[CITIZENS' Mail - (20-12-2017)] | Daily News

[CITIZENS' Mail - (20-12-2017)]

A Christmas Carol

The first edition of “A Christmas Carol” by Dickens appeared in December 1843. Six thousand copies were made and sold in five days. The first edition was prized at five shillings which meant Dickens profit was marginal. The illustrations were by his friend the Punch cartoonist John Leech. Dickens came from a middle class family. His father had debts and was imprisoned in a debtors’ prison forcing Dickens to work at the age of 12.

The story of “A Christmas Carol" begins on Christmas Eve in London seven years after the death of Jacob Marley the business partner of the miser Ebenezer Scrooge. Alone at home on Christmas Eve, Scrooge is visited by the ghost of Marley who had wondered the earth entwined by heavy chains and money boxes stolen during a life time of depredation, fraud and theft. He tells Scrooge that he has one chance to avoid the same fate. He will be visited by three spirits from the underworld and he must listen to them or Scrooge will suffer the same fate.

In life Jacob Marley and Ebenezer Scrooge owned the firm Scrooge and Marley for the sole purpose of ripping off the clients. Modern day scholars, pointing at the Jewish sounding names Dickens often picked for the congenital liars and rogues, accuse Dickens of anti-semitism.

Punch was one of the popular magazines on the long tables of the Josephian library. Devotees like myself scrambled to get hold of the single copy. I was caught not at morning prayers in the chapel presided over by the Rector Fr Peter Pillai by Fr Arthur Nicholas Fernando in charge of discipline, but reading the Punch and disciplined. The event took place a week before the Christmas holidays. So many Christmases later I still believe seeing the agony in the re-print of the sketch of the miser Ebenezer Scrooge cringing in front of the ghost of the scoundrel Jacob Marley outweighed the canning I received for cutting prayers.

We were so enamoured then with fleeting things we strained at gnats and swallowed camels, Mathew verse 23, Chapter 24. Sadly, the Punch we enjoyed so much is now out of print.

Ephrem Fernando 


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