Sunday, November 21, 2010

On the 30th day of Christmas, Babbitt's Books gave to me . . .

. . . Charles Dickens's Christmas Books, published by Chapman and Hall in 1852.

Chapman and Hall published the first edition of several Dickens books, including Great Expectations, Hard Times and everyone's seasonal favorite, A Christmas Carol. In fact, the latter is the first book that appears in this volume.

Christmas had been on the decline in England since Oliver Cromwell's reign, but the Victorians brought it back to life again in the 1830s and 1840s with the revival of old traditions like caroling and wassailing, and the advent of new ones like Christmas cards and Christmas trees. Evidently sensing an opportunity, Charles Dickens penned A Christmas Carol, which was published on the 19th of December in 1843. It was an instant hit. All 6,000 copies of the first printing were sold out by Christmas Eve. The book was already on its eighth edition six short months later, and has not been out of print since its publication. The word Scrooge and  the phrase "Bah, humbug!" have become indelible parts of the English lexicon. And the greeting "Merry Christmas"? Popularized by none other than A Christmas Carol. (Says Scrooge at one point: "Every idiot who goes about with Merry Christmas on his lips should be boiled with his own pudding and buried with a stake of holly through his heart.")

Following A Christmas Carol is The Chimes, which came out in 1844. The Chimes has a plot that resembles Ebeneezer Scrooge's encounter with The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come, in that the main character, a ticket-porter named Trotty, is shown a vision of events to come (which invariably include alcoholism, suicide and death) if he persists in holding his jaded view of humanity. Unfortunately, I cannot say much about The Cricket on the Hearth (1845), except that it, like its two yuletide predecessors, also includes a miser. Dickens's fourth and fifth Christmas books, The Battle of Life (1846) and The Haunted Man (1848), respectively, are even less popular. In their defense, though, have you ever met a Dickens book that you didn't like? My curiosity is piqued in particular by The Haunted Man, the story of a man haunted by a ghostly doppelgänger of himself. 

With this all-in-one volume, you don't have to go to the trouble of hunting down all five individual Christmas books. You also have the benefit of reading text that is virtually unchanged from when Dickens wrote it. So from Babbitt's to you . . . 

Title: Christmas Books
Publisher: Chapman and Hall
Year: 1852
Illustrator: John Leech
Condition: Good+
Price: $200

You might also like these other Dickens books, which are currently in stock:

Title: The Battle of Life: A Love Story
Publisher: Chapman and Hall
Year: mid-1880s
Binding: Vellum
Condition: Very Good-
Price: $80

Title: A Christmas Carol
Publisher: Everyman's Library
Year: 1994
Illustrator: Arthur Rackham
Condition: Very Good
Price: $4

Title: Great Expectations

Publisher: The Easton Press
Year: 1979
Binding: Fine Leather
Condition: Near Fine
Price: $20

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