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The Significance of Don Quixote

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In honor of Miguel de Cervantes’ (assumed) birthday, we wanted to dig a little deeper into this masterpiece of Western literature, to find out why it carries the weight it does in the book world. How can such an early work (the first part having been published in only 1605!) be considered the first modern novel? How can one work be considered social satire, comedy, tragedy and social and ethical commentary all at one time? Let’s find out!

Fairly little is known about Miguel de Cervantes. Remember, he lived at roughly the same time as Shakespeare (who, surprise surprise… we also know fairly little about). We know that he was the second of 7 children, with a father constantly in debt and a mother confident and literate enough to support herself and all of her children while the father was imprisoned for debt from 1553 to 1554. Miguel obviously learned a few things from his mother, as he worked a myriad of jobs as a young man (including being arrested for dueling, having a military commission, being an intelligence agent and as a tax collector) and though he was never an extremely wealthy man, he was not often out of work!

quixoteThroughout this time, Cervantes published a few plays and some poems, none of any great significance, and none that provided a living for the man and his family. By 1605, Cervantes hadn’t been “properly” published in almost 20 years! Nevertheless, he began writing a work he considered a satire – he challenged a “form of literature that had been a favourite for more than a century, explicitly stating his purpose was to undermine ‘vain and empty’ chivalric romances. He wrote about the common man. He used everyday lingo, normal conversation rather than epic speeches – it was considered a great success. Though there was a great amount of time between the two parts of the work, its popularity did not wane. The first part is considered the more popular of the two, with its comedic characterizations and its hilarity, while the second part is considered more introspective and critical, with greater characterization of the individuals in the story.

There are differing opinions on the Don Quixote of the time – it held popularity with the masses, and garnered financial success for Cervantes, but was considered a financial failure in the long haul… we aren’t sure how that works but are willing to trust the experts! The great interest in the work came during a resurgence in popularity during the mid 18th century, when literary editor John Bowle argued that “Cervantes was as significant as any of the Greek and Roman authors then popular”, and proceeded to publish an annotated edition of the work in 1781. Ever since, Don Quixote has been considered a staple of modern literature. Why, you may ask?

Our London 1749 holding of Don Quixote, published into the English by Charles Jarvis and only the 2nd edition of its kind!

Our London 1749 holding of Don Quixote, published into the English by Charles Jarvis and only the 2nd edition of its kind!

Author Edith Grossman published a new English translation of the novel in 2003 and noted how the novel straddles both comedy and tragedy in the same moments… “when I first started reading the Quixote I thought it was the most tragic book in the world, and I would read it and weep… As I grew older… my skin grew thicker… and so when I was working on the translation I was actually sitting at my computer and laughing out loud. This is done as Cervantes did it… by never letting the reader rest. You are never certain that you truly got it. Because as soon as you think you understand something, Cervantes introduces something that contradicts your premise.” And thus is the beauty and genius of the novel… Part I introduces enough comedic elements to amuse and hold your interest in the characterization, with Part II garnering strength and empathy for the characters you’ve come to love, feeling their pains and their moments of humility. Truly a work ahead of its time, today we honor Miguel de Cervantes and his inimitable hero Don Quixote (and the loyal and true Sancho Panza, of course). Happy Birthday (maybe) to Miguel de Cervantes!

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A Different Look at Hans Christian Andersen

I know we’ve beaten into you all how Hans Christian Andersen once went to Charles Dickens’ home for a visit and became the house guest that would never leave (though we can understand his obsession with Dickens, our inner Ms. Manners obviously cannot condone that sort of behavior), but there is much more to this author than a once-off lack of ideal behavior! More than meets the eye, that’s for sure. In honor of the 146th anniversary of his passing, here we offer a few fun facts about this fairy-telling Dane.

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via Notable Quotes!

