’s struggle with the northern wind:
“The wind, especially northern, was striking him with frenzy from the corner, as if purposely came from nowhere to slap in his face… his cane was vainly taken by him to fight with the bad weather. Soon, his weak legs began horribly shake, he was turning to the right, then to the left, he shivered, he bent but nothing helped him. He was terribly exhausted, tormented, hackneyed, he hardly stood on his legs that fortunately was not taken up and thrown down by the wind hundred times like the frogs, snails or other ugly creatures.
The hero, who is described with jokes by the author, can not be tragic hero, and if only unhappiness follows him, it reminds us about the happy outcome of the story.
But not only the narrative intonation gives especially comfortable, “domestic” mood to the Charles Dickens’ stories. The attitude to the phenomena of the world, to the life is full conformity with this intonation. Here it is described special form of the myth of the home, where the action and dead subordinated God’s will of the “little world”. 30
All the accidents are valued by the listeners sitting around the fireplace. There is nothing worse to them than the cold winter night, sharp wind, the fog or the slush. Idyll of Christmas consists of idolized dot of the light in the darkness of the night. That is why the description of the city moving from one source of the light to the other: brightened shops, the windows of the houses, lantern. The reality is divided into two visual and sharply limited spheres – lightened and darkened, that some kind of treatment of the light settled down concordant to this principle. However, even “big nature” is lowered to the domestic environment by the corresponded methods.
The description of the fog in the streets of London is as follows:
“Watching these dark clouds, coming down and enveloping the surrounding everything with the deep darkness, it seems that the Nature is settled somewhere so near.”
Thus, Dickens creates a world of original artificial, idyll reality in his Christmas stories which attracts to its sphere only what is taken from the darkness of the “big world” and what can be brighten the family life with the reconciliatory fire.
In this “domestication” of any theme, even more horrible and serious, the main thing is Charles Dickens’ humor. This is special holiday relation to the life, reducing all everyday disturbances to the absence of the fun and fried turkeys, and all happiness of the life – to their presence.
The special kind of “culinary” humor of Charles Dickens is created to soften, dissolve the comic, and “domesticate” any theme, even the horrible or traditionally severe theme.
The most horrible things in Dickens creative activity can seem very comfortable, “family” thanks to his humor.31
In “Master Humphrey’s Clock”, in the introductory chapters, where we again meet the heroes of “Pickwick Papers” – with Mr. Pickwick and his servant described the story about middle-ages prosecutions, burning and drowning of the old women who were suspected in diablerie. This is typical sample for Dickens to outplay the history humorously and also characteristic example of his “culinary” aspect of humor at all.
That is what we read about the prosecution of the witches in this story:
“Windsor was very little town in that time, but it was possible to guess that this town also did not avoid the general infection, raged in all over the England. In the birthday of a king, Windsor people welded one witch in a boiler and sent one bottle of this broth to the king with the congratulation addressing. The king, little bit scared of this gift, submissively gave it to the archbishop of Canterbury and answered to the congratulation with the message, where he explained golden rules of catching the witches…” and so on.
In the absolute grotesque-“culinary” aspect treated the theme of the suicide (here we can not talk about the serious treatment of the suicide, but about the anecdotic meaning in the history), told to Pickwick by Sam Weller. This story is about a gentleman, owner of the sausage factory, whose wife tormented him, and he ran into melancholy and throws himself into the sausage machine and was made to the sausages. His wife had no idea about this accident and though that he went away to America, for this reason she published newspaper advertisements addressing to his husband to make him come back and that she “forgave” him everything. But when suddenly one unfamiliar gentleman came to her and told that he found the button in the sausage and when she recognized that this is button of her husband’s trousers, she understood the “frightening truth”.
And that time, the grotesque humor of Charles Dickens does not destroy plausibility of the happenings. Emphasized, naked fantastic of the Christmas stories (both humorous and pathetic) nevertheless, maintains in Dickens’ visibility of realism.
§3. Critic views of the stories “Somebody’s Luggage” and “Mrs. Lirriper’s Lodgings”.
