Introduction to Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
Nigel will set each scene with a brief description of the place and sequence in the film
The sets are not laid out in chronological order but the readings will be relevant to the text
If it rains we will find a warm place and continue reading with a presentation and description of the set.
B b b b b b b b b baah humbug
1 THE FILM OPENS IN THE SQUARE
Marley was dead : to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that.
The register of his burial was signed by the clergyman, the clerk, the undertaker, and the chief mourner. Scrooge signed it. And Scrooge’s name was good upon ‘Change, for anything he chose to put his hand to.
Old Marley was as dead as a door-nail. Mind! I don’t mean to say that I know, of my own knowledge, what there is particularly dead about a door-nail. I might have been inclined, myself, to regard a coffin-nail as the deadest piece of ironmongery in the trade.
But the wisdom of our ancestors is in the simile; and my unhallowed hands shall not disturb it, or the Country’s done for. You will therefore permit me to repeat, emphatically, that Marley was as dead as a door-nail.
Scrooge knew he was dead? Of course he did. How could it be otherwise? Scrooge and he were partners for I don’t know how many years.
2 NATURE OF SCROOGE
Scrooge was his sole executor, his sole administrator, his sole assign, his sole residuary legatee, his sole friend, and sole mourner.
And even Scrooge was not so dreadfully cut up by the sad event, but that he was an excellent man of business on the very day of the funeral, and solemnised it with an undoubted bargain.
Oh! But he was a tight-fisted hand at the grindstone, Scrooge! a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous, old sinner!
Hard and sharp as flint, from which no steel had ever struck out generous fire; secret, and self-contained, and solitary as an oyster.
The cold within him froze his old features, nipped his pointed nose, shrivelled his cheek, stiffened his gait; made his eyes red, his thin lips blue; and spoke out shrewdly in his grating voice.
A frosty rime was on his head, and on his eyebrows, and his wiry chin. He carried his own low temperature always about with him; he iced his office in the dogdays;
3 MARLEY APPEARS
And then let any man explain to me, if he can, how it happened that Scrooge, having his key in the lock of the door, saw in the knocker, without its undergoing any intermediate process of change — not a knocker, but Marley’s face.
Marley’s face. It was not in impenetrable shadow as the other objects in the yard were, but had a dismal light about it, like a bad lobster in a dark cellar. It was not angry or ferocious, but looked at Scrooge as Marley used to look: with ghostly spectacles turned up on its ghostly forehead. The hair was curiously stirred, as if by breath or hot air; and, though the eyes were wide open, they were perfectly motionless. That, and its livid colour, made it horrible; but its horror seemed to be in spite of the face and beyond its control, rather than a part or its own expression.
He did pause, with a moment’s irresolution, before he shut the door; and he did look cautiously behind it first, as if he half-expected to be terrified with the sight of Marley’s pigtail sticking out into the hall. But there was nothing on the back of the door, except the screws and nuts that held the knocker on, so he said `Pooh, pooh!’ and closed it with a bang
4 MARLEY`S GHOST
Quite satisfied, he closed his door, and locked himself in; double-locked himself in, which was not his custom. Thus secured against surprise, he took off his cravat; put on his dressing-gown and slippers, and his nightcap; and sat down before the fire to take his gruel.
The cellar-door flew open with a booming sound, and then he heard the noise much louder, on the floors below; then coming up the stairs; then coming straight towards his door.
`It’s humbug still!’ said Scrooge. `I won’t believe it.’
His colour changed though, when, without a pause, it came on through the heavy door, and passed into the room before his eyes. Upon its coming in, the dying flame leaped up, as though it cried `I know him; Marley’s Ghost!’ and fell back.
The chain he drew was clasped about his middle. It was long, and wound about him like a tail; and it was made (for Scrooge observed it closely) of cash-boxes, keys, padlocks, ledgers, deeds, and heavy purses wrought in steel
5 MARLEY WARNS SCROOGE
That is no light part of my penance,’ pursued the Ghost. `I am here to-night to warn you, that you have yet a chance and hope of escaping my fate. A chance and hope of my procuring, Ebenezer.’
