"Christmas stories" by Charles Dickens (стр. 8 из 9)

That is what we read about the prosecution of the witches in this story:

“Windsor was very little town in that time, but it was possible to guess that this town also did not avoid the general infection, raged in all over the England. In the birthday of a king, Windsor people welded one witch in a boiler and sent one bottle of this broth to the king with the congratulation addressing. The king, little bit scared of this gift, submissively gave it to the archbishop of Canterbury and answered to the congratulation with the message, where he explained golden rules of catching the witches…” and so on.

In the absolute grotesque-“culinary” aspect treated the theme of the suicide (here we can not talk about the serious treatment of the suicide, but about the anecdotic meaning in the history), told to Pickwick by Sam Weller. This story is about a gentleman, owner of the sausage factory, whose wife tormented him, and he ran into melancholy and throws himself into the sausage machine and was made to the sausages. His wife had no idea about this accident and though that he went away to America, for this reason she published newspaper advertisements addressing to his husband to make him come back and that she “forgave” him everything. But when suddenly one unfamiliar gentleman came to her and told that he found the button in the sausage and when she recognized that this is button of her husband’s trousers, she understood the “frightening truth”.

And that time, the grotesque humor of Charles Dickens does not destroy plausibility of the happenings. Emphasized, naked fantastic of the Christmas stories (both humorous and pathetic) nevertheless, maintains in Dickens’ visibility of realism.

§3.Critic views of the stories “Somebody’s Luggage” and “Mrs. Lirriper’s Lodgings”.

The power of Dickens is shown even in the scraps of Dickens, just as the virtue of a saint is said to be shown in fragments of his property or rags from his robe. It is with such fragments that we are chiefly concerned in the Christmas stories. Many of them are fragments in the literal sense; Dickens began them and then allowed someone else to carry them on; they are almost rejected notes. In all the other cases we have been considering the books he wrote; here we have rather to consider the books that he might have written. And here we find the final evidence and the unconscious stamp of greatness, as we might find it in some broken bust or some rejected moulding in the studio of Michael Angelo.

These sketches or parts of sketches all belong to that period in his later life when he had undertaken the duties of an editor, the very heavy duties of a very popular editor. He was not by any means naturally fitted for that position. He was the best man in the world for founding papers; but many people wished that he could have been buried under the foundations, like the first builder in some pagan and prehistoric pile. He called the Daily News into existence, but when once he existed, he objected to him strongly. It is not easy, and perhaps it is not important, to state truly his cause of his incapacity. It was not in the least what is called the ordinary fault or weakness of the artist. It was not that he was careless; rather it was that he was too conscientious. It was not that he had the irresponsibility of genius; rather it was that he had the irritating the responsibility of genius; he wanted everybody to see things as he saw them. But in spite of all this he certainly ran two great popular periodicals – Household Words and All the Year Round – the enormous popular success. And he certainly so far succeeded in throwing himself into the communism of journalism, into the nameless brotherhood of a big paper, that many earnest Dickensians are still engaged in picking out pieces of Dickens from the anonymous pages of Household Words and All the Year Round, and those parts which have been already beyond the question picked out and proved are often fragmentary. The genuine writing of Dickens breaks off; I fancy that we know it.[32]

The singular thing that some of the best work that Dickens ever did, better than the works in his best novels can be found in these slight and composite scraps of journalism. For instance, the solemn and self-satisfied account of the duty and dignity of a waiter given in the opening chapter of Somebody’s Luggage is quite as full and fine as anything done anywhere by its author in the same vein of sumptuous satire. It is as good as the account which Mr. Bumble gives of out-door relief, which “properly understood, is the parochial safeguard. The great thing is to give the paupers what they don’t want, and then they never come again.” It is as good as Mr. Podsnap’s description of the British Constitution, which was bestowed on him by Providence. None of these celebrated passages in more obviously Dickens at his best than this, the admirable description of “the true principles of waitering”, or the accounts of how the waiter’s father came back to his mother in broad daylight, “in itself an act of madness on the part of a waiter,” and how he expired repeating continually “two and six is three and four is nine.” That waiter’s explanatory soliloquy might easily have opened an excellent novel, as Martin Chuzzlewit is opened by the clever nonsense about the genealogy of the Chuzzlewit’s or as Bleak House opened by a satiric account of the damp, dim life of a law court. Yet Dickens practically abandoned the scheme of Somebody’s Luggage; he only wrote two sketches out of those obviously intended. He may almost be said to have only written a brilliant introduction to another man’s book.