The power of Dickens is shown even in the scraps of Dickens, just as the virtue of a saint is said to be shown in fragments of his property or rags from his robe. It is with such fragments that we are chiefly concerned in the Christmas stories. Many of them are fragments in the literal sense; Dickens began them and then allowed someone else to carry them on; they are almost rejected notes. In all the other cases we have been considering the books he wrote; here we have rather to consider the books that he might have written. And here we find the final evidence and the unconscious stamp of greatness, as we might find it in some broken bust or some rejected moulding in the studio of Michael Angelo.
These sketches or parts of sketches all belong to that period in his later life when he had undertaken the duties of an editor, the very heavy duties of a very popular editor. He was not by any means naturally fitted for that position. He was the best man in the world for founding papers; but many people wished that he could have been buried under the foundations, like the first builder in some pagan and prehistoric pile. He called the Daily News into existence, but when once he existed, he objected to him strongly. It is not easy, and perhaps it is not important, to state truly his cause of his incapacity. It was not in the least what is called the ordinary fault or weakness of the artist. It was not that he was careless; rather it was that he was too conscientious. It was not that he had the irresponsibility of genius; rather it was that he had the irritating the responsibility of genius; he wanted everybody to see things as he saw them. But in spite of all this he certainly ran two great popular periodicals – Household Words and All the Year Round – the enormous popular success. And he certainly so far succeeded in throwing himself into the communism of journalism, into the nameless brotherhood of a big paper, that many earnest Dickensians are still engaged in picking out pieces of Dickens from the anonymous pages of Household Words and All the Year Round, and those parts which have been already beyond the question picked out and proved are often fragmentary. The genuine writing of Dickens breaks off; I fancy that we know it.32
The singular thing that some of the best work that Dickens ever did, better than the works in his best novels can be found in these slight and composite scraps of journalism. For instance, the solemn and self-satisfied account of the duty and dignity of a waiter given in the opening chapter of Somebody’s Luggage is quite as full and fine as anything done anywhere by its author in the same vein of sumptuous satire. It is as good as the account which Mr. Bumble gives of out-door relief, which “properly understood, is the parochial safeguard. The great thing is to give the paupers what they don’t want, and then they never come again.” It is as good as Mr. Podsnap’s description of the British Constitution, which was bestowed on him by Providence. None of these celebrated passages in more obviously Dickens at his best than this, the admirable description of “the true principles of waitering”, or the accounts of how the waiter’s father came back to his mother in broad daylight, “in itself an act of madness on the part of a waiter,” and how he expired repeating continually “two and six is three and four is nine.” That waiter’s explanatory soliloquy might easily have opened an excellent novel, as Martin Chuzzlewit is opened by the clever nonsense about the genealogy of the Chuzzlewit’s or as Bleak House opened by a satiric account of the damp, dim life of a law court. Yet Dickens practically abandoned the scheme of Somebody’s Luggage; he only wrote two sketches out of those obviously intended. He may almost be said to have only written a brilliant introduction to another man’s book.
Yet it is exactly in such broken outbreaks that his greatness appears. If a man has flung away bad ideas he has shown his sense, but he has flung away good ideas he has shown his genius. He has proved that he actually has that over-pressure of pure creativeness which we see in nature itself, “that of a hundred seeds, she often brings but one to bear.” Dickens had to be Malthusian about his spiritual children. Critics have called Keats and other who died young “the great Might-have-beens of literary history.” Dickens certainly was not merely a great Might-have-been. Dickens, to say the least of him, was a great Was. Yet this fails fully to express the richness of his talent; for the truth is that he was a great Was and also a great Might-have-been. He said what he had to say. Wild pictures, possible stories, tantalizing and attractive trains of thought, perspectives of adventure, crowded so continually upon his mind that at the end there was a vast mass of them left over, ideas that he literally had not the opportunity to develop, tales that he literally had not the time to tell. This is shown clearly in his private notes and letters, which are full of schemes singularly striking and suggestive, schemes which he never carried out. It is indicated even more clearly by these Christmas stories, collected out of a chaotic opulence of Household Words and All the Year Round. He wrote short stories actually because he had no time to write long story; many of his long stories, so to speak, broke off short. This is where he differs from most who are called the Might-have-beens of literature. Marlowe and Chatterton failed because of their weakness. Dickens failed because of his force. Examine for example this case of the waiter in Somebody’s Luggage. Dickens