`You were always a good friend to me,’ said Scrooge. `Thank ‘ee!’
`You will be haunted,’ resumed the Ghost, `by Three Spirits.’
Scrooge’s countenance fell almost as low as the Ghost’s had done.
`Is that the chance and hope you mentioned, Jacob?’ he demanded, in a faltering voice.
Without their visits,’ said the Ghost, `you cannot hope to shun the path I tread. Expect the first tomorrow, when the bell tolls One.’
`Expect the second on the next night at the same hour. The third upon the next night when the last stroke of twelve has ceased to vibrate.
Look to see me no more; and look that, for your own sake, you remember what has passed between us!’
6 FIRST SPIRIT APPEARS
The next night as the clock struck “Ding, dong!”
“The hour itself,” said Scrooge triumphantly, “and nothing else!”
He spoke before the hour bell sounded, which it now did with a deep, dull, hollow, melancholy one. Light flashed up in the room upon the instant, and the curtains of his bed were drawn.
The spirit appeared and they passed through the wall, and stood upon an open country road, with fields on either hand.
`Good Heaven!’ said Scrooge, clasping his hands together, as he looked about him. `I was bred in this place. I was a boy here.’ Scrooge recognising every gate, and post, and tree; until some shaggy ponies now were seen trotting towards them with boys upon their backs. All these boys were in great spirits, and shouted to each other, until the broad fields were so full of merry music, that the crisp air laughed to hear it.
`The school is not quite deserted,’ said the Ghost. `A solitary child, neglected by his friends, is left there still.’
Scrooge said he knew it. And he sobbed and wept to see his poor forgotten self as he used to be.
7 MR FIZZY WIGS 1ST SPIRIT BRINGS HIM HERE
The Ghost stopped at a certain warehouse door, and asked Scrooge if he knew it.
`Know it.’ said Scrooge. `I was apprenticed here.’
They went in. At sight of an old gentleman in a Welsh wig, sitting behind such a high desk, that if he had been two inches taller he must have knocked his head against the ceiling, Scrooge cried in great excitement:
`Why, it’s old Fezziwig. Bless his heart; it’s Fezziwig alive again.’
Old Fezziwig laid down his pen, and looked up at the clock, which pointed to the hour of seven. He rubbed his hands; adjusted his capacious waistcoat; laughed all over himself, from his shows to his organ of benevolence; and called out in a comfortable, oily, rich, fat, jovial voice:
`Yo ho, there. Ebenezer. Dick.’
Scrooge’s former self, now grown a young man, came briskly in, accompanied by his fellow-prentice.
`Dick Wilkins, to be sure.’ said Scrooge to the Ghost. `Bless me, yes. There he is. He was very much attached to me, was Dick. Poor Dick. Dear, dear.’
8 MR FIZZY WIGS 1ST SPIRIT BRINGS HIM HERE
`Yo ho, my boys.’ said Fezziwig. `No more work to-night. Christmas Eve, Dick. Christmas, Ebenezer. Let’s have the shutters up,’ cried old Fezziwig, with a sharp clap of his hands,’ before a man can say Jack Robinson.’
You wouldn’t believe how those two fellows went at it. They charged into the street with the shutters — one, two, three — had them up in their places — four, five, six — barred them and pinned then — seven, eight, nine — and came back before you could have got to twelve, panting like race-horses.
`My time grows short,’ observed the Spirit. `Quick.’ Scrooge was not alone, but sat by the side of a fair young girl in a mourning-dress: in whose eyes there were tears, which sparkled in the light that shone out of the Ghost of Christmas Past.
9 SCROOGE CHOOSES GOLD RATHER THAT RELATIONSHIP
`It matters little,’ she said, softly. `To you, very little. Another idol has displaced me; and if it can cheer and comfort you in time to come, as I would have tried to do, I have no just cause to grieve.’
