Christmas 1843 – The Gift That Keeps on Giving

Christmas

Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, benevolence, were all my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!” Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

A great deal of history occurred in the year, 1843.  On January 2nd, Wagner’s opera, “Der Fliegende Holländer” premiered in Dresden. On May 4th, Great Britain annexed Natal.  May 22nd, the first wagon train departed from Independence Missouri for Oregon.  On July 2nd, newspapers reported that an alligator plummeted to earth during a thunderstorm in Charleston, South Carolina.   August 15th, the Tivoli Park opened in Copenhagen.  August 25th the typewriter was patented by Charles Thurber. November 13th saw the eruption of Mt Rainier in Washington State. November 28th, Great Britain and France officially recognized Hawaii as an independent nation.  What happened on these dates changed our world and the lives of many who were involved these events. (although I really wonder about the alligator story even though it has been recorded by several reputable sources).

There is one day that stands out in particular: December 19, 1843.  That was the day when Christmas was given a gift that continues to keep on giving.   “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens was published in London by Chapman and Hall.  To be clear, others had written stories and poems about Christmas, but “A Christmas Carol” was different; for in those marvelous staves, Charles Dickens spoke to the heart of poverty, despair and the plight of young children.  Best of all, he offered redemption to a world longing for fairness and compassion.

For it is good to be children sometimes, and never better than at Christmas, when its mighty Founder was a child Himself.” Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

Charles Dickens wrote from bitter experience.  In 1824, when only 12 years old, he saw his father, along with his mother and young siblings, incarcerated in the dreaded Marshalsea Prison for debt to a baker.  To support his family and pay for his lodgings, Charles left school to work 10-hour days in a boot-blacking factory. Outside of work without the benefit of family, he roamed the street, exposed to danger and exploitation.  These traumatic events left an indelible influence that would later be validated in his brilliant characters and narratives.  The strength and endurance of his message was embedded within the struggles of ordinary people.

“This boy is Ignorance. This girl is Want. Beware them both, and all of their degree, but most of all beware this boy, for on his brow I see that written which is Doom, unless the writing be erased. Deny it!” cried the Spirit, stretching out its hand towards the city. “Slander those who tell it ye! Admit it for your factious purposes, and make it worse. And bide the end!” “Have they no refuge or resource?” cried Scrooge. “Are there no prisons?” said the Spirit, turning on him for the last time with his own words. “Are there no workhouses?”   Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

A Christmas Carol changed the conversation by allowing readers to see a different pathway – one that allowed for transformations rather than defeat and despair.  If a greedy, unfeeling miser could be changed into a “a good friend, as good a master, and as good a man, as the good old city knew…” then it was possible to vanquish the horror of poverty and injustice.

As we celebrate this holiday season, may we seek hopeful outcomes and look for conversations that allow us to envision life-affirming and joyful possibilities.  May we join Ebenezer Scrooge in saying:

“I am as light as a feather, I am as happy as an angel, I am as merry as a schoolboy. I am as giddy as a drunken man. A merry Christmas to everybody! A happy New Year to all the world! Hallo here! Whoop! Hallo!” Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

Joy

 

74 thoughts on “Christmas 1843 – The Gift That Keeps on Giving

  1. Now that said Christmas, compassion and hope. Never read any Dickens too dark and heavy for me but I recall the films Scrooge and The Prince and the Pauper (I think was Dickens) great moral tales – I read all of your article and definitely got the charm of the writing – a perfect Christmas article. Merry Christmas and a peaceful and healthy New Year

    Liked by 1 person

    • The first time I met Charles Dickens was in grade 8 – “Great Expectations.” At the time, I couldn’t imagine that lives and events could be so complicated. Years later, when I picked up the book again, I realized that life can be that complicated. Charles Dickens had a genuine empathy for children, the genesis of which came from his time in the blacking factory. But the real wound came from his mother’s insistence that he remain in the blacking factory even when his family was released from Marshalsea. He viewed this as a betrayal. Even so, he was able to transform this trauma into a creative energy. That is the miracle!!

      “Suffering has been stronger than all other teaching, and has taught me to understand what your heart used to be. I have been bent and broken, but – I hope – into a better shape.”