1. At Andersen’s baptism in Odense, Denmark, he had not one, not two, but six Godparents present at the event.
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2. Though his family were quite poor, and his mother was an illiterate washerwoman, Hans’ father passed on a love of literature to the young Hans by reading to him from Arabian Nights. No wonder tales of wonder and amazement resonated with the author!
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3. Hans’ first job was as an apprentice to a weaver, then a tailor. At fourteen, he left for the bustling capital of Copenhagen, to find work as an actor. He was accepted into the Royal Danish Theatre, but soon his voice changed due to puberty. His soprano voice no longer being what it once was he began to focus on writing, instead.
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4. At only 24 years old (in 1829), Andersen published a short story “A Journey on Foot from Holmen’s Canal to the East Point of Amager” and enjoyed considerable success with it – so much so that it allowed him to finally consider himself a writer!
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5. At age 30, Andersen published what would be the first of three installments of fairy tales. While some throughout the series are retelling of classic tales Andersen had heard as a child, for the most part they are brand new stories, all of his own creation. That makes Andersen unique when compared to other fairy-tale authors throughout the ages.
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6. At first, critics were quite severe about Andersen’s fairy tales. They disliked his style, and being rooted in a didactic time such as the mid 1800s they did not believe that literature for children ought to amuse, when it could instead instruct. While Andersen did not share in this belief, as he felt that the critics were biased based on preconceived notions about the purpose and necessity of fairy tales, their detestation for his work did give him pause and caused a slight delay in the publication of the third volume.
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7. The stories Andersen is most famous for writing are The Little Mermaid, The Ugly Duckling, The Snow Queen, and The Emperor’s New Clothes!
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8. As Andersen was one of the first authors to write original fairy tales and not only transcribe them from the oral tradition, one could argue that he (along with a few others, like George MacDonald) set the standard for modern day fairy tales and the entire fantasy genre.
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9. Andersen was also (like Dickens) a writer of travelogues and travel diaries! After finally achieving recognition for his fairy tales in 1845, in 1851 Andersen published his travelogues from his adventures in Scandinavia, calling it In Sweden. He followed it up with travelogues from Spain, Portugal and Swiss Saxony, among other notable places. As with his fairy tales, however, Andersen’s style was verifiably his own, and unlike other travel journals of the day. With his descriptions of the locales, he interspersed general philosophical questions and arguments, along with comments on life as an author and the fiction found in literary travel journals.
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10. Andersen passed away on August 4th, 1875 from complications of a fall and signs of liver cancer. At the time of his death he was so revered by the Danish government for his tales that they were paying him an annual stipend, as he was considered a “national treasure.”
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Entering a Post-Covid Bookselling World – Q&A with Vic Zoschak

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Well, all… this year has been a doozy for almost everyone! We don’t know a single soul that was completely unaffected by this global pandemic, and many sadly affected in traumatizing ways. The bookselling community has done its best to stay connected and functioning during this time, and we thought it might be a good idea to pick the brain, almost a year later, of our fearless commander Vic Zoschak Jr. on how Tavistock Books was affected by these past many months and what he sees for bookselling in the near, vaccinated future!

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Q: So Vic, over a year of bookselling during a global pandemic has passed us by! How did you, personally, fare, and how did your patterns or habits change throughout this time?

It’s been a YEAR has it not Ms P?!  Despite the retail challenges posed by COVID to many businesses, it’s my understanding that most in the antiquarian book trade did ok.  I know that’s true for Tavistock Books.  Sales were stable, but expenses declined significantly [no travel, and no employee expenses], so revenue actually increased over 2019.  And to be honest, the lack of general public foot traffic in my shop turned out to be beneficial, in that I was better able to concentrate on cataloguing, & quoting, material from my backlog.

The one significant habit change for me came about mid-summer last year…  after Samm left to head back East, I started closing up the shop at 3 pm.  I’m getting to be of an age when I just want more leisure time!
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Q: Did you see any shift in what was being purchased (less of one thing, more of another)?

Not that I could readily point a finger at…  my sub-specialities haven’t changed, so those continued to be patronized by those interested in that sort of thing.
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Q: What are your thoughts on the many virtual book fairs (in terms of both selling and buying), and how do you think they impacted the world of antiquarian bookselling and book collecting this year?