`What Idol has displaced you.’ he rejoined.
`A golden one.’
He was about to speak; but with her head turned from him, she resumed.
`You may — the memory of what is past half makes me hope you will — have pain in this. A very, very brief time, and you will dismiss the recollection of it, gladly, as an unprofitable dream, from which it happened well that you awoke. May you be happy in the life you have chosen.’
She left him, and they parted.
10 CHRISTMAS PRESENT at his nephews home
The spirit of Christmas present took him on a journey through the lonely darkness over an unknown abyss, whose depths were secrets as profound as Death: it was a great surprise to Scrooge, while thus engaged, to hear a hearty laugh. It was a much greater surprise to Scrooge to recognise it as his own nephew’s and to find himself in a bright, dry, gleaming room, with the Spirit standing smiling by his side, and looking at that same nephew with approving affability.
`Ha, ha.’ laughed Scrooge’s nephew. `Ha, ha, ha.’
Scrooge’s niece, by marriage, laughed as heartily as he. And their assembled friends being not a bit behindhand, roared out lustily.
`Ha, ha. Ha, ha, ha, ha.’
`He said that Christmas was a humbug, as I live.’ cried Scrooge’s nephew. `He believed it too.’
`More shame for him, Fred.’ said Scrooge’s niece, indignantly. Bless those women; they never do anything by halves. They are always in earnest.
She was very pretty: exceedingly pretty. With a dimpled, surprised-looking, capital face; a ripe little mouth, that seemed made to be kissed — as no doubt it was; all kinds of good little dots about her chin, that melted into one another when she laughed; and the sunniest pair of eyes you ever saw in any little creature’s head. Altogether she was what you would have called provoking, you know; but satisfactory.
11 AND 12 AS A TWO HANDER
THE PARADE THE EXTERIOR OF THE CORN EXCHANGE
Have I the pleasure of addressing Mr. Scrooge, or Mr. Marley?’
`Mr. Marley has been dead these seven years,’
At this festive season of the year, Mr. Scrooge,’ said the gentleman, taking up a pen, `it is more than usually desirable that we should make some slight provision for the Poor and Destitute, Many thousands are in want of common necessaries; sir.’
`Are there no prisons?’ asked Scrooge.
`Plenty of prisons,’ said the gentleman, laying down the pen again.
`And the Union workhouses?’ demanded Scrooge. `Are they still in operation?’
`They are. Still,’ returned the gentleman, `I wish I could say they were not.’
`The Treadmill and the Poor Law are in full vigour, then?’ said Scrooge.
`Both very busy, sir.’
`Oh! I was afraid, from what you said at first, that something had occurred to stop them in their useful course,’ said Scrooge. `I’m very glad to hear it.’
What shall I put you down for?’ Nothing!’ Scrooge replied.
`You wish to be anonymous?’
`I wish to be left alone,’ said Scrooge `Since you ask me what I wish, gentlemen, that is my answer. I don’t make merry myself at Christmas and I can’t afford to make idle people merry. I help to support the establishments I have mentioned — they cost enough; and those who are badly off must go there.’
`Many can’t go there; and many would rather die.’
`If they would rather die,’ said Scrooge, `they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population. Besides — excuse me — I don’t know that.’
`But you might know it,’ observed the gentleman.
`It’s not my business,’ Scrooge returned. `It’s enough for a man to understand his own business, and not to interfere with other people’s. Mine occupies me constantly. Good afternoon, gentlemen!’
13 SCROOGES OFFICE AND COUNTING HOUSE
The door of Scrooge’s counting-house was open that he might keep his eye upon his clerk, who in a dismal little cell beyond, a sort of tank, was copying letters. Scrooge had a very small fire, but the clerk’s fire was so very much smaller that it looked like one coal. But he couldn’t replenish it, for Scrooge kept the coal-box in his own room; and so surely as the clerk came in with the shovel, the master predicted that it would be necessary for them to part. Wherefore the clerk put on his white comforter, and tried to warm himself at the candle; in which effort, not being a man of a strong imagination, he failed.
