In honor of Dickens December: the five best punctuation marks in (English) literature. A Christmas Carol makes the list for its first sentence, described as “less like an opening than like a train car immediately running into another train car.”
Happy first day of A Dickens December!
Some of my favourite lines from today’s section of A Christmas Carol:
Mind! I don’t mean to say that I know, of my own knowledge, whatthere is particularly dead about a door-nail. I might have been inclined, myself, to regard a coffin-nail as the deadest piece of ironmongery in the trade. But the wisdom of our ancestors is in the simile; and my unhallowed hands shall not disturb it, or the country’s done for.
You can just feel the amused irritation of a man who is so extremely done with having been told that things have to be a certain way because they’ve always been done that way. And it sets the tone of the narration for the rest of the book so well! This is not just a novel, it’s conversational. The author is chatting with you.
Scrooge was [Marley’s] sole executor, his sole administrator, his sole assign, his sole residuary legatee, his sole friend, and sole mourner.
This is an amazing line. I love the way putting “sole friend, and sole mourner” at the end, after all the cold legal terms, perfectly conveys the nature of their relationship, the way that in both life and death any personal connection is entirely second to business interests, even while they are each the sole personal connection the other has.
Sometimes people new to the business called Scrooge Scrooge, and sometimes Marley, but he answered to both names. It was all the same to him.
This builds on the above - with the context of the previous passages, we can see that this is not a gesture of sentimentality. It is the complete subordination of Scrooge’s entire being to his business interests. Even his very name, his very identity, is irrelevant. All that matters is whether a person wants to do business with him. It’s not just that he isn’t a good person - he’s very nearly ceased to be a person at all.
The entire description of Scrooge that follows is perfection, but parts of it are better-known (thanks, Gonzo!), so I wanted to highlight these ones.
Nature gives to every time and season some beauties of its own.
- Charles Dickens
"Scrooge said that he would see him—yes, indeed he did. He went the whole length of the expression, and said that he would see him in that extremity first."
They needed to add THAT to one of the adaptations!
Day one of a Christmas Carol! Thanks to the wonderful work by @warrioreowynofrohan to split it up into daily pieces for us- you can subscribe to their Substack to get the emails each day and read along, and it looks like they're doing some posts talking about the the day's entry on their blog!
So join up and follow along with the fun! Today, we're introduced to Scrooge, with a short (hilarious) digression about what kind of ironmongery is deadest.
If you're only familiar with the story through movies, definitely follow along! There's probably going to be some bits that surprise you!
These two tags trending simultaneously is so funny
External heat and cold had little influence on Scrooge. No warmth could warm, no wintry weather chill him. No wind that blew was bitterer than he, no falling snow was more intent upon its purpose, no pelting rain less open to entreaty. Foul weather didn't know where to have him. The heaviest rain, and snow, and hail, and sleet could boast of the advantage over him in only one respect. They often "came down" handsomely and Scrooge never did.
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
Kate Clayborn, Love Lettering
Charles Dickens, Great Expectations
V. E. Schwab, The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue
Anne Sexton, The Sermon of Twelve Acknowledgements
Poulterers' and grocers' trades became a splendid joke: a glorious pageant, with which it was next to impossible to believe that such dull principles as bargain and sale had anything to do.
I don’t know how much of this is Dickens romanticizing, but regardless, we need to bring this back, because the contrast between the joy of preparing for Christmas that is described here, and the atmosphere of present-day Christmas Eve shopping, could not be greater.
More light-hearted celebration and joy! Less performative competition to Do The Holidays Correctly!