Habits often start through the comfort they give. While the tree may be up, the decorations hung and the lights a-twinkling I never feel truly festive without rereading Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. It’s a habit I started long ago, a ritual you might say, and each holiday I return to those opening lines:
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.
It’s the mix of atmospheric ghost story with a deeply humanist moral that makes Dickens’ tale so irresistible. There were, of course, many other ghost stories before A Christmas Carol but none that so intrinsically linked the festive season with the supernatural.
The story of the ungrateful miser Ebenezer Scrooge finding personal redemption after a visit from three ghosts was inspired by the deleterious effects of the Industrial Revolution on the children of poor and working class families. Dickens was horrified at the conditions of the poor and originally considered writing a political pamphlet to highlight the issue—An Appeal to the People of England, on behalf of the Poor Man’s Child—but thought that such a pamphlet would have only a limited appeal to academics, charity workers, liberal politicians and philanthropists.
After addressing a political rally in Manchester in October 1843, where he encouraged workers and employers to join together to bring social change, Dickens decided that it would be far better to write a story that could carry his message to the greatest number of people. Thus he wrote A Christmas Carol. Since its publication in 1843, it has never been out of print and its humanistic themes—to learn from our mistakes, enjoy the moment and find value in human life not things—continue to inspire generation after generation.
While I enjoy reading Dickens’ tale, I can think of no greater delight than hearing it told by Vincent Price—one of the few voices that could read YouTube comments and make them sound interesting. On Christmas Day of 1949, the debonair Mr. Price hosted a holiday special where he read an edited version of A Christmas Carol....
After the jump, Vincent Price and “the oldest extant straight adaptation” for television of ‘A Christmas Carol.’