I think they are here to stay.   While a VBF can’t offer the same breadth of material in one’s ’stand’, that’s counteracted by the fact that expenses are but a fraction of what you would spend to exhibit at, say, an ABAA fair.  For example, the Feb 2020 ABAA fair in Pasadena cost cost me, with booth fees, display cases, travel, meals, etc, etc around $10K to exhibit; in contrast the most recent ABAA VBF was under $1K.  As a result, just in terms of $$ & ¢¢, the most recent ABAA VBF was much more profitable.

What is missing from the VBFs are the intangibles…  dinner with colleagues, the chance to personally interact with customers walking the aisles, that sort of thing.

I suspect in the future, once the nation has moved beyond the COVID restrictions, we’ll have a hybrid schedule of both types of fairs.

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Q: What do you see for the book world going forward? For example, do you think virtual book fairs will become a new norm in a post-Covid world? Do you think people might have taken up collecting during this time? Any insights you may have in the shifts of our little corner of the world we’d love to hear about!

I’m of the opinion the recent VBFs proved the viability of digital book fairs…  I remember, oh over a decade or so ago, there was an attempt at an ILAB on-line only fair.  I participated.  The mechanics were a bit clunky & it was poorly attended.  I did not sell a book.  I don’t think another such was planned until COVID made it necessary to do so.

So again, I think VBFs are here to stay, though it seems they’re popping up every time I turn around.  I don’t participate in all of them, and to be honest, I don’t shop them  with the same diligence as I did a year ago when they first came on the scene.  Probably that’s to my detriment, but to be honest, I find I’m very much missing the real thing.  I loved hoping on a plane to Boston in November, primarily just to shop the fairs …  I’d spend an hour just in Peter Luke’s booth, flipping through all his boxes.  That is, me, and at least 20 other customers/booksellers.  I currently don’t have that motivation for the VBFs.  But still, I’m also appreciative of not having to pack/schlep/unpack/display/repack/schlep/unpack & re-shelve 15 boxes of books.  I’ll try to find a happy balance that works for me.

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Q: So tell us… what’s coming up next for Tavistock Books?

The $64,000 question!  Well, I did sign a lease extension through 2022, so we’ll continue to be at 1503 Webster Street for a bit…  as to the immediate future, Jim Kay has said he’s planning an in-person Sacramento fair for September, so given I’ve gotten my shots, I’m inclined to exhibit there [presuming no big COVID surge between now & then].  And theirs a couple VBFs coming up in which I’ll participate, the next one being the WESTERN STATES, April 29 – May 2nd.  Come visit!

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Find out more information on the Western States Book & Paper Fair at www.rarebookla.com

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Happy Birthday to Keats! Ezra Jack Keats, that is

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When you say the name “Keats” I can bet you that there is a divide of people, some think of John Keats while others will think of Ezra Keats. While both authors are intensely talented gentlemen… both follow very different subject matter. Ezra Jack Keats is known as the Caldecott Medal award winner of 1963… and possibly as the first great author to introduce multiculturalism into popular children’s literature.

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Ezra Jack Keats was born Jacob Ezra Katz on March 11th, 1916 in Brooklyn. The third child to Polish-Jewish immigrant parents, Keats led far from an idyllic childhood. The family was very, very poor – leading the artistic child to begin his creative energy making art out of scraps of trash (wood, fabric, etc.) that he found near his home. While his father was working as a waiter, he tried to dissuade his son from entering the arts, explaining how tough it was to make a living doing such things. That being said, Benjamin Katz (his father) also would bring the occasional paint tubes home with him, claiming that a “starving artist” had traded it for a meal. In this way, Keats knew he was supported even when words told him otherwise. Keats won a Scholastic national contest when he was just a teenager, for his illustration of a group of homeless men warming themselves by a fire.