`A merry Christmas, uncle! God save you!’ cried a cheerful voice. It was the voice of Scrooge’s nephew, who came upon him so quickly that this was the first intimation he had of his approach.
`Bah!’ said Scrooge, `Humbug!’
He had so heated himself with rapid walking in the fog and frost, this nephew of Scrooge’s, that he was all in a glow; his face was ruddy and handsome; his eyes sparkled, and his breath smoked again. `Christmas a humbug, uncle!’ said Scrooge’s nephew. `You don’t mean that, I am sure?’
`I do,’ said Scrooge. `Merry Christmas! What right have you to be merry? What reason have you to be merry? You’re poor enough.
14 LION HOTEL AND DICKENS
John Butterworth in his history of the Lion Hotel quoted Charles Dickens in a letter to one of his daughters, Katie, in 1858 while staying at the Lion Hotel, in Shrewsbury
“…we have the strangest little rooms, the ceilings of which I can touch with my hand. Nigel has added “the floors are uneven and the window tips out into the street”
People do come to the hotel just to stay in that room.
The hotel has long celebrated its link with Charles Dickens
In his book ‘Four Centuries at The Lion Hotel’ he says Dickens stayed at the hotel at least twice: on 12 August 1858, with his friend and illustrator, Hablot K Browne, and on 1838 when he wrote in his journal that on 31 October he and his wife Catherine had travelled through Birmingham and Wolverhampton on his way to The Lion.
15 DICKENS AND SHREWSBURY
He said Dickens was also known to have included Shrewsbury’s Music Hall on his reading tour of Britain where he read from A Christmas Carol.
Shropshire claims Darwin connections including Tong, near Shifnal, is broadly thought to be the village where Little Nell dies at the end of The Old Curiosity Shop.
John Murfin, who lives in the parish and is a member of the congregation at St Bartholomew’s Church, said Dickens visited the area to see his grandmother who was a housekeeper at Tong Castle.
When The Old Curiosity Shop was published many readers began to visit the village church from as far afield as the United States.
According to Shropshire Tourism’s website the nearby town of Newport was home to a woman called Elizabeth Parker who became a recluse after being stood-up on her wedding day.
It claims she may have been an inspiration for Miss Havisham in Great Expectations.
“One of Dickens’ friends William Charles Macready said Dickens had a ‘clutching eye’ – he recorded what he saw for use later so a lot of things could influence a character.”
16 BOB CRATCHIT`S HOUSE
Then all the Cratchit family drew round the hearth, in what Bob Cratchit called a circle, meaning half a one; and at Bob Cratchit’s elbow stood the family display of glass. Two tumblers, and a custard-cup without a handle.
Then Bob proposed:
`A Merry Christmas to us all, my dears. God bless us.’
Which all the family re-echoed.
`God bless us every one.’ said Tiny Tim, the last of all.
He sat very close to his father’s side upon his little stool. Bob held his withered little hand in his, as if he loved the child, and wished to keep him by his side, and dreaded that he might be taken from him.
`Spirit,’ said Scrooge, with an interest he had never felt before, `tell me if Tiny Tim will live.’
`I see a vacant seat,’ replied the Ghost, `in the poor chimney-corner, and a crutch without an owner, carefully preserved. If these shadows remain unaltered by the Future, the child will die.’
`No, no,’ said Scrooge. `Oh, no, kind Spirit. say he will be spared.’
`If these shadows remain unaltered by the Future, none other of my race,’ returned the Ghost, `will find him here. What then. If he be like to die, he had better do it, and decrease the surplus population.’
Scrooge hung his head to hear his own words quoted by the Spirit, and was overcome with penitence and grief
Scrooge bent before the Ghost’s rebuke, and trembling cast his eyes upon the ground. But he raised them speedily, on hearing his own name.
`Mr Scrooge.’ said Bob; `I’ll give you Mr Scrooge, the Founder of the Feast.’