obviously knew enough about that waiter to have made him a running spring to joy throughout a whole novel; as a beadle in Oliver Twist, or the undertaker in Martin Chuzzlewit. Every touch of him tingles with truth, from the vague gallantry with which he asks, “Would’st thou know, fair reader (if of the adorable female sex)” to the official severity with which he takes the chambermaid down, “as many pegs as is desirable for the future comfort to all parties.” If Dickens has developed this character at full length in a book he would have preserved for ever in literature a type of great humour and great value, and a type which may only too soon be disappearing from English history. He would have eternalized the English waiter. He still exists in some sounds old taverns and decent country inns, but there is no one left really capable of singing his praises. I know that Mr. Bernard Shaw has done something of the sort in the delightfully whimsical account of William in You Never Can Tell. But nothing will persuade me that Mr. Bernard Shaw can really understand the English waiter. He can never have ordered wine from his for instance. And though the English waiter is by the nature of things solemn about everything, he can never reach the true height and ecstasy of his solemnity except about wine. What the real English waiter would do or say if Mr. Shaw asked him for a vegetarian meal it can not be predicted. We can guess that for the first time in his life he would laugh – a horrible sight. Dickens’ waiter is described by one who is not merely witty, truthful, and observant, like Mr. Bernard Shaw, but one who really knew the atmosphere of inns, one who knew and even liked the smell of beef, and beer, and brandy. Hence there is richness in Dickens’ portrait which doesn’t exist in Mr. Shaw’s. Mr. Shaw’s waiter is an opportunist in politics. Dickens’ waiter is ready to stand up seriously for “the true principle of waitering,” just as Dickens was ready to stand up for the true principles pf Liberalism. Shaw’s waiter is agnostic; his motto is “You never can tell.” Dickens’ waiter is dogmatist; his motto is “You can tell; I will tell you.” And the true old-fashioned English waiter had really this grave and even moral attitude; he was the servant of the customers as the priest is the servant of the faithful, but scarcely in any less dignified sense. Surely it is not mere patriotic partially that makes one lament the disappearance of this careful and honorable figure crowded out by meaner men at meaner wages, by the German waiter who has learnt five languages in the course of running away from his own, or the Italian waiter who regards those he serves with a darkling contempt which must certainly be that either of a dynamiter or an exiled prince. The human and hospitable English waiter is vanishing. Dickens might perhaps have saved him, as he saved Christmas.33
It is taken this case of waiter in Dickens and equally important counterpart in England as an example of the sincere and genial sketches scattered about these short stories. But there are many others, and one at least demands special mention; this is Mrs. Lirriper, the London landlady. Not only did Dickens never do anything better in a literary sense, but he never performed more perfectly his main moral function, that of insisting through laughter and flippancy upon the virtue of Christian charity. There has been much broad farce against the lodging-house keeper: he alone could have written broad farce in her favor. Ti is fashionable to represent the landlady as a tyrant; it is too much forgotten that if she is one if the oppressors she is at least as much one of the oppressed. If she is bad-tempered it is often for the same reasons that make all women bad-tempered; if she is grasping it is often because when a husband makes generosity a vice it is often necessary that a wife should make avarice a virtue. This entire Dickens suggested very soundly and in a few strokes in the more remote character Miss Wozenham. But in Mrs. Lirriper he went further and did not fare worse. In Mrs., Lirriper he suggested quite truly how huge a mass of real good humor, of grand unconscious patience, of unfailing courtesy and constant and difficult benevolence is concealed behind many a lodging-house door and compact in the red-faced person of many a preposterous landlady. Any one could easily excuse the ill-humor of the poor. But great masses of the poor have not even any ill-humor to be excused. Their cheeriness is startling enough to be the foundation of a miracle play; and certainly is startling enough to be foundation of a romance. Yet there is no any romance in which it is expressed except this one. “Mrs. Lirriper `s Lodgings” is one of the Christmas stories written by Charles Dickens. The main character of the story is Mrs. Lirriper, an old lady, gives the furnished rooms of her house for rent. She furnished her old house as good as she could to make it more comfortable for inhabitants and for herself. This is how he earns for living. Every person living in her house is kind to her because of her behavior with them. Story begins with the Mrs. Lirriper`s description of her daily life, her neighbors, her relatives and the lodgers. She talks about the persons one by one, tells of the good and bad sides of their characters. She calls Jamie her grand-son. But in reality he is not. His mother died of sickness and Jamie was left by his father too, and was grown up by Mrs. Lirriper having no idea that she is not his real grandmother. Here we recognize the inner goodness of this lady, her kind heart and nobility.
