[In Our Time] A Christmas Carol

A Christmas Carol 16/12/21 by BBC Radio 4

Web player: https://podcastaddict.com/episode/132771108

Episode: http://open.live.bbc.co.uk/mediaselector/6/redir/version/2.0/mediaset/audio-nondrm-download/proto/http/vpid/p0bb225c.mp3

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Charles Dickens’ novella, written in 1843 when he was 31, which has become intertwined with his reputation and with Christmas itself. Ebenezer Scrooge is the miserly everyman figure whose joyless obsession with money severs him from society and his own emotions, and he is only saved after recalling his lonely past, seeing what he is missing now and being warned of his future, all under the guidance of the ghosts of Christmases Past, Present and Yet To Come. Redeemed, Scrooge comes to care in particular about one of the many minor characters in the story who make a great impact, namely Tiny Tim, the disabled child of the poor and warm-hearted Cratchit family, with his cry, “God bless us, every one!”


Juliet John Professor of English Literature and Dean of Arts and Social Sciences at City, University of London

Jon Mee Professor of Eighteenth-Century Studies at the University of York

And Dinah Birch Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Cultural Engagement and Professor of English Literature at the University of Liverpool

Producer: Simon Tillotson

Listen Date: 1 September 2022


  • Reminder of something I’d forgotten: the Ghost of Christmas Present is a jolly green giant
  • Something I learned completely new: Dickens and The Christmas Carol are quite possibly responsible for making or at least accelerating the shift from goose to turkey as the Christmas dish of choice for the UK, thanks to Scrooge gifting the Cratchits a turkey.
  • Other interesting connections:
    • It’s A Wonderful Life owes a lot to A Christmas Carol – both involve men facing death and spirit guides on Christmas. And apparently Capra was a huge fan.
    • I don’t know if it was a panelist here or in the other Christmas episode (not logged yet) who said that Christianity is a religion with a beginning, middle, and end – God creates the world, then there’s the world right now, and there’s the apocalypse to come – which makes Christianity kind of obsessed with past, present, and future. Anyway, that is there in A Christmas Carol too.
    • But past, present, and future now keeps reminding me of Deirdre Mc Closkey talking about the corresponding virtues of faith, love, and hope.
    • One panelist talked about how Dickens describes people as being things and things as if they are people. Like an onion looking like a fat Spanish friar.
    • And also that there are lots of descriptions of food throughout the book.
  • Another thing mentioned: Dickens wrote it as if it were a screenplay, with camera angles all baked in.
  • I can’t read about or listen about Dickens nowadays without remembering: a) Pratchett’s fandom (why though?) and b) Deirdre McCloskey’s scornful takedown of Dickens.
  • The panel talked about how Scrooge could now be a hero in a revisionist environmental retelling of A Christmas Carol, and be lauded for having a low-consumption lifestyle. Of course, this doesn’t go very well with abundance environmentalism. But I could see Scrooge being a hero in a minimalist retelling. Since he’s said to be completely miserable and mean spirited, maybe not so much a hero in a Buddhist retelling.
  • Scrooge McDuck, of course, hits that joyous spot – he is minimalist in his own purchases but he’s generous to his grand nephews and he’s less a miser, more an entrepreneur.

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