Among these later Christmas stories there are a lot of interesting biographical materials-as "Christmas Tree", the other had the huge popularity-"Seven Poor Travelers", "Mrs.Lirriper’s Lodgings", "Dr.Marigold’s Prescriptions" and so on. But as a whole, Dickens genius was close within the framework of the story, humor, which had no boundaries, pathos, spending on a trifle, decorated with sentimentality, there is the complete absence of overtones which is put into a work with great thematic spheres of life, and that is why the stories raise from the level of boring journalistic prose, there is not even that tension and true action, which differentiate the best examples of Victorian journalistic novelistic,-this can be said not about the last story written with Wilkie Collins. With the exception of one, Christmas stories"-are not great success of Dickens. "Novelette" or "story"-are not suitable for him. "Battle of Life" and "The haunted man" deserved great success, luck even when it just appeared and nowadays, these creative works caused enormous interest as the witness of the attachment of Dickens to his life experience, here changed into highly enterprise stories. “Cricket on the Heart” was very popular at his time; the figure of the girl-wife is described pathetically – central in “David Copperfield” – and an amazing ability to see freakish images, faces, and pictures on the red-hot coal, highly described; the biggest success got “TheChimes”, story helps to understand the social position of Charles Dickens and by the way shows the extraordinary role of an author as the political satiric.
In the context of Charles Dickens creative activity, the complex analysis of social defects and their interdependence is emphasized, preparing grandiose linen of the later masterpieces: kind motives of villains in “The Chimes” directed ideas prompting earlier name of the novel Little Dorrit – “No One Guilty”. Only one Christmas story is read with great pleasure till the present days – the earliest, Christmas Song, and this merited success where the short form is revealed in the most profitable way: energetic action, natural dialogue, simple plot. From that point of view we can realize the whole idea about social problems disturbing Charles Dickens, however, here these problems understood as a myth accompanying Dickens from his childhood, and the scene appeared amazingly natural, as if simple, clear, logic dream.
In Martin Chuzzlewit Charles Dickens has already tried to create the world of dreams, one way or another presents in all his novels. In the eve of murder of Montague Tigg, John Chuzzlewit dreams of the end of life: something strange, disturbed, as if the city is seen above from the bird flight, a lot of people hurrying in the streets – they are familiar, but they look strange, they pass as the chilly memories of everything what had happened to hi in his life. This type of dream takes its origin from the Arabic tales, where the heroes of the story fly on the carpet-plane or on the wings of the magic bird above the cities, countries. Lesage used this idea in his own story, but the scenes of social life and morality is described by the author and he showed the contrast between – wealth and poverty, guilt and innocence, old and youth, death and birth.
In Christmas song, in the dreams of Scrooge, these two themes merged as a whole –we see the world by these contrasts and we also are informed about past life of Scrooge, his gone childhood that will never return and lost innocence. In the latent depth of Scrooge’s visions Dickens Charles hides his personal pains, suffered in the factory of Warren: we find ourselves in the horrible darkness after the warm bedroom; from the hot fire we are taken away to the deserted, bare plains, to the sea; we just sit at the holiday table – and already see thrown children: the name of a girl – Poverty, the name of a boy – Ignorance. That time Dickens convicted that the crime, poverty, inequality, violence which he hated and was afraid of in modern society, - all these is cause of uneducation, I think everybody should think like that if they need and desire better future for themselves and for their nation. Charles Dickens always believed in education, but his thoughts about the methods of education essentially changed. But, then, coming back from America, he did not change his mind that only education is able to stop the deep-rooted evil, where he saw consequence of injustice and severely arranged society, where the human is only economic unit.