She hates Mrs.Wozenham who lives in the same street and who also gives for rent her furnished rooms. They have disliking to each other. But, in spite of that, Mrs. Lirriper helps her in Miss.Wozenham `s hard situation and discovers her real internal life, that she is not negative person at all and even shy for bad behavior of herself. In general, main hero of this story is not rude, bad-tempered. She is always ready to be useful at any moment to men even she can not agree with or she does not like them. For example, her late husband `s brother always make troubles, disturbs her, asks money, but despite all that, when he was caught by policemen Mrs. Lirriper was even crying and doing her best to make policemen to let him out. Or another example can prove what is said above, that Mrs. Lirriper met her neighbors, whom she completely disliked, with great hospitality when their house fired. They all were very grateful to Mrs. Lirriper for saving their lives and accepting them with kindness and pity.
Charles Dickens describing Mrs. Lirriper shows us the ideal picture of simple, pleasant, kind-hearted person. She always finds good characters in everyone whether she likes him or not. Her geniality takes her even out of borders, to France. Mrs. Lirriper goes there to recognize the dying person who is going to leave his heritage to her. But when she finds out that this man - at death – is little Jamie `s father, who left him, she forgives him seeing his regret in his mirrowlike eyes, and leaves him to be judged by God.
The entire story long, Charles Dickens opens all good nature of that woman – Mrs. Lirriper. The idea of the story “Mrs. Lirriper `s Lodgings” is kindness, goodness, nobility etc. It has very deep meaning in itself, and reading this story you can learn so much useful things for yourself. The story has one simple plot. It is told by Mrs. Lirriper `s own words, and the comprehendible speech makes the story more interesting and entertaining.
Of the landlady as the waiter it may be said that Dickens left in a slight sketch what might have developed through a long and strong novel. For Dickens had hold of one great truth, the neglect of which has , as it were, truncated and made meager the work of many brilliant modern novelists. Modern novelists try to make long novels out of subtle characters. But a subtle character soon comes to an end, because it works in and in to its own centre and dies there. But a simple character goes on for ever in a fresh interest and energy, because it works out and out into the infinite universe. Mr. George Moore in France is not by any means as interesting as Mrs. Lirriper in France; for she is trying to find France and he is only trying to find George Moore. Mrs. Lirriper is the female equivalent of Mr. Pickwick. Unlike Mrs. Bardell she was fully worthy to be Mrs. Pickwick. For in both cases the essential truth is the same; that original innocence which alone deserves adventures and because it alone can appreciate them. We have had Mr. Pickwick in England and we can imagine him in France. We have had Mrs. Lirriper in France and we can imagine her in Mesopotamia or in heaven. The subtle character in the modern novels we cannot really imagine anywhere except in the suburbs or in Limbo.34
The vitality of Dickens’ works is singularly great. They are all a-throb, as it were, with hot human blood. They are popular in the highest sense because their appeal is universal, to the as well as the educated. The humor is superb, and most of it, so far as one can judge, of no ephemeral kind. The pathos is more questionable, but that too, at its simplest and best; and especially when the humour is shot with it – is worthy of a better epithet than excellent. It is supremely touching. Imagination, fancy, wit, eloquence, the keenest observation, the most strenuous endeavor to reach the highest artistic excellence, the largest kindliness, - all these he brought to his life-work. And that work, as I think, will live, it can be prophecy for ever. Of course fashions change. Of course no writer of fiction, writing for his own little day, can permanently meet the needs of all after times. Some loss of immediate vital interest is inevitable. Nevertheless, in Dickens’ case, all will not die. Half a century, a century hence, he will still be read; not perhaps as he was read when his words flashed upon the world in their first glory and freshness, nor as he is read now in the noon of his fame. But he will be read much more than we read the novelists of the last century – be read as much, shall I say, as we still read Walter Scott. And so long as he is read, there will be one gentle and humanizing influence the more at work among men.35