      Charles Dickens, Great Expectations

      Like

  2. Well, dear Rebecca, this great story about SCROOGE certainly remained in my mind and returns every Christmas and the long JOURNEY he had to go until he found his inner light serves us as model! Years ago I wrote a post about it, which exceptionally I am adding the link:
    https://rivella49.wordpress.com/filmsbooksed/a-christmas-carolcharles-dickens/
    Thank you also for telling us about the important events in 1843. It’s “Der Fliegende Holländer” by Wagner,which I had the pleasure to see personally in a presentation on the lake of Constance.
    I wish you MERRY CHRISTMAS and A HAPPY NEW YEAR and I thank you with all my heart for your friendship.:)

    Liked by 1 person

    • I love how you organize your blog!! Thank you for sharing your post link, which added so much to this dialogue. Yes indeed, it was a long JOURNEY until he found his inner light. It seems that we all take this journey over the course of our lifetime. Sharing the journey with kindred spirits is the best part. In the end, we will remember and be remembered for the connections that we made, and the compassion, the joy, the love that we shared.

      “Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, benevolence, were all my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!”

      Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

      All the very best of Christmas to you and yours! Looking forward the adventures that are waiting for us in 2016. Many hugs!!! 🙂

      Like

  3. Love the key points of 1843. You do great research. I love the movie. Never tire of it, but I wonder we as the human race have learned anything. I particularly noticed this year no-one has said Merry Christmas like was common. If we cannot share the joy of a smile, how can we share anything else: feelings for those in need, goodwill towards all men, peace on earth. It’s a tragedy.
    Merry Christmas to you and all your family. ❤ ❤ ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    • Merry Christmas, my dear friend!!! The survival of humanity will depend upon whether we share the joy of a smile. The power of Charles Dickens came from his compassion and care for the lot of poor children during the Industrial Revolution. What I found most interesting was that his first idea was to compose a political pamphlet, which was to be entitled: “An Appeal to the People of England, on behalf of the Poor Man’s Child.” He reconsidered, deciding that a narrative would be more forceful, a fact that proved to be profoundly accurate. The background to A Christmas Carol is as moving as the story itself. I really appreciate following your posts – you exemplify those marvelous traits of joy and goodwill. :

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yes, Charles Dickens was authentic and I love his stories.
        I really like following your posts as well. You always include wonderful details I wouldn’t have ordinarily known, which makes your posts interesting.

        Thank YOU and happy holidays to you, kind and thoughtful friend. 🙂 ❤

        Like

      • I am looking forward to our discussions going forward. Thank you for your heartwarming comments – they are so very much appreciated. I am fascinated by how much resilience is held in the hearts of children. One of my favourite quotes (and you know I have many):

        “Grown-ups never understand anything by themselves, and it is tiresome for children to be always and forever explaining things to them” Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

        May we remember what it was like to be a child. And if we can’t, may we have the grace to take a child’s advice. Happy New Year…

        Like

      • Fabulous quote and you’re on the money again. Wish you the best year yet!
        I had a lesson from my 8-y-o granddaughter last night about Helen Keller and Anne Sullivan. The short story is I was wrong and she told me so. 😀 😀

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Fabulous! So lovely to see this classic celebrated in such a wonderful way. Mr Tracks reads A Christmas Carol every year and we have seen a number of memorable theatre performances over the years, the stand-out one being a one-man show by Sir Patrick Stewart, who played all the parts!! Merry Christmas one and all 🙂 xxx

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Herzlichen Dank liebe Rebecca für diese moralische schöne Weihnachtsgeschichte von Dickens, den ich nie gelesen habe. Seine Geschichte vermittelt die Hoffnung, die wir in der heutigen Zeit brauchen, um das Flüchtlingselend, das den Nahen Osten, Afrika und Europa erschüttert, zu verkraften. Wir hoffen auch jetzt in diesen Weihnachtstagen, dass den Flüchtlingen in Europa und auch in ihren Heimatländern geholfen werden kann.
    Ich wünsche Ihnen frohe und besinnliche Weihnachten. Ernst

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ich stimme voll und ganz. Vor allem in den Wintermonaten, wenn Nahrung und Schutz sind so sehr wichtig. Wir leben, ist schwierig und komplex Zeiten. Es gibt keine einfachen Antworten. Dickens war sehr klar – Mitgefühl unerlässlich war. Vielen, vielen Dank für Ihre Kommentare und Besuche im letzten Jahr. Ich habe unsere Gespräche sehr genossen und freue mich auf weitere im Jahr 2016.

