A Bit Of History
Everyone should “make themselves as much as possible like a group of friends, listening to a tale told by a winter fire,” Charles Dickens told audiences who came to listen to his performances of A Christmas Carol (as qtd. in Schlicke, 1988). Since its original publication more than a century and a half ago, audiences have taken this advice to heart. As Paul Davis (1990) notes in The Lives and Times of Ebenezer Scrooge, there have been thousands of adaptations and productions of the original tale. The characters, ideals, and values espoused in A Christmas Carol have “become common cultural property” and “deeply embedded in our consciousness.” Dickens’s story has had a lasting impact on Western culture and many of the traditions now associated with the celebration of Christmas.
The elements of blazing fireplaces, mince pies, plum pudding, wassail bowls, springs of holly, and mistletoe were not invented by Dickens, but were imbued by his tale with a type of literary splendor and became almost essential elements at traditional Christmas Holiday parties. His work gave us the phrase “Bah! Humbug!” as an insult for something that is overly sentimental and redefined the word “scrooge” as a synonym for a “miser.” (It meant “to squeeze or crush” in Dickens’s day.)
It is through the yearly performances Dickens gave as much as by reading the book that the world came to know the story of Ebenezer Scrooge, Tiny Tim, and the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future. The author, who enjoyed the theater, read A Christmas Carol at charitable events in his home country and even traveled abroad, in part earning his living through reading A Christmas Carol to audiences. In a biography of Dickens’s life, Jane Smiley (2002) notes there was no shortage of persons willing to pay to hear him read the story. Even Mark Twain could be counted among the patrons. And, as Dickens related many times in correspondence to friends, the intoxicating effect of eliciting tears while acting in a play and reciting the words of another is one thing, but to see some 4,000 people bursting simultaneously into sobs as you read your own words to them is something else again.
And Now For Fun & Somewhat Unusual Facts to Amaze Your Friends With This Holiday Season (in no particular order) . . .
It only snowed once in London on Christmas Day during Charles Dickens’s lifetime.
No one exchanges presents in A Christmas Carol. (Scrooge contributes a prize-winning bird for the Cratchit’s Christmas feast, but he does not receive a physical gift in return.)
No Christmas tree appears in A Christmas Carol, even though Queen Victoria and her husband, Prince Albert, made the tradition of decorating the tree popular in both England and America prior to the publication of the novel.
In the 1976 Six Million Dollar Man Christmas episode, the exterior used for the Scrooge character ‘s home was the same façade used for Norman Bates’ home in Alfred Hitchcock’s movie, Psycho.
Scrooged was released on November 23, 1988. During the restaurant scene, a close-up of the watch worn by Frank, Bill Murray’s character, shows the date as November 23 even though it is supposed to be Christmas Eve.
In the 1992 The Muppet Christmas Carol, Brian Henson (Jim Henson’s son) has said Gonzo and Rizzo were incorporated into the film so that Dickens’ original narration could be included. Yes—Dickens was replaced by whatever creature Gonzo represents and a rat.
The 2009 version of A Christmas Carol was originally filmed live and then turned into the 3D animated version that appears on screen.
A quick search of the IMDB reveals almost 200 titles related to A Christmas Carol and almost 100 more films with the name of Scrooge somewhere in the title.
Many steampunk versions of A Christmas Carol have been published and performed. A full performance by Murry Hill Theatre & Prodigal 15 Productions is available on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OtwDjHm6fzQ
And finally–Harry Lloyd, who plays Viserys Targaryen on Game of Thrones, is the great-great-great grandson of Charles Dickens.
Davis, P. (1990). The Lives and Times of Ebenezer Scrooge. New Haven: Yale University Press.
Schlicke, P. (1988). Dickens and Popular Entertainment. London: Unwin Hyman.
Smiley, J. (2002). Charles Dickens. New York, NY: Viking.
Categories: Steampunk Inspirations