Though Charles Dickens’ novels continued to be read by large numbers of readers, his literary reputation was an eclipse. There was a tendency to see his novels as appropriate for children and young adults. Russian writers came into vogue and were generally regarded as superior to Dickens from 1880 through the early part of the twentieth century. This preference is ironic because the Russian novelists both admired Dickens and learned from him. Turgenev praised Dickens’ work and even wrote for Dickens’ magazine, Household Words, during the Crimean War. Tolstoy wrote of Dickens, “All his characters are my personal friends – I am constantly comparing them with living persons, and living persons with them, and what a spirit there was in all he wrote.” Dostoevsky was so impressed that he imitated the death of Little Nell, including the sentimentality, in describing the death of Nelli Valkovsky in The Insulted and the Injured (1862). Supposedly, during his exile in Siberia, he read only Pickwick Papers and David Copperfield. Even if this story is apocryphal, Dickens’ influence on Uncle’s Dream and The Friend of the Family (1859), written while Dostoevsky was in Siberia, is unmistakable. Ironically, English critics in the 1880s were puzzled by Dostoevsky’s similarities to Dickens.
Dickens’ literary standing was transformed in the 1940s and 1950s because of essays written by George Orwell and Edmund Wilson, who called him “the greatest writers of his time,” and full-length study by Humphrey House, The Dickens World. Critics discovered complexity, darkness, and even bitterness in his novels, and by the 1960s some critics felt that, like Shakespeare. Dickens could not be classified into existing literary categories. This view of Dickens as incomparable continues to the present day. Edgar Johnson expresses the prevailing modern view in his assessments of Dickens: “Far more than a great entertainer, a great comic writer, he looks into the abyss. He is one of the great poets of the novel, a genius of his art.” This is not to say that every critic or reader accepts Johnson’s view; F.R. Leavis could not take Dickens so seriously: “The adult mind doesn’t as a rule find in Dickens a challenge to an unusual and sustained seriousness.” In the resurgence of Dickens’ reputation, his essays, sketches, and articles have received attention and praise. K.J. Fielding believes, “If he were not so well known as a novelist, he might have been recognized as a great essayist.”36
Dickens as a modern novelist and all his books are modern novels. Dickens didn’t know at what really point he became a novelist. The novel being a modern product is one of the few things to which we really can apply that disgusting method of thought – the method of evolution. His Christmas stories publishing in the Household Words and All the Year Round had great fame in his time, but it doesn’t mean that it is forgotten nowadays. The Christmas theme always attracted people, and the warmth, loveliness, kindliness of these stories fills everybody’s heart with joy and happiness. They are translated into many languages and are read present days and I hope they will be loved by the readers many centuries. There was painful moment (somewhere about the eighties) when we watched anxiously to see whether Dickens was fading form the modern world. We have watched a little longer, and with a great relief we begin to realize that it is the modern world that is fading.
Now Dickens must definitely be considered in the light of the changes which his soul foresaw. Dickens has done much; he belongs to Queen Victoria as much as Addison belongs to Queen Anne, and it is not only Queen Anne dead. But Dickens, in a dark prophetic kind of way, belongs to the developments. His name comes to the tongue when we are talking of Christian Socialists or Mr. Roosevelt or Country Council Steam Boats or Guilds of Play. Charles Dickens was a very great man, and there are many ways of testing and stating the fact. But one permissible way is to say this, that he was an ignorant man, ill-read in the past, and often confused about the present. Yet he remains great and true, and even essentially reliable, if we suppose him to have known not only all that went before his lifetime, but also all that was to come after.37
He was simple man; he loved ordinary people from lower classes. He did not evaluate them by their education, job or economic situation. That is why many of his heroes of his novels and especially of Christmas stories were poor, pity men who earned for living hardly but honestly. He believed in better future. This optimism is mentionable in most of his creative works. Capitalist society did not appeal him because he wanted people from lower classes to live less unhappy, less hungry, less insulted. Reading the Christmas stories of Charles Dickens we meet such problems, sentimental nuances. He was realistic writer and showed real picture of life with all of its good and bad sides, however, humor, high mood of these stories make us to believe in happy, joyful future.