This idea presents in two firstly written Christmas stories, but in The Chimes Charles Dickens gives it as thesis in the form of political satire that in Christmas Song, accompanying it with horrible scene facing Scrooge children – Ignorance and Poverty – he expresses his past sufferings and ideas. Scrooge is last who could be appealed to – all kind-hearted generous men, who are able to reorganize the society with personal nobility and generosity. The difficulty, however, presents because Scrooge is partly hero of typical story with ghosts; but this Christmas story, myth about expiation and condescended for good fortune, is necessary for holiday, promising changes better future. We can not mark Scrooge as the true merchant. Like Pickwick, he passes through purifying fire of world sufferings, only for this reason he should experience his own childhood, to see childhood of Little Tim, by the spirits of Poverty and Ignorance to see general childhood. And in the middle of our lives we are under the power of the death – “…christmas holidays… when people… visit their relatives, they see their close peoples even in poor and destitute persons, they are just as we, walking across on the road of death, but there are also another type of men who choose another ways” – so, even in our childhood we are on the threshold of the end. In the visions of Scrooge, he sees the childhood of him come to the end and his heart becomes rough; he visions the death of Tim, and other kids’ too – Ignorance and Poverty – come forward as the bulletin of something more terrible: “mostly care about the boy, the “death” follows him”: the nightmares of Scrooge were so horrible – but, all depends on the occasion, whether to sit with the kid by the fire or to be “a little boy lost in the snow-storm”, about what Little Tim sang about, with the thin, pity, low voice, and sang it truly splendidly. Neither in the Christmas stories nor in “TheChimes” there is no consecutive scenes of social abuse, and there is only one means to stop all this – praying; but these nightmares make us to understand how the life is unsafe and the small happiness, joy of us is unlasting, then the vague idea appears that all these emotions have connection with something forgotten in our childhoods, and also it has connection with Christianity. These thoughts belonged to Charles Dickens: “How joyful is to feel like a child, at times.” Essentially, Dickens talked about various themes in his Christmas stories, however, he used narrative form of writing, and rearranged it as the stories which he read in his childhood and related them with his biggest wish. That is why the Christmas stories make reader to think deeply on it and gives sentimental emotions. This idea concerns another books of Charles Dickens too. That is why the novel Oliver Twist is wide-read all over the world, and lovely book of the readers. Impression of the Christmas stories on readers was surprising. Dickens’ heart filled with generous feeling. Thackeray wrote: “You blessed everyone who read this story.” Unfortunately, Charles Dickens got less profit from the great circulation of the stories than he counted on.
Blessed with ageless appeal, the stories of Charles Dickens were the drawing force behind the Victorian era’s revival of the previously declining Yuletide tradition. Universally popular almost from the moment of publication, they are widely regarded as the catalyst that rekindled the joy of Christmas in Britain and America. Originally published in the weekly periodical Household Words, which Dickens edited until his death, these short-stories capture the very essence of Christmas as it was meant to be… a joyous celebration of family and friends.
§2. The differential features between Dickens’ and Irving’s Christmas stories.
Dickens, Charles is fairly considered as the first writer who invented this genre in England. Christmas stories appeared not accidentally in Dickens’ creative activity. They rose completely naturally, so these stories corresponded to his inner logics of the artistic method. This condition was marked by such a penetrating historian of literature – Lois Cazamian, who subtitled the chapter about Charles Dickens as “La Philosophie de Noel”, in his book of English socialistic novel.
However, it does not mean that the genre of Christmas stories did not exist until Dickens in other countries, even in little bit different form. The existence and appearance of this genre in the epoch of Romanticism in literature is so natural and possible, because Christmas story appear due to national beliefs spread in different countries, some kind of magic happening at Christmas night. For romanticists, as it is known, orientating in using folklore for material; decorated with mystic, dark, “ballad” tones, Christmas national fantastic had to be quite comprehendible.
That is why it is necessary that writers of one nation have to create Christmas stories under the direct influence of literature of another nation. Difference of styles, an approach to the theme and its development, make us to suppose that there is no interdependence between them.
For this reason, we can talk about the realistic type of Christmas stories, close to Charles Dickens, - on the book of sketches of a great American writer, Washington Irving.
Firstly, however, it is important to note that the elucidating basis of Christmas ideology, the talk is not about the concept “Christmas of church”, but about the “religion of the heart”, the cult of home preached by Irving and Dickens, true, with sentimental philistine-religious elements, however, not composed integral element of his genre.
The book of Washington Irving was written, mainly, about England and became famous due to its London publication in 1820.
Five sketches were dedicated to Christmas theme in his book. Irving concerns to England, as many romanticist writers concerns to the past of their countries. That is why, we will not find the descriptions of cities and mode of life in the cities. That city romanticism, which brought up Dickens Charles and formed his character and manners as a writer, was not mentioned by Washington Irving. The city for Irving is a world of “business”, assemblage of businessmen, always busy, always hurrying to somewhere, completely indifferent to each other. We know that Charles Dickens in his urban landscape can find people from another mode of life, from different level of society. They are equally unusual, ekzotic, and more archaic than middle townsman. Irving acts in different way. He searches for archaism out of cities, for example, conservative romanticists in rural regions, in the villages.
