Charles Dickens (1812-1870) was the greatest writer of the Victorian era and one of history’s most influential English authors. Prolific in his output, Dickens penned such enduring works as Great Expectations, Oliver Twist, A Tale of Two Cities, Little Dorrit, Hard Times, Bleak House, The Pickwick Papers, and more.
During the Christmas season, we all remember Dickens’ most frequently retold yarn, A Christmas Carol (1843). Nearly everyone knows the memorable and, in some cases, haunting characters of Scrooge, Marley, the Three Spirits, Bob Crachit, and Tiny Tim. And though the tale has often been poorly retold – particularly reduced to a kind of “be nice at Christmas” sentimentality – the story is one of regret, sorrow, and forgiveness; of repentance and redemption.
Enjoy, in “Quotables” form, a retelling of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, in the hope of stirring you to read it (or reread) this Christmas.
1. “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 dead as a door-nail.” – Stave One
2. “Oh! but he was a tight-fisted hand at the grindstone, Scrooge! a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous old sinner!” – Stave One
3. “If I could work my will,” said Scrooge indignantly, “every idiot who goes about with ‘Merry Christmas’ on his lips should be boiled with his own pudding, and buried with a stake of holly through his heart. He should!” – Stave One
4. “There are many things from which I might have derived good by which I have not profited, I dare say,” returned the nephew, “Christmas among the rest. But I am sure I have always thought of Christmas-time, when it has come round-apart from the veneration due to its sacred name and origin, if anything belonging to it can be apart from that-as a 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 people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys. And therefore, uncle, though it has never put a scrap of gold or silver in my pocket, I believe that it has done me good, and will do me good; and I say, God bless it!” – Stave One
5. “I wear the chain I forged in life,” replied the Ghost. “I made it link by link, and yard by yard; I girded it on of my own free will, and of my own free will I wore it. Is its pattern strange to you?” – Stave One
6. “For again Scrooge saw himself. He was older now; a man in the prime of his life. His face had not the harsh and rigid lines of later years; but it had begun to wear the signs of care and avarice. There was an eager, greedy, restless motion in the eye, which showed the passion that had taken root, and where the shadow of the growing tree would fall.” – Stave Two
7. “It is a fair, even-handed, noble adjustment of things, that while there is infection in disease and sorrow, there is nothing in the world so irresistibly contagious as laughter and good humour.” – Stave Three
8. “I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach. Oh, tell me I may sponge away the writing on this stone!” – Stave Four
9. “Scrooge was better than his word. 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, 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 at the outset…” – Stave Five