      Like

    • Thank you, dear Paulette! What I found most remarkable about A Christmas Carol was that Charles Dickens used a narrative to change the hearts of his world. This is what you do in our world. Thank you for your tenacity and courage – you have made a difference in many people’s lives, one of them being mine. All the very best of the holiday season to you and yours. 2016 invites us to continue the journey. ❤ ❤ ❤ Many hugs coming your way.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. What a wonderful timely piece, for one who deplores today’s extreme commercialization of Christmas, once my childhood favourite magical time of the year. These magical people you speak of, Dickens, Wagner, Thurber, with their stories, music and inventions, and the time 1843, that’s 10 years before the construction my present home in Canada, thus for the last 14 years. Your writing sets the scene for one’s imagination to awake, and here in this old house almost makes me feel like it is taking place under my very roof.

    Thank you Rebecca for this reminder, and heart felt compliments of the season to you and your family!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh, Jean-Jacques – what a wonderful home to celebrate Christmas. I was interested to learn that “A Christmas Carol” was written during the time that Britain was exploring new Christmas traditions. This is when Christmas cards and Christmas trees came into being. Charles Dickens was a master of “right timing” and a genius when it came to marketing. He used these talents wisely, especially when he was advocating for children. In 1843, he toured the tin mines in Cornwall and saw first-hand the unspeakable conditions. He didn’t stop there, but witnessed the dreadful London schools that were set up to educate the starving and illiterate street children. He was a fundraiser and encouraged workers and employers to work together to introduce educational reform.

      What has been most heartening: while there is much greed in this world, there are many people who work for peaceful outcomes. That is why I so enjoy your poetry. Your speak to the need for compassion in a world that presents many challenges. It seems that Christmas heightens our understanding of the need. All the very best of Christmas to you and yours. Looking forward to 2016!! 🙂 ❤

      Like

  7. Dearest Rebecca,, what a lovely piece of writing and a rimely reminder for those among us who lose heart when our gaze becomes diverted.. However, a good walk around the block helps ( Thanks Alf) as does reading something well written ( Such as your fine blog) as does a good cup of hot tea, and a good festive stuffing. I really hadn’t known Charles D had such a miserable childhood experience which in of itself is a story of redemption… The concept of becoming rich through povery is one I like to contemplate ….as in “that we through HIs poverty might become rich”. I hope no one else reads this blither.. it’s lovely to think aloud with you. Much love always..

    Liked by 1 person

    • I do love your “blither” and I know that everyone who reads your thoughts would agree. We always love a rags to riches story, but as you wrote, the redemption was that Charles Dickens survived difficult times and went on to help others. Without question he was flawed (he was impatient, craved attention etc) but that should give hope to us all. There is no need for us to achieve perfection before dispensing compassion. As for a walk around the block – it was a lovely Vancouver day. I enjoyed my walk all the more after last night’s Vancouver earthquake of 4.3. I was in the middle of watching Downton Abbey when the shaking began – drama on screen and off screen. Much love and hugs coming back your way. Happy Happy New Year, my dear friend.

      Like

  8. I have enjoyed the above conversation very much. One of your correspondents mentioned that we don’t say “Merry Christmas” as much as we used to. Pity! I did have a friend of mine say of a gentleman that we both met recently. “He doesn’t celebrate Christmas! Can you imagine that!” Christmas brings so much joy, how blest we are to celebrate together.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It is interesting to hear the diversity of opinion relating to a holiday. Compassion for others is an universal ideal. Kindness, tolerance, caring should not be associated with only one day a year. Arthur Schopenhauer once said: “Compassion is the basis of morality.” I think that AChristmas Carol was Charles Dickens way of saying the same thing. Thank you for your comments – very much appreciated.