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Keats’ Scholastic award winning oil painting. (ezra-jack-keats.org)

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After school, Keats worked several jobs while illustrating on the side, taking art classes when he could. He was drafted into service during WWII, where he put his artistic skills to work, creating camouflage patterns for the soldiers’ uniforms. Sadly, around this time is when Keats legally changed his name due to antisemitic sentiment in the world. After the war, Keats spent a year in Paris working as an artist, realizing that for the first time it truly could be a way of life for him. Upon moving back to the United States, Keats threw himself into his art, working as a commercial artist helping illustrate books and articles for publications like Reader’s DigestThe New York Times Book Review and Playboy, to name just a few. It was in doing this that publisher Elizabeth Riley saw a book cover illustration done by Keats in a store window in 1954, and approached him asking him to illustrate children’s books for her. Keats illustrated over 70 children’s books for other authors throughout the next years, until in 1960 he co-wrote one of the stories to follow along with his illustrations. His first protagonist was a young Puerto Rican boy named Juanito who lost his dog.

 

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By 1963, Keats was still bothered by the lack of children of color as protagonists in books available. He wrote and illustrated The Snowy Day, and used a young African-American child protagonist named Peter as his subject, stating that is where people of color “should have been all along” (ezra-jack-keats.org). That same year, Keats’ Snowy Day won the highest medal a children’s picture book could – the Caldecott Medal.

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Keats continued writing and illustrating until his death in 1983. His books follow a myriad of subjects and characters (Peter featured heavily in a few), where the children in his stories are sometimes faced with true hardships or problems and learn and mature through their pages. While it is true that winning the Caldecott Medal made Keats a household name… his inclusivity and love for all make his stories stand the test of time. Happy Birthday to a true ally – Ezra Jack Keats.

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The Dangers of Pip’s “Great Expectations”

Charles Dickens - Portrait of the British novelist.

During this week of Dickens’ 209th birthday, we thought to do a short exposé of sorts into one of his most famous works. Great Expectations has captured the hearts and minds of millions since its publication in 1860 with its story of presumptions, manipulations, love and fear. The novel centers on young Pip as he follows dreams that seem outside his reach, and his actions once his dreams are made a reality. But what can we learn from this beloved story that may still be relevant today? More than you might think!

pip magwitchStarting with a short overview of the story (for the .000001% of you that have been living under a rock these past 160 years), we can come to look at the “expectations” housed within and see what we can decipher from the moral tale it holds. When young orphan Pip encounters an escaped criminal hiding in a churchyard one Christmas Eve, it gives him the fright of his life. The young boy is scared into thieving for the convict, and though the criminal is recaptured and clears Pip of suspicion, the incident colors Pip’s outlook on life. The young boy is sent to the house of the spinster and slightly mad Miss Havisham, to be used as entertainment for the lady and her adopted, aloof and haughty daughter Estella. Pip falls in love with Estella and visits them regularly until he is old enough to be taught a trade as an apprentice blacksmith. Four years into Pip’s apprenticeship, however, a lawyer arrives with news that Pip has anonymously been provided with enough money to become a gentleman. An astonished Pip heads to London to begin his new life, assuming Miss Havisham is to thank for his unexpected new windfall. Once in London the young Pip is introduced into some society, and makes new friends. His heart still belonging to Estella, he is ashamed of his previous life and expects his social advancement, new wealth and sudden social standing to sway her emotions towards him more favorably. It does not, Estella remains cold as ever, and Pip’s illusions are finally shattered when he realizes that his benefactor is not Miss Havisham at all, but the escaped convict Magwitch whom he helped in the churchyard all those years before. Through many mishaps and misfortunes, Pip and his friends attempt to help Magwitch escape England (which is ultimately unsuccessful), where he had returned to simply to make himself known to Pip. Pip learns valuable lessons throughout the story – interestingly not necessarily from those with money and social standing, but more often than not from those in his own class. The story has a kind ending, with Pip and an altered, warmer Estella walking hand in hand over a decade after her initial rejection of him (though Dickens originally planned a more likely, yet more disheartening end to the story and was convinced by Edward Bulwer-Lytton to change it).