“My trust in people, who rule, is insignificant. My trust in people, who are being ruled, is boundless.”
The sources in Azerbaijan
- Əhmədoğlu B. - Çarlz Dikkens. Kommunist qəz. Bakı, 1962, 7 fevral
- “Ədəbiyyat və incəsənət” qəz. - Çarlz Dikkens. Bakı, 1970, 10 fevral
The sources in Russian
1) А.А. Аникст и В.В. Ивашев - Чарльз Диккенс: Собрание сочинений в 30-ти томах. Т.12, Москва, 1959
2) А.А. Аникст - Диккенс Чарльз. Т.1. Москва, 1957
- Катарский Игорь Максимилианович - Диккенс в России: Середина XIX века. Москва, 1966
- Мадзигон М.В. - Реализм раннего творчества Чарльза Диккенса. Тбилиси, 1962
- Скуратовская Л. - Творчество Диккенса. Москва, 1969
- Уилсон Энгус - Мир Чарльза Диккенса. Москва, 1975
- Урнов М.В. - Неподражаемый Чарльз Диккенс. Москва, 1990. стр. 204-257
The sources in English
- Ackroyd, Peter - Dickens. London, 1990
- Butt, John E. and Kathleen Tillotson - Dickens at Work. 1957, reprinted 1982
- Chesterton G.K. - Charles Dickens. London, 1903, reprinted 1977
- Churchill, Reginald C. - Bibliography of Dickensian Criticism. London: Routledge (1836-1974-75)
- Collins, Philip - Dickens and Crime. New York, 1962
- Collins, Philip (ed.) - Dickens, the Critical Heritage. New York, 1971, on his critical reception in 1836-82
- Collins, Philip - A Dickens Bibliography. 1970, offprinted from George Watson/ New Cambridge Bibliography of English Literature, 1969, vol.3, pp. 779-850
- Dexter, Walter - The Letters by Charles Dickens. 3 vol., London, 1938
- Fielding, K.J. – Speeches. London, 1960, pp. 124-127
- Fielding, K.J. - A Critical Introduction. London, revised edition 1966
- Ford, George H. - A Second Guide to Research. London, 1978, pp. 34-113
- Ford, George H. - Dickens and His Readers. London, 1955, reprinted 1976
- Ford, George H. and L. Lane (eds.) - The Dickens Critics. London, 1961, reprinted 1976
- Garis, Robert - The Dickens Theatre. London, 1965
- Gissing, George R. - Charles Dickens.A Critical Study. London, 1898, reissued 1976
- Gissing, George R., abr. - Forster's Life of Dickens London: Chapman & Hall, 1903.
- Johson, Edgar - Charles Dickens: His Tragedy and Triumph 3 vol., Manchester, 1952
- Johnson, Edgar - The Heart Of Charles Dickens, As Revealed in His Letters to Angela Burdett-Coutts. New York, 1952, reprinted 1976
- Kaplan, Fred - Dickens: A Biograph. London, 1988
- Kitton, Frederic G. - Charles Dickens: His Life, Writings and Personality. London, 1956
- Miller, J. Hillis - Charles Dickens: The World of His Novels. London, 1958, reissued 1969
- Orwell, George – Dickens:In Critical Essays. Boston, 1946, pp. 7-56
- Rice, C. M. - The Story of Our Mutual Friend: Transcribed into Phonetic Notation from the Work of Charles Dickens. Cambridge: W. Heffer, 1920.
- Wall, Stephen (ed.) - Charles Dickens: A Critical Anthology. London, 1970
- Wilson, Angus - The World of Charles Dickens. New York, 1970
- Wilson, Edmund - Dickens: The Two Scrooges in “The Wound and the Bow”. London, 1941, pp. 1-104
- Ward, Henry S. - The Real Dickens Land. London: Chapman & Hall, 1904.
- Welsh, Charles - Character Portraits from Dickens. London: Chatto & Windus, 1908.
