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Scarlet-and-gold cover with embossed fireplace motif and printed title-page with Gothic font. The Cricket on the Hearth. A Fairy-tale of Home. London: Bradbury & Evans, 1845. 17 cm high x 11 cm wide.

In the third of the Christmas Books, 1843-48, The Cricket on the Hearth. A Fairy-tale of Home (December 1845), Dickens takes a slight story involving two confusions and casts a menacing shadow on scenes of domestic bliss in a middle-aged carrier's parlour somewhere in Dorset, a setting unfamiliar to the London author.

Instead of utilising a single illustrator to provide visual coherence in the program of fourteen plates dropped into the text, Dickens felt compelled to use a team of diverse talents to meet his publication deadline — the week prior to Christmas — to catch the seasonal book-trade. Whereas his previous seasonal offering, The Chimes, A Goblin Story of some bells that rang an old year out and a new year in (December 1844), had sounded a note of social and political protest, this third little book in scarlet-and-gold dealt with nothing more contentious than suspected adultery. Although the 1845 novella may not, as Dickens's biographer and confidant John Forster asserted, have doubled sales of A Christmas Carol in 1843-44, reviews were uniformly favourable and the novella rapidly went through two editions, generating over a thousand pounds in profits for the writer (Patten, 1978, p. 168). After the disastrous copyright cases over piracies of A Christmas Caro, Dickens had broken with Chapman and Hall, and had entered into a publication agreement with his former printers, Bradbury and Evans, for the second of the Christmas Books in 1844, and that firm again published the annual Christmas Book, as its title-page announces, "for the author."

Illustrations for the Third Volume of the Pears' Centenary Christmas Books of Charles Dickens (1912)

Each contains about thirty illustrations from original drawings by Charles Green, R. I. — Clement Shorter [1912].


Bentley, Nicolas, Michael Slater, and Nina Burgis. The Dickens Index. New York and Oxford: Oxford U. P., 1990.

Cohen, Jane Rabb. Charles Dickens and His Original Illustrators. Columbus: Ohio State U. P., 1980.

Davis, Paul. Charles Dickens A to Z: The Essential Reference to His Life and Work. New York: Checkmark and Facts On File, 1999.

Dickens, Charles. Christmas Books. Illustrated by Fred Barnard. The Household Edition. London: Chapman and Hall, 1878.

_____. Christmas Stories. Illustrated by E. A. Abbey. The Household Edition. New York: Harper and Brothers, 1876.

_____. The Cricket on the Hearth. A Fairy Tale of Home. Illustrated by John Leech, Daniel Maclise, Richard Doyle, Clarkson Stanfield, and Edwin Landseer. Engraved by George Dalziel, Edward Dalziel, T. Williams, J. Thompson, R. Graves, and Joseph Swain. London: Bradbury and Evans, 1846 [December 1845].

_____. The Cricket on the Hearth. Illustrated by L. Rossi. London: A & F Pears, 1912.

Patten, Robert L. Charles Dickens and His Publishers. Oxford: Clarendon Press: 1978.

Last modified 28 June 2019