This study considers manifestations of Christmas in Dickens's work and explores how death, time, change, charity, love, and religious belief provide a fresh basis on which to assess how Dickens conceived of Christmas and New Year.
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"Marley was dead, to begin with." Why does the most beloved of Christmas books open with a death? What has death to do with Christmas and New Years, and with Dickens's Christmas books and stories over his entire life? This book starts at the Paris Morgue and takes Dickens through his Christmas experiences from childhood and beyond, his celebrations of the season, and the sorrows that he often reviews in the New Year.
Robert L. Patten weaves together Dickens's life, career, writings, journalism, travel, theatrical presentations, and religious convictions to offer a richly designed and entertaining narrative, fulsomely illustrated, of the manifold ways Dickens figures the spirit and traditions of the winter holidays in Victorian England. Both the gothic of ghosts and retribution and what he saw as the grotesque of lower-class enjoyment surface importantly in Dickens's fantasies. This volume discloses many
hitherto overlooked connections between Dickens's writings and life and arrives at some surprising conclusions about Dickens's imagination, understanding of the conditions and meaning of Christian life, and the failures of British society to meet the pressing needs of its people. Not only does it
address the public reception of these writings; it also tracks the responses and understandings of Dickens's illustrators, friends who found novel ways of telling, and mis-telling, the stories.