Friday 16 December 2011

Christmas Comfort with Mr Pickwick

Christmas Eve at Mr Wardle's, by
Hablot Knight Browne,
known as Phiz.

How can I have got this far through December without mentioning Charles Dickens? Dickens loved Christmas, and as the 200th anniversary of his birth approaches our image of the traditional, family festival is still shaped by his writings.

So here’s a passage from The Pickwick Papers or, to give it the original title, The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club, Containing a Faithful Record of the Perambulations, Perils, Travels, Adventures and Sporting Transactions of the Corresponding Members. Mr Pickwick is attending the Christmas Eve festivities at Mr Wardle’s:

“It was a pleasant thing to see Mr. Pickwick in the centre of the group, now pulled this way, and then that, and first kissed on the chin, and then on the nose, and then on the spectacles, and to hear the peals of laughter which were raised on every side; but it was a still more pleasant thing to see Mr. Pickwick, blinded shortly afterwards with a silk handkerchief, falling up against the wall, and scrambling into corners, and going through all the mysteries of blind-man's buff, with the utmost relish for the game, until at last he caught one of the poor relations, and then had to evade the blind-man himself, which he did with a nimbleness and agility that elicited the admiration and applause of all beholders. The poor relations caught the people who they thought would like it, and, when the game flagged, got caught themselves. When they all tired of blind-man's buff, there was a great game at snap-dragon, and when fingers enough were burned with that, and all the raisins were gone, they sat down by the huge fire of blazing logs to a substantial supper, and a mighty bowl of wassail, something smaller than an ordinary wash-house copper, in which the hot apples were hissing and bubbling with a rich look, and a jolly sound, that were perfectly irresistible.
 “'This,' said Mr. Pickwick, looking round him, 'this is, indeed, comfort.””

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