Friday, December 17, 2010

It Feels Like a Charles Dickens night...

In 1843, Charles Dickens had writer's block. Anyone who's ever started and restarted and thrown away and screamed to the Heavens for some kind of answer know what horror is contained in those little, tiny words:

Writer's Block

So he went to Scotland, on holiday, as the legend goes. He had Scottish ties and found himself wandering around Greyfriar's Kirkyard (or cemetery to us). Now, this isn't just any ghost yard. T.S. Elliot and JK Rowling have also found their literary salvation among the haunts there. But it is a sad place too. Trouble and poltergeists loom large in the cemetery's past and if you ever have a chance to do the ghost tour there .... be prepared to scream like a little girl. I did
And maybe Dickens witnessed his own apparition there on the cemetery grounds because when he came upon the gravestone of one " Scroogie", he misread it for "Scrooge". According to the guides of the churchyard, Dickens was instantly intrigued by the great and powerful tombstone, obviously designed for a great and powerful man. And yet, there were no flowers, no epitaphs, no evidence of any kind that this man was remembered for all his wealth and power.

And it got him thinking.

Today, a hundred and fifty years or so later, the Western world pretty much recognizes Christmas in the way Charles Dickens imagined it should be recognized in 1843. It's interesting to note that before "A Christmas Carol", the traditions mentioned in the story were not necessarily traditions of the day. Lighting the Christmas tree was a foreign concept brought over by a foreign Prince (Albert) and the idea of Christmas Eve parties and carols were how Dickens imagined it should be. And so it is. Even now.

We all have our favorite versions, of course. And aren't we fierce about defending our "Scrooge" as the greatest? My vote is always for the ONLY English version filmed actually in England with an all English cast: "Scrooge" 1970 with Albert Finney. It is the ultimate version of all versions with the deepest despair and the most miraculous of transformations and rejoicing.

And what of "Scroogie"? The forgotten man who was destined to inspire one of the most miserable misers in history? According to the experts at the graveyard, he was actually a most generous and giving soul who was well loved in his community. Or so the story goes. And yet, wasn't it said the same of Scrooge after the ghosts were through with him? Perhaps "Scroogie" had a bit of Jacob Marley in him, his last kind deed was inspiring a young writer with writer's block.

Charles Dickens in 1843

MERRY CHRISTMAS Scroogie and Charles Dickens and all of you wonderful readers and your families!

God bless us, every one!


  1. Thank you very much, thank you very much! That's nicest thing that anyone ever done for me.

    Love this version of Scrooge also. My all time favorite. So sad but uplifting in the end.

  2. Yay Jenny!! "I like life, life likes me, life and I very fully agree, 'til I die, life and I, we'll both try to be better somehow!"

  3. Love this post and everything about it!
    By the way, I think my favorite version is Scrooged with Bill Murray but I couldn't tell you why.

  4. Thanks, Nat! Ah yes. Bill Murray. :)

  5. Hi Gigi,

    Love your blog. Just wanted to introduce myself since we have many likes in common; London & Paris(although I've yet to go), Austen, Brontes, A Christmas Carol, Practical Magic (OMG, that house) and Nanny McPhee!

    I'm a writer/illustrator who wandered here by way of blog-hopping. I will stop by again!

    Happy New Year,

  6. Hello Jane! Thank you so much for your lovely message! Happy New Year! You have marvelous taste and it's wonderful to have you! :) ps. you MUST go to England!! It is everything you're hoping it is and MORE!

  7. According to the Magic Treehouse books, it was Jack and Annie that helped Charles Dickens overcome writer's block. LOL.