So what qualities does Pip have that give the book its title? Pip’s expectations are common in most of us, whether living in Dickens time or the here 21st century… Pip wants social advancement and wealth. He wants to be taken seriously and not looked down upon. He has a lifelong ambition to be something he is not, and when he is finally able to be such (wealthy and more respected), he finds it is not at all everything he ever dreamed of. By the end of the story, Pip certainly realizes that the qualities of loyalty, kindness and compassion are far more important than wealth and social standing. With the shadows that come to light in the story, Dickens mocks the very hypocritical idea of the “gentleman” as every man you meet in the story is not exactly what you think he is. With this realization, Pip finds he has chased a phantom dream, not a concrete one.

How do we see these expectations still in use today? Though “society” is not necessarily the boon it once was (I find the people who truly care about society are the ones in “society”… and the bulk of the population of the world outside it could really give two figs), aspects of the circumstances they enjoyed are still very much at large within us. Wealth, for instance, matters to most – not only is the cost of living in certain areas astronomical, but our materialistic society makes it more difficult for any to be raised without the wishes of privilege. Oftentimes, the factor of wealth is seen today in desperate competitiveness or harsh attempts for a raise or a promotion, even when one is happy and competent at their current job. A desire for the finer things in life leads most of us to spend money we shouldn’t, or don’t even have, in order to feel a sense of gentility or even simple belonging, when in reality it isn’t necessary! (Keep in mind Travis Bradberry’s thoughts on the matter: “Sure, things can make life more fun and comfortable in the short run, but they can’t make you happy in the long run. Too many of us expect a future event ['I’ll be happy when I get that promotion'] to make us happy, instead of looking more deeply into the real causes of our unhappiness. If you don’t fix what’s going on inside, no external event or item is going to make you happy, no matter how much you want it to.”) Our desires for respect are more understandable and able to be grasped, as a focus on gaining people’s trust and respect is hardly a quality to look down upon. As long as it is gained through acts of loyalty, kindness and compassion, you can’t go wrong!

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Perhaps we ought to keep these moral tales from Great Expectations in mind as we (very) slowly move into a post-Covid world. We may have to get back into the swing of things, but we can choose to re-focus our energy on the important things, rather than the silly. After all, if we’ve learned anything this year, I believe it is that the most important things in life are family, friends, respect, kindness and health… none of Pip’s “great expectations” factor in whatsoever!

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See our holding of All the Year Round (1859-1868) containing the first appearances of both A Tale of Two Cities and Great Expectations here! It is certainly a sight to behold.

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Favorite Books of Past US Presidents

Tavistock Books joins millions of Americans in welcoming President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris to the White House, bringing much needed peace and guidance back to the American people.

                   Ben Franklin wants to read this list of his faves’ faves… just like us! ;)

DISCLAIMER: Please, dear readers, take this list with a grain of salt! While some are irrefutable, stated by the Presidents themselves, others have been assumed. See the full list by Dave Odegard, explained in detail, here.
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1. George Washington (1789-97): Cato, a Tragedy by Joseph Addison

2. John Adams (1797-1801): An Historical and Moral View of the Origin and Progress of the French Revolution by Mary Wollstonecraft