Yet it is exactly in such broken outbreaks that his greatness appears. If a man has flung away bad ideas he has shown his sense, but he has flung away good ideas he has shown his genius. He has proved that he actually has that over-pressure of pure creativeness which we see in nature itself, “that of a hundred seeds, she often brings but one to bear.” Dickens had to be Malthusian about his spiritual children. Critics have called Keats and other who died young “the great Might-have-beens of literary history.” Dickens certainly was not merely a great Might-have-been. Dickens, to say the least of him, was a great Was. Yet this fails fully to express the richness of his talent; for the truth is that he was a great Was and also a great Might-have-been. He said what he had to say. Wild pictures, possible stories, tantalizing and attractive trains of thought, perspectives of adventure, crowded so continually upon his mind that at the end there was a vast mass of them left over, ideas that he literally had not the opportunity to develop, tales that he literally had not the time to tell. This is shown clearly in his private notes and letters, which are full of schemes singularly striking and suggestive, schemes which he never carried out. It is indicated even more clearly by these Christmas stories, collected out of a chaotic opulence of Household Words and All the Year Round. He wrote short stories actually because he had no time to write long story; many of his long stories, so to speak, broke off short. This is where he differs from most who are called the Might-have-beens of literature. Marlowe and Chatterton failed because of their weakness. Dickens failed because of his force. Examine for example this case of the waiter in Somebody’s Luggage. Dickens obviously knew enough about that waiter to have made him a running spring to joy throughout a whole novel; as a beadle in Oliver Twist, or the undertaker in Martin Chuzzlewit. Every touch of him tingles with truth, from the vague gallantry with which he asks, “Would’st thou know, fair reader (if of the adorable female sex)” to the official severity with which he takes the chambermaid down, “as many pegs as is desirable for the future comfort to all parties.” If Dickens has developed this character at full length in a book he would have preserved for ever in literature a type of great humour and great value, and a type which may only too soon be disappearing from English history. He would have eternalized the English waiter. He still exists in some sounds old taverns and decent country inns, but there is no one left really capable of singing his praises. I know that Mr. Bernard Shaw has done something of the sort in the delightfully whimsical account of William in YouNever Can Tell. But nothing will persuade me that Mr. Bernard Shaw can really understand the English waiter. He can never have ordered wine from his for instance. And though the English waiter is by the nature of things solemn about everything, he can never reach the true height and ecstasy of his solemnity except about wine. What the real English waiter would do or say if Mr. Shaw asked him for a vegetarian meal it can not be predicted. We can guess that for the first time in his life he would laugh – a horrible sight. Dickens’ waiter is described by one who is not merely witty, truthful, and observant, like Mr. Bernard Shaw, but one who really knew the atmosphere of inns, one who knew and even liked the smell of beef, and beer, and brandy. Hence there is richness in Dickens’ portrait which doesn’t exist in Mr. Shaw’s. Mr. Shaw’s waiter is an opportunist in politics. Dickens’ waiter is ready to stand up seriously for “the true principle of waitering,” just as Dickens was ready to stand up for the true principles pf Liberalism. Shaw’s waiter is agnostic; his motto is “You never can tell.” Dickens’ waiter is dogmatist; his motto is “You can tell; I will tell you.” And the true old-fashioned English waiter had really this grave and even moral attitude; he was the servant of the customers as the priest is the servant of the faithful, but scarcely in any less dignified sense. Surely it is not mere patriotic partially that makes one lament the disappearance of this careful and honorable figure crowded out by meaner men at meaner wages, by the German waiter who has learnt five languages in the course of running away from his own, or the Italian waiter who regards those he serves with a darkling contempt which must certainly be that either of a dynamiter or an exiled prince. The human and hospitable English waiter is vanishing. Dickens might perhaps have saved him, as he saved Christmas.[33]

It is taken this case of waiter in Dickens and equally important counterpart in England as an example of the sincere and genial sketches scattered about these short stories. But there are many others, and one at least demands special mention; this is Mrs. Lirriper, the London landlady. Not only did Dickens never do anything better in a literary sense, but he never performed more perfectly his main moral function, that of insisting through laughter and flippancy upon the virtue of Christian charity. There has been much broad farce against the lodging-house keeper: he alone could have written broad farce in her favor. Ti is fashionable to represent the landlady as a tyrant; it is too much forgotten that if she is one if the oppressors she is at least as much one of the oppressed. If she is bad-tempered it is often for the same reasons that make all women bad-tempered; if she is grasping it is often because when a husband makes generosity a vice it is often necessary that a wife should make avarice a virtue. This entire Dickens suggested very soundly and in a few strokes in the more remote character Miss Wozenham. But in Mrs. Lirriper he went further and did not fare worse. In Mrs., Lirriper he suggested quite truly how huge a mass of real good humor, of grand unconscious patience, of unfailing courtesy and constant and difficult benevolence is concealed behind many a lodging-house door and compact in the red-faced person of many a preposterous landlady. Any one could easily excuse the ill-humor of the poor. But great masses of the poor have not even any ill-humor to be excused. Their cheeriness is startling enough to be the foundation of a miracle play; and certainly is startling enough to be foundation of a romance. Yet there is no any romance in which it is expressed except this one. “Mrs. Lirriper `s Lodgings” is one of the Christmas stories written by Charles Dickens. The main character of the story is Mrs. Lirriper, an old lady, gives the furnished rooms of her house for rent. She furnished her old house as good as she could to make it more comfortable for inhabitants and for herself. This is how he earns for living. Every person living in her house is kind to her because of her behavior with them. Story begins with the Mrs. Lirriper`s description of her daily life, her neighbors, her relatives and the lodgers. She talks about the persons one by one, tells of the good and bad sides of their characters. She calls Jamie her grand-son. But in reality he is not. His mother died of sickness and Jamie was left by his father too, and was grown up by Mrs. Lirriper having no idea that she is not his real grandmother. Here we recognize the inner goodness of this lady, her kind heart and nobility.