1 А.А. Аникст Диккенс Чарльз. Т 1. Москва, 1957. стр. 7-12
2 Philip Collins - A Dickens Bibliography, 1970, offprinted from George Watson, New Cambridge Bibliography of English Literature, 1969, vol.3, pp. 779-182
3 Мадзигон М.В. - Реализм раннего творчества Чарльза Диккенса, Тбилиси, 1962. стр. 24-37
4 George R. Gissing – Charles Dickens/ A Critical Study, London, 1947, reissued 1976. pp. 105-116
5 George Orwell – Dickens / In Critical Essays, Boston, 1946. pp. 7-20
6 John E. Butt and Kathleen Tillotson – Dickens at Work, New York, 1957, reprinted 1982. pp.203-212
7 George H. Ford – Dickens and His Readers, London, 1955, reprinted 1974. pp.46-48
8 Fred Kaplan – A Biography, London, 1988. pp.138
9 Урнов М.В. – Неподражаемый Чарльз Диккенс, Москва, 1990. стр.204-257
10 Philip Collins – Dickens, the Critical Heritage, New York, 1971, on his critical reception in 1836-1882. pp.68-81
11 Reginald C. Churchill – Bibliography of Dickensian Criticism. London: Routledge (1836-1974-75), a selective, partly annotated bibliography. pp.98-123
12 Angus Wilson – The World of Charles Dickens, New York, 1970. pp.58-64
13 Ackroyd Peter – Dickens, London, 1990. p.85
14 Ədəbiyyat və incəsənət qəz. Çarlz Dikkens, Baki, 1970, 10 fevral
15 Скуратовская Л. – Творчество Диккенса, Москва, 1969. стр.92-96
16 George H. Ford and L. Lane (eds.), - The Dickens Critics, London, 1961, reprinted 1976. pp. 148-158
17 J. Hillis Miller – Charles Dickens: The World of His Novels, London, 1958, reissued 1969. pp. 62-69
18 Stephen Wall (ed.) – Charles Dickens: A Critical Anthology, London, 1970. pp. 70-92
19 Уилсон Энгус – Мир Чарльза Диккенса, Москва, 1975. стр.48-52
20 G.K. Chesterton – Charles Dickens, London, 1903, reprinted 1977. pp. 114-127
21 George H. Ford – A Second Guide to Research, London, 1978. pp.34-113
22 Катарский Игорь Максимилианович – Диккенс в России. Середина XIX века, Москва, 1966. стр.65-77
23 Philip Colins – Dickens and Crime, New York, 1962. pp. 267-281
24 А.А. Аникст и В.В. Ивашев – Чарльз Диккенс / Собрание сочинений в 30-ти томах. Т.12., Москва, 1959. стр.81-89
25 Walter Dexter – The Letters by Charles Dickens. 3 vol., London, 1938
26 Edmund Wilson – Dickens: Two Scrooges, in the Wound and the Bow, London, 1941. pp.1-104
27 K.J. Fielding – Speeches, London, 1960. pp.124-127
28 K.J. Fielding – A Critical Introduction, London, revised edition 1966, pp.78-86
29 Edgar Johnson – Charles Dickens: His Tragedy and Triumph, 2 vol., Manchester, 1952. pp.39-42
30 Chesterton G.K. – Charles Dickens, London, 1903, reprinted 1977. pp.76-85
31 Edgar Johnson – The Heart of Charles Dickens, As Revealed in His Letters to Angela Burdett-Coutts, New York, 1952, reprinted 1976. pp.142-150
32 Frederic Kitton G. - Charles Dickens: His Life, Writings and Personality, London, 1900. pp. 77-102
33 Əhmədoğlu B. – Çarlz Dikkens, Kommunist, Bakı, 1962, 7 fevral
34Welsh Charles – Character Portraits from Dickens, London, 1908
35 George R. Gissing abr. – Forster’s Life of Charles Dickens. London: Chapman and Hall, 1943
36 Rice, C. M. - The Story of Our Mutual Friend: Transcribed into Phonetic Notation from the Work of Charles Dickens/ Cambridge: W. Heffer, 1920. pp.152-158
1Henry Ward – The Real Dickens Land. London, 1954, pp.26-28