The Visitors of Scrooge's Boyhood
9.3 x 7.5 cm. vignetted
Dickens's A Christmas Carol, The Pears' Centenary Edition, vol. 1, page 51.
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The Spirit touched him on the arm, and pointed to his younger self, intent upon his reading. Suddenly a man, in foreign garments: wonderfully real and distinct to look at: stood outside the window, with an ax stuck in his belt, and leading by the bridle an ass laden with wood.
"Why, it's Ali Baba!" Scrooge exclaimed in ecstasy. "It's dear old honest Ali Baba. Yes, yes, I know. One Christmas time, when yonder solitary child was left here all alone, he did come, for the first time, just like that. Poor boy. And Valentine," said Scrooge, "and his wild brother, Orson; there they go. And what's his name, who was put down in his drawers, asleep, at the Gate of Damascus; don't you see him? And the Sultan's Groom turned upside down by the Genii; there he is upon his head. Serve him right. I'm glad of it. What business had he to be married to the Princess."
To hear Scrooge expending all the earnestness of his nature on such subjects, in a most extraordinary voice between laughing and crying; and to see his heightened and excited face; would have been a surprise to his business friends in the city, indeed.
"There's the Parrot." cried Scrooge. "Green body and yellow tail, with a thing like a lettuce growing out of the top of his head; there he is! Poor Robin Crusoe, he called him, when he came home again after sailing round the island. "Poor Robin Crusoe, where have you been, Robin Crusoe?" The man thought he was dreaming, but he wasn't. It was the Parrot, you know. There goes Friday, running for his life to the little creek! Halloa! Hoop! Hallo!"
["Stave Two," p. 51, 1912 edition]
The title in the "List of Illustrations" is a synopsis of an extensive but adjusted quotation that serves as the picture's caption on page 51:
"'Why, it's Ali Baba!' Scrooge exclaimed in ecstasy. "It's dear old honest Ali Baba. 'And Valentine and his wild brother, Orson; there they go. There's the Parrot. Poor Robin Crusoe, where have you been?'" [based on text, p. 50-51]
Although Dickens's original illustrator, John Leech, did not develop this literary realisation of characters from Scrooge's (and Dickens's) childhood reading, American illustrator Sol Eytinge, Jr. did provide a similar picture to Green's as the headpiece for the second stave, a wood-engraving entitled The Vision of Ali Baba, vignette for "Stave 2. The First of the Three Spirits" — later illustrators have like Leech ignored the possibilities of presenting the scene in which a delighted Scrooge recognizes those beloved characters from The Arabian Nights, a simplified Robinson Crusoe, and the brothers raised apart in an eighteenth-century version of the Carolingian romance The Famous and Renowned History of Valentine and Orson: Sons to the Famous and Renowned Emperor of Constantinople. Containing Their Marvellous Adventures. Although both Eytinge and Green foreground Ali Baba, Green provides all the figures whom Scrooge names — and adds a significant character not identified by Scrooge, the tale-teller of The Arabian Nights, Scheherazade. Whereas Eytinge presents a cartoon-like Ali Baba as a portrait and focuses instead upon Scrooge's joyful response, Green treats the five characters seriously and realizes them with photographic realism in the text-framed lithograph.
Green's study of young Scrooge as a reader includes a vivid realisation of his literary companions, foreshadowing his redemption through engaging in imagined (envisioned) scenes of present and future, and remembered scenes of a sometimes joyful, sometimes painful past. Here, Green demonstrates that Scrooge was not entirely friendless and alone at the Christmas holidays, for he enjoyed the companionship of books and the rich emotional life of imagined adventures. Moreover, by including Scheherazade in his exotic cavalcade of childhood reading characters in this illustration, Green underscores the value of a well-told tale and the emotional release that fiction gives us all.
Relevant Illustrations from the 1843, 1868, and 1910 Editions
Left: Sol Eytinge, Junior's scene of Scrooge's being visited by the figures from his beloved books, The Vision of Ali Baba. Right: John Leech's interpretation of Scrooge's attempting to suppress painful memories, Scrooge Extinguishes the First of The Three Spirits. [Click on images to enlarge them.]
Left: Harry Furniss's The First of the Three Spirits (1910), featuring a psychologically introverted child and a country school in the mists of memory. Right: Arthur Rackham's more humorous scene from Scrooge's school days, (1915). [Click on images to enlarge them.]
Dickens, Charles. Christmas Books. Illustrated by Fred Barnard. The Household Edition. London: Chapman and Hall, 1878.
____. Christmas Books. Illustrated by Fred Barnard. Household Edition. London: Chapman and Hall, 1878.
____. Christmas Books. Illustrated by A. A. Dixon. London & Glasgow: Collins' Clear-Type Press, 1906.
____. Christmas Books. Illustrated by Harry Furniss. The Charles Dickens Library Edition. London: Educational Book, 1910.
____. A Christmas Carol in Prose, Being a Ghost Story of Christmas. Illustrated by John Leech. London: Chapman and Hall, 1843.
____. A Christmas Carol in Prose: Being a Ghost Story of Christmas. Illustrated by Sol Eytinge, Jr. Boston: Ticknor & Fields, 1868.
____. A Christmas Carol in Prose, Being A Ghost Story of Christmas. Illustrated by John Leech. (1843). Rpt. in Charles Dickens's Christmas Books, ed. Michael Slater. Hardmondsworth: Penguin, 1971, rpt. 1978.
____. A Christmas Carol. Illustrated by Charles Green, R. I. London: A & F Pears, 1912.
____. A Christmas Carol. Illustrated by Arthur Rackham. London: William Heinemann, 1915.
____. Christmas Stories. Illustrated by E. A. Abbey. The Household Edition. New York: Harper and Brothers, 1876.
Last modified 1 August 2015