"Christmas stories" by Charles Dickens

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when the woman he loved was wooed and wed by his best friend. One night, Redlaw is haunted by his own ghost, who agrees to strip Redlaw of his painful memories. The ghost throws in an added bonus: everyone Redlaw meets also will lose their bad memories. The “gift” causes havoc in a family of poor but loving villages, because the loss of memories of past pain robs them of the ability to emphasize. The only person unaffected by Redlaws strange power is a street urchin. Because the boy never has known kindness, he is never developed a capacity for compassion. Redlaw begins the ghost to remove his curse, but is told that only Milly, the wife of Redlaws servant and the embodiment of unselfish love, can cure the villagers. Milly goes visiting the villagers memory return, and harmony prevails. Redlaws regains his own memory when he forgives the man who wronged him. Dickens is obsessed with the theme of memory, and the effect that childhood experiences have on adults. Both Scrooge and Redlaw grew up poor, but became successful after years of hard works. Their accomplishments left them vaguely unsatisfied, just as Dickens achievements couldnt exorcise the pain of his early years. He revisited his traumatic childhood again and again in his novels. “Many people have had worse childhoods than Charles Dickens,” Epstein wrote. “Few have profited by them as much.” The Haunted Man is more psychological than the preceding novellas. The idea of the divided self is embodied by Redlaw and his ghost, and Redlaws self-loathing when he infects others with his disease expresses a common idea among those who are depressed that the people they love would be better off without them.

How he struck his contemporaries in these early years appears in R.H. Hornes New Spirit of the Age (1844). Dickens occupied the first and longest chapter, as …manifestly the product of his age….a genuine emanation from its aggregate and entire spirit…. His mixes were extensively in society, and continually. Few public meetings in a benevolent cause are without him. He speaks effectively…. His influence upon his age is extensive pleasurable, instructive, healthy, reformatory….

Mr. Dickens is private, very much what might be expected from his works… His conversation is genial… He has personal activity, and is fond of games of practical skill. He is a great walker, and a very much given to dancing Sir Roger de Coverley. In private, the general impression of him is that of a first-rate practical intellect, with “no nonsense” about him.

He was indeed very much a public figure, actively and centrally involved in his world, and a man of confident presence. He was reckoned the best after-dinner speaker of the age; other superlatives he attracted included his having been the best shorthand reporter on the London press his being the best amateur actor on the stage. Later he became one of the most successful periodical editors and the finest dramatic recitalist of the day. He was splendidly endowed with many skills. “Even irrespective of his literary genius,” wrote an obituarist, “he was an able and strong-minded man, who would have succeeded in almost any profession to which he devoted himself” (Times, June 10, 1870). Few of his extra literary skills and interests were irrelevant to the range and mode of his fiction.


3 Final creative works and changes in Charles Dickens personality.


Privately in these early years, he was both domestic and social. He loved and family life and was a proud and efficient householder; he once contemplated writing a cookbook. To his many children, he was a devoted and delightful father, at least when they were young; relations with them proved less happy during their adolescence. Apart from periods in Italy (1844-45) and Switzerland and France (1846-47), he still lived in London, moving from an apartment in Furnivals Inn to larger houses as his income and family grew. Here he entertained his many friends, most of them popular authors, journalists, actors or artists, though some came from the law and other professions or from commerce and a few from the aristocracy. Some friendships dating from his youth endured to the end, and, though, often exasperated by the financial demands of his parents and other relatives, he was very fond of some of his family and loyal to most of the rest. Some literary squabbles came later, but he was on friendly terms with most of his fellow authors, of the older generation as well as his own. Necessarily solitary while writing and during the long walks (especially through the streets at night) that became essential to his creative processes; he was generally social at other times. He enjoyed society that was unpretentious and conversation that was genial and sensible but not too intellectualized or exclusively literary. High society he generally avoided, after a few early incursions into the great houses; he hated to be lionized or patronized.

He had about him “a sort of swell and overflow as of a prodigality of life.” an American journalist said. Everyone was struck by the brilliance of his eyes and his smart, even dandyish appearance (“I have a fondness of a savage for finery,” he confessed). John Forster, his intimate friend and future biographer, recalled him at the Pickwick period:

the quickness, keenness, and a practical power, the eager, restless, energetic outlook on each several feature [of his face] seemed to tell so little of a student or a writer of books, and so much of a man of action or business in the world. Light and motion flashed from every part of it.

He was proud of his art and devoted to improving and using it to good ends (his works would show, he wrote, that “Cheap Literature is not behind-hand with the Age, but holds its place, and strives to do its duty”), but his art never engaged all his formidable energies. He had no desire to be narrowly literary.

A notable, though unsuccessful, demonstration of this was his being founder-editor in 1846 of the Daily News (soon to become the leading liberal newspaper). His journalistic origins, his political convictions and readiness to act as a leader of opinion, and his wish to secure a steady income independent of his literary creativity and of any shifts in novel readers tastes made him attempt or plan several periodical ventures in the 1840s. The return to daily journalism soon proved a mistake the biggest fiasco in a career that included few such misdirection and failures. A more limited but happier exercise of his practical talents began soon afterward: for more than a decade he directed, energetically and with great insight and compassion, a reformatory home for young female delinquents, financed by his wealthy friend Angela Burdett-Coutts. The benevolent spirit apparent in his writings often found practical expression in his public speeches, fund-raising activities, and private acts of charity.

Dombey and Son (1846-48) was a crucial novel in his development, a product of more thorough planning and maturer thought and the first in which “a pervasive uneasiness about contemporary society takes the place of an intermittent concern with specific social wrongs” (Kathleen Tillotson). Using railways prominently an effectively, it was very up-to-date, though the questions pose included such perennial moral and religious challenges as are suggested by the child Pauls first words in the story: “Papa, what is money?” Some of the corruptions of money and pride of place and limitations of “respectable” values are explored, virtue and human decency being discovered most often (as elsewhere in Dickens) among the poor, humble and simple. In Pauls early death Dickens offered another famous pathetic episode; in Mr. Dombey he made a more ambitious attempt than before at serious and internal characterization. David Copperfield (1849-50) has been described as a “holiday” from this larger social concerns and most notable for its childhood chapters, “an enchanting vein which he had never quite found before and which he was never to find again” (Edmund Wilson). Largely for his reason and its autobiographical interest, it has always been among his popular novels and was Dickens own “favorite child.” It incorporates material from the autobiography he had recently begun but soon abandoned and is written in the first person, a new technique for him. David differs from his creator in many ways, however, though Dickens uses many early experiences that had meant much to him his period of work in the factory while his father was jailed, his schooling and reading, his passion for Maria Beadnell, and (more cursorily) his emergence from parliamentary reporting into successful novel writing. In Micawber the novel presents one of the “Dickens characters” whose imaginative potency extends far beyond the narratives in which they figure; Pickwick and Sam Weller, Mrs. Gamp and Mr. Pecksniff, and Scrooge are some others.

Dickens journalistic ambitions at last found a permanent form in Household Words (1850-59) and its successor, All the Year Round (1859-88). Popular weekly miscellanies of fiction, poetry, and essays on a wide range of topics, these had substantial and increasing circulations, reaching 300,000 for some of the Christmas Numbers. Dickens contributed some serials the lamentable Childs History of England (1851-53), Hard Times (1854), A Tale of Two Cities (1859), and Great Expectations (1860-61) the essays, some of which were collected in Reprinted Pieces (1858) and The Uncommercial Traveller (1861, later amplified). Particularly in 1850-52 and during the Crimean War, he contributed many items on current political and social affair