Scrooge and Co weren't Charles Dickens' only Christmas cast. If you're ready for a different tale, here are four alternatives to tryby Ray Cavanaugh / December 14, 2018 / Leave a comment
Sick of the same old Dickens classic each year?
Understandable if you are. Even a fine tale of redemption can grow wearisome after the 85th time.
But you needn’t resign yourself to A Christmas Carol once again. Dickens wrote four other yuletide novellas from which to choose: The Chimes, The Cricket on the Hearth, The Battle of Life and The Haunted Man.
Though all of these titles enjoyed popularity in their day, none of them made the lasting impact of Dickens’ initial Christmastime offering—the one with which we’re all familiar (perhaps more than we wish at this point) and the one which redeemed not just Scrooge, but Dickens as well.
After a triumphant beginning, his career had flagged—until the 19 December 1843 publication of the Carol, which immediately began to delight a public that, likely without even knowing it, was starving for a story of holiday goodwill and personal transformation.
Owing to this tale, Dickens has continued to enjoy a superstardom that, if ever appearing to wane, regenerates each holiday season with the inescapable TV and stage adaptations of what is arguably the English language’s most treasured work of fiction.
Of course, such widespread adoration can easily result in overexposure. And if you’re completely Scrooged out by now, here are your other Dickensian Christmas options…
Appearing in print nine days before Christmas 1844, The Chimes involves the Scrooge-like spiritual transformation of an elderly misanthrope.
And as happened with the Carol, The Chimes was selling tens of thousands of copies basically as soon as it saw print. In fact, several stage adaptations were already underway within mere weeks of the book’s arrival.
Aside from achieving such popular appeal, Dickens had a particularly lofty ambition with The Chimes. According to John Foster, an early Dickens biographer, “he was to try and convert Society, as he had converted Scrooge” to show beneficence to the destitute.
Though the novella succeeds in stressing the intrinsic value of even the most downtrodden human lives, it’s in many ways a bleak tale that conveys a sense of trapped futility engulfing the vast lot of underprivileged lives in the 1840s (also known as the “Hungry Forties”). Readers seeking a less merry and more sobering post-Carol work might wish to start here.
The author himself was certainly a fan of his second Christmas novella: In a letter dated 5 November 1844 he wrote, “I believe I have written…