Rural life appeals Washington Irving not only by its beautiful parks and gardens, by its ancient castles and picturesque churches and cottages, but also by that social advantage which villages could save despite to cities.
Here, in peaceful rural silence there is not that social contrast, yet, which is typical for big modern cities. From Irving’s point of view, every inhabitant of the villages is satisfied with their place in society and treatment between various estates is built in harmony.
This conservative social-political tendency of Washington Irving we have to remember in analyzing of his Christmas stories.
Describing Christmas holiday in England, Irving shows happy rural life. Christmas, Irving considers, puts into people’s hearts peace and love. Christmas is a time when everybody restores old relationships with family and friends, which is weakened with the course of time. Sons and daughters who left their homes return to their family to remember nostalgic memories of childhood, by the fire. Everyone become younger and loves each other at Christmas. This period of year gives great enjoyment, because of warm and comfortable family atmosphere at the fireplace. Short cloudy days, and dark nights, empty landscape covered with snow make people to gather tighter at homes and evaluate simple joys of family members much more than usually. Bright red flames illuminating room, - this is like the artificial sun, lit up faces and making them to smile to everybody who newly came. Christmas – is the time of hearty hospitality for everyone, it is time of secular games and entertainment. As if, all the doors and hearts are widely opened to the most sincere fun. At this universal holiday unity, says Irving, disappear all boundaries between different social levels, so peasant and peer approach to one another attacked by the similar joy.
The sweet noise of songs come from old nobiliary manors, tables are served, decorated with different meals, sweets, and so on. But peasant’s cabin is also decorated with evergreen branches, they invite the passer-by to in their homes to warm themselves, and to shorten long winter nights, listening old legends and Christmas stories.
Washington Irving describes the ideal influence of Christmas holiday to the society. Charles Dickens wholly accepts this ideology of Christmas, changing it into complete world outlook in his Pickwick Papers. But here, the differences between them appear over again: Washington Irving, with the strict accuracy of ethnographer, shows the Christmas holiday in villages, pedantically restoring ancient patriarchal traditions, but Dickens finds his Christmas idyll in any place and in any family, he is not interested in the form of holiday and its historical meaning. Describing his freak, Washington Irving’s mood changes, because his freak and his customs now in modern England – are occasional saved fragments of past, condemned to be forgotten, to die.
In the meaning of historical contradiction and in a concrete direction of his sympathies, Washington Irving is older than Dickens, Charles for one generation. Many things, here, have not lost its utopian elements of the XVIII century, and there is much influence of artificial archaic of conservative romanticism.
Typical that Irving describes old knights’ armour in old house or under the vault of Westminster Abbey, in more natural atmosphere for it, but in Charles Dickens’ creative activity we will find them already in the Old Curiosity Shop, where they are adapted to new form of life and turned from the objects of superior honor to the objects of the purchase and sale.
Both of these writers are connected by the moral-hedonistic aim of their creative activity. Washington Irving is not purposed to show the right way by the sermon, but just to entertain and cheer up. Moral value of his stories arises naturally. He ends his Christmas series with these words:
“Significantly more pleasant to be appreciated than to teach, to be in a role of the companion than to be a teacher… if I accidentally succeed to smooth just a wrinkle on somebody’s anxious face and to make one’s aggravated with sadness heart to forget all the evil and sufferings just for a time; if I can disseminate the hatred of people to each other, help them to look at the world and human nature with happy sight and to inspire people with more optimistic treatment to themselves and to their relatives and family, so, it means that I writings were not vain.”
Charles Dickens in his “Sketches by Boz”, he continues an idyll line of Christmas stories started by Washington Irving.
As like as Irving, in Charles Dickens’ stories the theme is not about the religious ideology, but only specifics which found for itself special symbolics of social philosophy.
However, Dickens had the same gentle feelings to Christmas, as Irving, and similarly considering this holiday as source of spiritual reconciliation, have strength fighting to each other, and possibility of their conciliation in other conditions, in a condition of modern bourgeois society: transferring the contradictions seen by him to the real class circumstances, he orientates to the truly existing struggle and sympathizes forces that really takes forward.
True, real, democratic Dickensian views to life creates realistic and progressive basis of his creative activity even in his Christmas stories.
This clear social orientation of Christmas theme was absent in Dickens’ early creative works.