      Like

  9. FIRST: Merry Christmas (I’m late) & Happy New Year, dear Rebecca! ⭐
    As usual, this is an outstanding post. You waste no paper, even if it is virtual. History is is very important to mankind, as it influences the future. The thing is …. who is hearing the history & using it it for what purpose? You, my dear cyber friend have fab ears, and are helping to keep history in all minds & hearts!
    I’ve always loved and understood the importance of Charles Dickens.
    I did not realize the importance of December 19, 1843. I do now. Thank you!
    One of my teachers in high school taught me this… In a day far before radio or TV.. the printing press was the magic delivery of tales & dreams & future. In the New World, people would line up at the docks, awaiting the ship carrying the next installment of the Pickwick Papers or whatever Dickens was offering up at the time to arrive.
    I love his work… & I love yours!
    Deep regards,
    Resa

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much Resa for adding depth and breadth to this conversation. Your words “who is hearing the history and using it for what purpose,” is a theme that has been uppermost in my mind these past months ever since I started the research on the Industrial Revolution. Who tells the stories, who remembers the stories, who learns from the stories, who shares the stories, and how are the stories reinvented for new generations? A wonderful friend reminded me that Charles Dickens had a genius for observation, especially as it related to human interactions. His characters transcend generations.

      You bring up a very good point on “installments.” We forget that Charles Dickens’s works was delivered via serialized writings because very few people could afford the pricey leather bound novels. Can you imagine what it would be like if Charles Dickens was a modern-day blogger? I think that is what I like most about blogging. We are telling our stories; and in doing so we add to the overshadowing narrative of humanity. Happy New Year, my dear friend. Our story continues…

      Like

  10. I have a copy of “The Christmas Carol” on my tablet. Hard to believe it was published in 1843, wow! I wonder if Darwin could have foreseen its significance and that it would one day be a digital novel on a mobile electronic device? Thank you for giving me more background to the book. I hope you had a beautiful Christmas and I wish you all the best in the glorious New Year, my friend!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I am looking forward to the many discussions that will happen in 2016. We are on a grand adventure – even more exciting, we are documenting our personal stories and adding to the whole of human experience. What is remarkable about Charles Dickens is that he used his difficult and harsh experiences for the good of others. He didn’t try to preach, but rather told stories. He did not offer an personal opinion, he suggested a new way to view a problem. And for that reason, we return, year after year to celebrate hope. All the very best, my dear friend.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. As always Rebecca your words, wisdom and the intellectual abilty to put it all together so one comfortably learns, grows within and enjoys, all at the same time. You are a gift, my friend. I should visit, we really aren’t that far from one another! I hope your New Year has started off most happily for you! ☺🌹🍃🌸🍃💖

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for your kinds words. We live in interesting times where courage and hope keep our hearts focused on creating communities of compassion. For in the end, what remains is love. I think often of the words from The Bridge of San Luis Rey (Thornton Wilder) which I had the privilege of reading in high school. “There is a land of the living and a land of the dead and the bridge is love, the only survival, the only meaning.”

      Liked by 1 person

  12. A very belated happy holiday! Thank you for the Charles Dickens story. Timely. Was just listening to a story about people in the US who are arrested for minor offenses, fined, and when they can’t pay the fines, jailed. Workhouses still with us? Cheers —

    Liked by 1 person

    • As it happens, your timing is perfect. It was Charles Dickens’ birthday yesterday. We live in difficult times. Now more than ever we must remember Charles Dickens’ words: “No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another.” Thank you for your comments – so very much appreciated.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Though it is almost St. Patrick’s Day, I found this to be very relevant to our times right NOW…Recently, I read about a young Black American who was incarcerated on Rikers Island, accused of stealing a backpack. He was waiting for his hearing—NOT even had been in court–waiting for THREE LONG YEARS. He was finally taken into court and then released for lack of evidence. He committed suicide at 21 –his despair stemming from the abuse he suffered in prison. This is a recent story. I feel that in the USA, we have gone back three hundred years. Prisons for profit flood our landscape. Our children need us more than ever!
    Great writing, Rebecca!

    Like

    • We live in difficult and complex times, and face many of the same human rights issues encountered centuries before us. We question whether our voice makes a difference. What I have found, looking back, is that every voice is important and necessary. I read Jane Goodall when I was 18 years old. Her words, “What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make” left a strong impression. Her kindness and gentle spirit speaks loud and clear. Thank you for your visit and comments.

      Liked by 1 person

Comments are closed.