A Christmas Carol: Historical Context

Canto di Natale di Charles Dickens è senza dubbio uno dei racconti natalizi più popolari e amati di tutti i tempi. Tra l’altro, è proprio con questa splendida storia che Dickens ha contribuito a preservare e a tramandare nel tempo molte di quelle usanze e tradizioni che ancora oggi vengono associate al periodo più magico dell’anno.

Grazie a questo video tratto da un episodio di “Reading Aloud with Michael Rosen”, abbiamo l’opportunità di scoprire qualcosa di più su colui che ha “inventato il Natale”.

While you watch the video, try to catch the answers to these questions:

1. When did Charles Dickens move in at 48 Doughty Street in Bloomsbury?
2. How old was he then?
3. Who did he move in with?
4. What is 48 Doughty Street today?
5. Which works did Dickens write while he lived there?
6. The titles of A Christmas Carol were originally written in green and red. What colours did Dickens have them changed to?
7. Who painted the scene of Fezziwig and his wife dancing on the fan?
8. What are the ingredients of Bob Cratchit’s special cocktail?

If you need help, here’s the transcript:

“Today, my favourite creator of Christmas stories, Charles Dickens.
Do you know, when he died, a market girl here in London said: “Dickens? Dead? Then will father Christmas die too?” So where better to find out more about the great man’s festive legacy than here at 48 Doughty Street in Bloomsbury, where Charles Dickens once lived?

It was 1837. Charles Dickens was 25 when he moved in here with his wife and baby son, a  rising literary star in a newly built house, now a museum.
And it could have been a washroom like this that might have inspired the story about Mrs. Cratchit using a boiler, or a copper, to cook her Christmas pudding, “… like a speckled cannonball ignited with blazing brandy”.

Well, Dickens was certainly prolific while he lived here. He completed Oliver Twist, he wrote Nicholas Nickleby and part of Pickwick Papers. A Christmas Carol will come later, but this museum holds many fascinating items related to this magical story.

Museum DIrector: “I picked the few little treasures we’ve got today. Here is a copy of A Christmas Carol that actually belonged to Dickens’ father. In fact, you can see Dickens’ father’s signature there, John Dickens, at the top.  Quite a nice little item because, as you can see, it’s all blue and red. But when Dickens originally was given this copy, he was given it with green and red titles, which we associate with Christmas. He rejected it and went for blue and red.”
Michael Rosen: “And tell me a bit about the picture. Who did that?”
Museum DIrector: “Well, the illustrator was called John Leech. He was a friend of Dickens’ and you can see these lovely little hand-coloured paintings throughout the book. It cost a lot of money. In fact, Dickens didn’t make much money through these.”
Michael Rosen: “And what else have you got?”
Museum DIrector: “Well, another scene on this fan of Fezziwig and his wife dancing. This was actually painted by Dickens’ daughter, who was born in this house. I think that the Christmas Carol story has a lot of elements that we associate now with Christmas and Dickens sort of reinvented the feeling of Christmas (during the period, the first Christmas card was sent as well), so a lot of the customs that we have now, starting with this little tale.”

And there’d be plenty of Christmas spirit of the alcoholic kind flowing from the wine cellar here in Doughty Street,  just as there is in A Christmas Carol. Large bowls of punch and Bob Cratchit’s special cocktail of warm gin and herbs.””

Al prossimo post su Dickens per una interessantissima visita alla casa di Bloomsbury, là dove hanno preso vita molti dei capolavori del più grande romanziere dell’epoca vittoriana, incluso Canto di Natale.
Nel frattempo, non perdetevi il post Christmas Stories – A Christmas Carol, mi raccomando! Merry Christmas, j

Janet L. Dubbini

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