17 JOES RAG SHOP
And now undo my bundle, Joe,’ said the first woman.
`What do you call this.’ said Joe. `Bed-curtains.’
`Ah.’ returned the woman, laughing and leaning forward on her crossed arms. `Bed-curtains.’
`You don’t mean to say you took them down, rings and all, with him lying there.’ said Joe.
`Yes I do,’ replied the woman. `Why not.’
`You were born to make your fortune,’ said Joe,’ and you’ll certainly do it.’
`I certainly shan’t hold my hand, when I can get anything in it by reaching it out, for the sake of such a man as he was, I promise you, Joe,’ returned the woman coolly. `Don’t drop that oil upon the blankets, now.’
`His blankets.’ asked Joe.
`Whose else’s do you think.’ replied the woman. `He isn’t likely to take cold without them, I dare say.’
`I hope he didn’t die of any thing catching. Eh.’ said old Joe, stopping in his work, and looking up.
18 JOES RAG SHOP
It’s the best he had, and a fine one too. They’d have wasted it, if it hadn’t been for me.’
`What do you call wasting of it.’ asked old Joe.
`Putting it on him to be buried in, to be sure,’ replied the woman with a laugh. `Somebody was fool enough to do it, but I took it off again. He can’t look uglier than he did in that one.’
Scrooge listened to this dialogue in horror. As they sat grouped about their spoil, in the scanty light afforded by the old man’s lamp, he viewed them with a detestation and disgust, which could hardly have been greater, though the demons, marketing the corpse itself.
`Ha, ha.’ laughed the same woman, when old Joe, producing a flannel bag with money in it, told out their several gains upon the ground. `This is the end of it, you see. He frightened every one away from him when he was alive, to profit us when he was dead. Ha, ha, ha.’
`Spirit.’ said Scrooge, shuddering from head to foot. `I see, I see. The case of this unhappy man might be my own. My life tends that way, now.
He recoiled in terror, for the scene had changed, and now he almost touched a bed: a bare, uncurtained bed: on which, beneath a ragged sheet, there lay a something covered up, which, though it was dumb, announced itself in awful language.
19 THE END OF IT
Scrooge promised to change his ways and become a better person
He dressed himself all in his best, and at last got out into the streets.
He had not gone far, when coming on towards him he beheld the gentleman, who he had met the day before.
`My dear sir,’ said Scrooge, quickening his pace, and taking the old gentleman by both his hands. `How do you do. I hope you succeeded yesterday. It was very kind of you. A merry Christmas to you, sir.’
`Yes,’ said Scrooge. `That is my name, and I fear it may not be pleasant to you. Allow me to ask your pardon. And will you have the goodness’ to accept this
`Lord bless me.’ cried the gentleman, as if his breath were taken away. `My dear Mr Scrooge, are you serious.’
`If you please,’ said Scrooge. `Not a farthing less. A great many back-payments are included in it, I assure you. Will you do me that favour.’
He had never dreamed that any walk — that anything — could give him so much happiness. In the afternoon he turned his steps towards his nephew’s house and surprised his family by joining in the fun.
20 FINAL SCENE
He did it all, and infinitely more; and to Tiny Tim, who did not die, he was a second father.
He became as good a friend, as good a master, and as good a man, as the good old city knew, or any other good old city, town, or borough, in the good old world.
Some people laughed to see the alteration in him, but he let them laugh, and little heeded them; for he was wise enough to know that nothing ever happened on this globe, for good, at which some people did not have their fill of laughter in the outset; and knowing that such as these would be blind anyway, he thought it quite as well that they should wrinkle up their eyes in grins, as have the malady in less attractive forms. His own heart laughed: and that was quite enough for him.
He had no further intercourse with Spirits, but lived upon the Total Abstinence Principle, ever afterwards; and it was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge.
May that be truly said of us, and all of us! And so, as Tiny Tim observed, `God bless Us, Every One!