Here it is Booktrail Advent Day 11 and we are going to the City of London to visit, what for me, is the iconic Christmas story; A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, do go and check out The Book Trail blog, they take us on tours all over the world
Much of A Christmas Carol is set in the City of London – a tiny square mile (or actually just over) which is still the home to the major banks in England.
Unfortunately the exact locations for much of the action isn’t clear but some detective work has yielded some good guesses.
Marley & Scrooge’s Counting House is not far from the Bank of England & The Royal Exchange
It must be close to Cornhill which is where Bob Cratchit slides down the ice when he leaves work on Christmas Eve.
Bob Cratchit lives outside the City of London in Camden Town.
After Scrooge has locked up on Christmas Eve he retires to a melancholy tavern probably Simpson’s in Ball Court Alley, to eat his melancholy dinner.
Of course it is when Scrooge returns to his home that Christmas Eve that everything takes a turn for the worse as the ghostly face of his long-deceased partner, Jacob Marley, briefly materialises on the door knocker
It is probable that Scrooge lived close to his workplace, one likely location being in Lime Street, an address in those days which was sounds far from salubrious!
‘A gloomy suite of rooms, in a lowering pile of building up a yard, where it had little business to be…’
‘The yard was so dark that even Scrooge, who knew its every stone, was fain to grope with his hands’
There is no doubt that this book is set in London with mentions of the lunatic asylum, Bedlam (now the site of the Imperial War Museum) for those who celebrate Christmas (according to scrooge) and The Houses of Parliament where Scrooge suggests his nephew gives his impassioned speech. There are fleeting mentions of the Mayor’s house – Mansion House close to Scrooge’s Counting House as well as a reference to St Paul’s.
I chose A Christmas Carol for my day on The Booktrail Advent because I was captivated from my first reading aged about ten years old. A book that is a longer extension of a fable, a book which reminds us all that a life filled with kindness and love is far more rewarding than one whose main motivation is greed and avarice. In true Dickens style it is full of horrible images, just right for the ghoulish child that I was and I have enjoyed these just as much during my frequent re-readings as an adult.
Of course A Christmas Carol doesn’t really require a review and the journey that Scrooge goes on that Christmas Eve in 1843 doesn’t just follow the familiar streets where he’d spent his adult life striving to make as much money as possible. Oh no Ebenezer Scrooge’s journey first took him on a time travelling journey.
First it is his former partner Marley’s Ghost that visits him with a stark warning that he needs to change his ways, impressing on him that if he carries on his afterlife will be miserable.
But clearly this message needed some proper hammering home, so along comes The Ghost of Christmas Past. The scenes of Ebenezer’s sad and lonely childhood followed by his apprenticeship to the kind Mr Fezziwig are spread in front of him and time travels on until we see that Ebenezer’s life could have been different but it wasn’t to be – his relationship with Belle failed as she suspected his love of money was greater than his love for her. Unhappy and alone Scrooge simply threw himself ten times harder and more determinedly into making money.
The Ghost of Christmas Present follows hard on his heels and Ebenezer is taken to Bob and Mrs Cratchit’s home where he feels genuine concern for Tiny Tim’s health but no time to stop there are plenty more celebrations to behold in London so off he goes to his nephew Fred’s house for another celebration. The Ghost of Christmas Present doesn’t pander to Scrooge’s growing compassion, instead he throws Scrooge’s favourite sayings back in his face.
Still reeling from his journey The Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come appears and Scrooge hurtles one year into the future where poor Tiny Tim has died because of his father’s lack of money and then Scrooge is given the vision of his own death, not just a death that passes without mourning but one that is relished by the other traders, his housekeeper and those who he’d lent money to.
Scrooge has learnt his lesson and when he awakens on Christmas morning, he is a changed man and he spends his Christmas day celebrating with his nephew Fred. Bob Cratchit is given a raise when he returns to work on Boxing Day which of course means that Tiny Tim leads a long and heathier life. The change is permanent and we have to hope that Scrooge lives a long fulfilling life paying his workers a decent wage having turned his back on unscrupulous money-lending practices.
Of course as an adult I understand that Dickens was making points far wider than the fable I took the tale to be at ten. His determined championing of the poor, particular in the realm of education for the young and in this tale he uses the plight of Ignorance and Want to put in his plea for education for all.
The Ghost of Christmas Present shows the twins, wretched and almost animal in appearance, to Scrooge with the warning: “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.”
I do hope you enjoyed this whistle stop tour of this iconic Christmas tale.