She hates Mrs.Wozenham who lives in the same street and who also gives for rent her furnished rooms. They have disliking to each other. But, in spite of that, Mrs. Lirriper helps her in Miss.Wozenham `s hard situation and discovers her real internal life, that she is not negative person at all and even shy for bad behavior of herself. In general, main hero of this story is not rude, bad-tempered. She is always ready to be useful at any moment to men even she can not agree with or she does not like them. For example, her late husband `s brother always make troubles, disturbs her, asks money, but despite all that, when he was caught by policemen Mrs. Lirriper was even crying and doing her best to make policemen to let him out. Or another example can prove what is said above, that Mrs. Lirriper met her neighbors, whom she completely disliked, with great hospitality when their house fired. They all were very grateful to Mrs. Lirriper for saving their lives and accepting them with kindness and pity.

Charles Dickens describing Mrs. Lirriper shows us the ideal picture of simple, pleasant, kind-hearted person. She always finds good characters in everyone whether she likes him or not. Her geniality takes her even out of borders, to France. Mrs. Lirriper goes there to recognize the dying person who is going to leave his heritage to her. But when she finds out that this man - at death – is little Jamie `s father, who left him, she forgives him seeing his regret in his mirrowlike eyes, and leaves him to be judged by God.

The entire story long, Charles Dickens opens all good nature of that woman – Mrs. Lirriper. The idea of the story “Mrs. Lirriper `s Lodgings” is kindness, goodness, nobility etc. It has very deep meaning in itself, and reading this story you can learn so much useful things for yourself. The story has one simple plot. It is told by Mrs. Lirriper `s own words, and the comprehendible speech makes the story more interesting and entertaining.

Of the landlady as the waiter it may be said that Dickens left in a slight sketch what might have developed through a long and strong novel. For Dickens had hold of one great truth, the neglect of which has , as it were, truncated and made meager the work of many brilliant modern novelists. Modern novelists try to make long novels out of subtle characters. But a subtle character soon comes to an end, because it works in and in to its own centre and dies there. But a simple character goes on for ever in a fresh interest and energy, because it works out and out into the infinite universe. Mr. George Moore in France is not by any means as interesting as Mrs. Lirriper in France; for she is trying to find France and he is only trying to find George Moore. Mrs. Lirriper is the female equivalent of Mr. Pickwick. Unlike Mrs. Bardell she was fully worthy to be Mrs. Pickwick. For in both cases the essential truth is the same; that original innocence which alone deserves adventures and because it alone can appreciate them. We have had Mr. Pickwick in England and we can imagine him in France. We have had Mrs. Lirriper in France and we can imagine her in Mesopotamia or in heaven. The subtle character in the modern novels we cannot really imagine anywhere except in the suburbs or in Limbo.[34]


The vitality of Dickens’ works is singularly great. They are all a-throb, as it were, with hot human blood. They are popular in the highest sense because their appeal is universal, to the as well as the educated. The humor is superb, and most of it, so far as one can judge, of no ephemeral kind. The pathos is more questionable, but that too, at its simplest and best; and especially when the humour is shot with it – is worthy of a better epithet than excellent. It is supremely touching. Imagination, fancy, wit, eloquence, the keenest observation, the most strenuous endeavor to reach the highest artistic excellence, the largest kindliness, - all these he brought to his life-work. And that work, as I think, will live, it can be prophecy for ever. Of course fashions change. Of course no writer of fiction, writing for his own little day, can permanently meet the needs of all after times. Some loss of immediate vital interest is inevitable. Nevertheless, in Dickens’ case, all will not die. Half a century, a century hence, he will still be read; not perhaps as he was read when his words flashed upon the world in their first glory and freshness, nor as he is read now in the noon of his fame. But he will be read much more than we read the novelists of the last century – be read as much, shall I say, as we still read Walter Scott. And so long as he is read, there will be one gentle and humanizing influence the more at work among men.[35]