Sunday, December 21, 2008

Dickens: The Light- and Dark-Side Glides

Cheer and churchgoing, feasting and dancing, drinking and kissing, bonhomie and benevolence. If these are the things we think of when we think of Christmas, then we've got the Victorian era's greatest novelist to thank, John Walsh prettily pontificates:

Dickens was nuts about Christmas . . . But when we look at his Christmas writings, darker currents glide beneath all the beaming and laughter. "A Christmas Dinner," his earliest exercise in Yuletide-worship, is a yelpingly naive and callow invitation to the feast. It tells readers to buck up their ideas, pull up to the fire, fill their glasses, and just jolly well join in being merry. The author has no truck with party-poopers, misery-guts, pessimists, misanthropes, or the recently bereaved. He can be simultaneously sentimental and heartless when writing about children: "Look on the merry faces of your children (if you have any) as they sit round the fire. One little seat may be empty; one slight form that gladdened the father's heart, and roused the mother's eye to look upon, may not be there. Dwell not upon the past; think not that, one short year ago, the fair child now resolving into dust sat before you, with the bloom of health upon its cheek, and the gaiety of infancy in its joyous eye. Reflect upon your present blessings . . ." (Thanks for that, Charles.)

Thanks for this, Mr. Walsh. From one word-lover to another, do enjoy a wonderfully festive Follification for the duration in your incomparably eruditious nation.

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