What does Christmas mean to you? Peaceful time spent with family and friends; long journeys to be with those you love; solitary rage and alcohol abuse; a one day gap in the retail opportunities; the coming of the Saviour? It means many things to many people. Most librarians use the time to take a break from their lavishly paid work and get away from the fast cars, the gaming tables, the endless social whirl and the Hollywood glitter of the working year and avoid books at all costs.
What on earth am I going to get Cook for Christmas?
Before our chauffeurs come to pick us up, whisk us to Asprey’s for last-minute presents and drive us to our respective estates, however, let’s give the Taittinger another minute or two in the bucket and glance briefly through the grimy window of the past to a couple of oddities from the Victorian and Edwardian Christmases we so often see portrayed. Since we have all probably seen enough of Tiny Tims, of Ghosts of Christmases past, present and future, of Marley’s Ghost and of Mr Fezziwig’s balls, we’ll glance first at wood engravings done by Edward Dalziel (1817-1905) for the Chapman and Hall 1863 edition of Dickens’ Christmas Books. We eschew A Christmas Carol itself:
Stunningly detailed work – the originals are no more than an inch or two in height. As a change of pace from the tender and domestic, a scene from Edelweiss, the Good Words Christmas Story for 1886, and a roistering company reminiscent of that in the Library staff room pictured by artist Harry Furniss:
Your humble reviewer has only had time to scan Edelweiss briefly, and since the remainder of the scenes, while affecting, chiefly appear to concern people expiring in garrets, we shall move on.
The Keeping of Christmas at Bracebridge Hall, by Washington Irving, imagines Christmas on the lower floors of the house, and to much better cheer in the illustrations of C.E. Brock, picturing the festive season for the 1924 edition of William Glashier in London:
It is the proposal of this blog that tasting home made wines is to be preferred to any number of garret-hauntings and nocturnal sempstressing exploits.
Back out of the ’20s to a real Edwardian Christmas card: surely here our latter-day Dickens Christmas, our Sunday evening television dose of poke bonnets and ruddy-faced cherubs; perhaps a turkey? Not so, Christmas bloggeteers. Our young correspondent’s message first:
Victor has not decided on the obvious route, as indeed neither had Tuck’s Postcards, despite their proud boast of Royal patronage for their series of Christmas cards, even if they were less patriotically printed in Saxony. Was Kenneth Brandon at all surprised to find that Christmas for Victor was all about cats splashing about in the sea? Not a mince pie for miles.
A very Merry Christmas to all, and a Happy New Year!