Wednesday, 12 December 2012
Christmas Countdown 10 - What the Dickens!
If there is one author who is forever associated with Christmas, it is Charles Dickens - mainly due to his story "A Christmas Carol". Scan the TV listings for the Christmas period and you will find half a dozen direct adaptations of the tale, plus another half dozen retellings based upon it. For me, and others of my generation, Dickens is also synonymous with Christmas thanks to the BBC's Ghost Stories - one of which was "The Signalman" with Denholm Elliot.
Dickens was certainly extremely fond of Christmas, as he contributed Yuletide stories to two publications - "Household Words" (1851 - 1858) and "All The Year Round" (1859 - 1867). He also wrote a further four books set in the Christmas period - often including ghostly happenings.
Dickens apparently spent his last Christmas Eve in Cardiff, giving one of his celebrated readings at the Taliesin Hall. During a reading of "A Christmas Carol" one of the audience members - actually a reanimated corpse - suddenly emitted a ghostly blue phantom. Dickens suspected trickery, until he encountered the Ninth Doctor and discovered he was dealing with the alien Gelth, rather than supernatural spirits. He was going to include these "Blue Elementals" in his last novel - "The Mystery of Edwin Drood" - but died in 1870 leaving it unfinished.
In 2011, in an alternative timeline where time has actually stopped, Dickens was making breakfast TV appearances plugging his latest Christmas Special.
"A Christmas Carol" would lend its title, and story structure, to the 2010 Doctor Who Christmas Special.
Regarding that reading in Cardiff in December 1869, it is one that was never recorded in the history books - perhaps because of those monstrous events. Dickens' tour that year was cancelled after 87 (of a planned 100) readings in April of that year due to illness. He did not tour again until January 1870.