The Christmas Party at Scrooge's Nephew's: "The way he went after that plump sister in the lace tucker, was an outrage on the credulity of human nature."
8.9 x 7.3 cm. vignetted
Dickens's A Christmas Carol, The Pears' Centenary Edition of The Christmas Books, vol. 1, page 97.
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Scanned image and text by Philip V. Allingham.
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But they didn't devote the whole evening to music. After a while they played at forfeits; for it is good to be children sometimes, and never better than at Christmas, when its mighty Founder was a child himself. Stop. There was first a game at blind-man's buff. Of course there was. And I no more believe Topper was really blind than I believe he had eyes in his boots. My opinion is, that it was a done thing between him and Scrooge's nephew; and that the Ghost of Christmas Present knew it. The way he went after that plump sister in the lace tucker, was an outrage on the credulity of human nature. Knocking down the fire-irons, tumbling over the chairs, bumping against the piano, smothering himself among the curtains, wherever she went, there went he. He always knew where the plump sister was. He wouldn't catch anybody else. If you had fallen up against him (as some of them did), on purpose, he would have made a feint of endeavouring to seize you, which would have been an affront to your understanding, and would instantly have sidled off in the direction of the plump sister. She often cried out that it wasn't fair; and it really was not. But when at last, he caught her; when, in spite of all her silken rustlings, and her rapid flutterings past him, he got her into a corner whence there was no escape; then his conduct was the most execrable. For his pretending not to know her; his pretending that it was necessary to touch her head-dress, and further to assure himself of her identity by pressing a certain ring upon her finger, and a certain chain about her neck; was vile, monstrous. No doubt she told him her opinion of it, when, another blind-man being in office, they were so very confidential together, behind the curtains.
Scrooge's niece was not one of the blind-man's buff party, but was made comfortable with a large chair and a footstool, in a snug corner, where the Ghost and Scrooge were close behind her. ["Stave Three: The Second of The Three Spirits," p. 96-97]
The fifth of the six scenes that Green has included for the third stave is a vignette of the Christmas party of young adults at the home of Scrooge's nephew and his young wife. Although a significant part of the resolution of the story involves Scrooge's begging to be admitted to his nephew's on Christmas Day after his spiritual awakening, the original sequence by John Leech does not contain an image of the son of Scrooge's beloved sister, Fan. Later illustrators, however, have addressed this deficit. Although Green might not have seen Sol Eytinge's illustration of Fred's Christmas party, Blind Man's Buff, in which bachelor Topper is clearly cheating and the plump sister (not so plump, but decidedly adolescent in the 1868 illustration) seems to feigning a desire to escape as she is caught behind a curtain, much to the enjoyment of the rest of the company.
Although, therefore, Green's conception of Scrooge's nephew has both antecedents and descendants, the realisation of the game of blind man buff at Fred's is quite possibly original with Charles Green since he probably did not have access to the 1868 edition published in Boston; he may not even have seen the E. A. Abbey-illustrated American Household Edition of 1876, although it is equally likely that he had seen and admired the Harry Furniss composite based on his magic lantern slides, Scrooge objects to Christmas from the mammoth 1910 Charles Dickens Library Edition. However, whereas Furniss focuses on the manly figure of the forthright Fred as he visits Scrooge in his counting-house on Christmas Eve to deliver season's greetings and an invitation to Christmas dinner, Green highlights the situation comedy of the courtship game full of amusing pretence on the part of the well-dressed bachelor guest, Topper, and his "prey," Fred's sister-in-law, who quite clearly in the text and the illustration wishes to be caught. In the Green illustration, Fred andhis wife are likely the couple watching the termination of the game with a mixtureof concern (Fred's wife) and amused detachment (Fred).
The focal figures, placed well forward, to the left of the fireplace, are the plump sister, turning her shoulder away from her pursuer, the blindfolded bachelor. We must presume that there is a lit Christmas tree or other source of light off-right as the chair casts a shadow upon the wall (left). The picture shares the page with the passage thus realised so that the two media fuse together to present the romantic comedy, which we observe from the perspective of some of the guests — and the unseen visitors, Scrooge and the Spirit of Christmas Present. Tonally, this light-hearted moment contrasts sharply the gravely serious allegorical scene with which Green closes the third stave. Green has apparently put a great deal of thought into the vignette, avoiding the "staginess" of conventional parlour scenes, and even researching furniture of the period to make the scene authentic since the dining chair is correct for the late Regency and early Victorian period. The chair is a metonymy for Fred's taste, income, and social class — a chair superior in style, material, and workmanship to that depicted in the E. A. Abbey illustration.
Illustrations from the the Ticknor & Fields (1868), the American Household (1876), and Charles Dickens Library Edition (1910)
Left: Sol Eytinge, Junior's realisation of the dynamic after-dinner parlour game, Blind Man's Buff. Right: Harry Furniss's realisation of Fred's visiting Scrooge in his counting-house, Scrooge objects to Christmas. [Click on images to enlarge them.]
Above: E. A. Abbey's 1876 wood-engraving of Scrooge's being welcomed to Christmas dinner at Fred's, "It's I. Your Uncle Scrooge! I have come to dinner. Will you let me in, Fred?" [Click on the image to enlarge it.]
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.
Created 26 August 2015