The Vision of Scrooge's Former Sweetheart
9 x 7.4 cm. vignetted
Dickens's A Christmas Carol, The Pears' Centenary Edition of The Christmas Books, vol. 1, page 65.
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"One shadow more!" exclaimed the Ghost.
"No more!" cried Scrooge. "No more. I don't wish to see it. Show me no more."
But the relentless Ghost pinioned him in both his arms, and forced him to observe what happened next.
They were in another scene and place; a room, not very large or handsome, but full of comfort. Near to the winter fire sat a beautiful young girl, so like that last that Scrooge believed it was the same, until he saw her, now a comely matron, sitting opposite her daughter. The noise in this room was perfectly tumultuous, for there were more children there, than Scrooge in his agitated state of mind could count; and, unlike the celebrated herd in the poem, they were not forty children conducting themselves like one, but every child was conducting itself like forty. The consequences were uproarious beyond belief; but no one seemed to care; on the contrary, the mother and daughter laughed heartily, and enjoyed it very much; and the latter, soon beginning to mingle in the sports, got pillaged by the young brigands most ruthlessly. What would I not have given to one of them. Though I never could have been so rude, no, no. I wouldn't for the wealth of all the world have crushed that braided hair, and torn it down; and for the precious little shoe, I wouldn't have plucked it off, God bless my soul, to save my life. As to measuring her waist in sport, as they did, bold young brood, I couldn't have done it; I should have expected my arm to have grown round it for a punishment, and never come straight again. And yet I should have dearly liked, I own, to have touched her lips; to have questioned her, that she might have opened them; to have looked upon the lashes of her downcast eyes, and never raised a blush; to have let loose waves of hair, an inch of which would be a keepsake beyond price: in short, I should have liked, I do confess, to have had the lightest licence of a child, and yet to have been man enough to know its value. ["Stave Two: The First of The Three Spirits," p. 64-65]
Charles Green has identified Belle's cancelling the engagement as a key psychological event in Scrooge's development as it reiterates his being rejected by his father and being abandoned by his classmates at each Christmas break when he was a boy at school. Now, in this final vision, approaching the present Christmas and certainly not in the distant past, the spirit guide forces Scrooge to witness what he might have had with Belle: a home and family — indeed, a whole drawing-room full of children, presided over by a comely matron and her daughter, so like her in youth that for the moment mistakes her for her mother. The title of the illustration does not accord with the caption: "And the daughter . . . got pillaged by the young brigands most ruthlessly" (65). The title of page 13, then, is quite misleading as Green is not depicting Belle herself ("Scrooge's Former Sweetheart"), but Belle's teenaged daughter, as the caption makes clear.
In contrast to Charles Green's engaging handling of the poignant scene at the close of Stave Two, Arthur Rackham provides a yuletide water-painting of a father (looking very much like Scrooge) returning home with toys for his children, Laden with Christmas toys and presents and its companion, A flushed and boisterous group, the scene in which Belle's adolescent daughter plays with her siblings. Significantly, no illustrator before Green had focussed on these idyllic scenes of family life which Scrooge foresook when he renounced love and accepted Belle's verdict that love of gain had replaced his love for her. Green cannot resist the opportunity to make the blithe daughter a beautiful and animated young woman in mid-Victorian fashion. She has abandoned the comfortable armchair (left), suggestive of the family's solidly middle-class nature, to sport with three children aged three to six, approximately (Dickens specifies neither the number of "young brigands," nor their ages, although he leads to expect a large number in "there were more children there, than Scrooge in his agitated state of mind could count").
Dickens, Charles. Christmas Books. Illustrated by Sol Eytinge, Jr. The Diamond Edition. Boston: Ticknor and Fields, 1867.
____. 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. Harmondsworth: 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 11 August 2015