3. Thomas Jefferson (1801-09): Literally everything

4. James Madison (1809-17): The Collected Essays of John Locke by John Locke

5. James Monroe (1817-25): Pleasures of the Imaginations by Mark Akenside

6. John Quincy Adams (1825-29): Oberon by Christoph Martin Wieland

7. Andrew Jackson (1829-37): The Vicar of Wakefield by Oliver Goldsmith

8. Martin Van Buren (1837-41): Autobiography of Martin Van Buren by Martin Van Buren

9. William Henry Harrison (1841): A Memoir of the Public Services of William Henry Harrison by James Hall

10. John Tyler (1841-45): The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith

11. James K. Polk (1845-49): His Diary

12. Zachary Taylor (1849-50): The History of England by David Hume

13. Millard Fillmore (1850-53): A Dictionary

14. Franklin Pierce (1853-57): The Life of Franklin Pierce by Nathaniel Hawthorne

15. James Buchanan (1857-61): Life of George Washington by Jared Sparks

16. Abraham Lincoln (1861-65): Collected Works of William Shakespeare

17. Andrew Johnson (1865-69): The American Speaker

18. Ulysses S. Grant (1869-77): Most likely a novel by Edward Bulwer-Lytton

19. Rutherford B. Hayes (1877-1881): The Collected Speeches of Daniel Webster

20. James Garfield (1881): Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe

21. Chester Arthur (1881-85): Something by Charles Dickens or William Makepeace Thackeray

22. Grover Cleveland (1885-89): Commentaries on the Laws of England by William Blackstone

23. Benjamin Harrison (1889-93): One of Walter Scott’s novels

24. Grover Cleveland (1893-97): Commentaries on the Laws of England by William Blackstone

25. William McKinley (1897-1901): Collected poems by Lord Byron

26. Theodore Roosevelt (1901-09): Influence of Sea Power Upon History by Alfred Thayer Mahan

27. William Howard Taft (1909-13): Something about the Supreme Court… probably

28. Woodrow Wilson (1913-21): Congressional Government by Walter Bagehot

29. Warren Harding (1921-23): Rules of Poker

30. Calvin Coolidge (1923-29): The Collected Works of Cicero

31. Herbert Hoover (1929-33): David Copperfield by Charles Dickens

32. Franklin D. Roosevelt (1933-45): A collection of Rudyard Kipling poems

33. Harry S. Truman (1945-53): The Lives of Great Men and Famous Women by Charles Francis Horne

34. Dwight D. Eisenhower (1953-61): A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court by Mark Twain

35. John F. Kennedy (1961-63): From Russia with Love by Ian Flemming

36. Lyndon B. Johnson (1963-69): The Other America by Michael Harrington

37. Richard Nixon (1969-74): Anything by Leo Tolstoy

38. Gerald Ford (1974-77): Any Horatio Alger novel

39. James Carter (1977-81): Let Us Now Praise Famous Men by James Agee and Walker Evans

40. Ronald Reagan (1981-89): The Hunt for Red October by Tom Clancy

41. George H.W. Bush (1989-93): War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy

42. William J. Clinton (1993-2001): Meditations by Marcus Aureilus

43. George W. Bush (2001-09): The Bible

44. Barack Obama (2009-2016): Self-Reliance by Ralph Waldo Emerson and/or Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison

45. Donald Trump (2017-2021): All Quiet on the Western Front: A Novel by  Erich Maria Remarque

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President Joseph R. Biden Jr. (2021 – ): Ulysses
by James Joyce 

Vice President Kamala Harris (2021 – ): Native Son by Richard Wright

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How a Dickensian Christmas Can Boost the Spirits of Those of Us Living in 2020

When you think of the word “Dickensian” what comes to mind? We would not be surprised if you mentioned soot-covered children working in factories, or angry adults beating each other down with vicious words and persnickety actions. Then again… what comes to mind if we say “Dickensian Christmas”? I’ll bet an entirely different view comes to mind. Perhaps you see a warm and cozy drawing room, children playing by a large fire, adults jolly and laughing over punch with a large tree in the corner and candles lit on its branches. Sound familiar? Well it isn’t an accident. There is an old story (a myth, if you will) that on the day Dickens died, as the news was ravaging through the streets of London, a small costermonger’s daughter said with dawning horror, “Mr. Dickens is dead? Then will Father Christmas die too?” Whether this story is based in reality or not, the feeling still remains… Dickens is a name commonly associated with the holidays the world over. We’d like to examine why that is and what we can learn from it this particular holiday season.

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We have published several blogs before reviewing Dickens’ childhood experiences, and the traumas he endured as a youth. Being one of the unwashed and poor factory children we associate with the word “Dickensian” was what led him to spend his life working with social reform to aid the poor and undervalued members of society. How then did he become so widely associated with the holiday that a poor vegetable seller’s daughter thought his death might mean the end of Christmas forever? For Dickens, it was easy. His childhood made him never want to experience such a Christmas again. He gravitated towards positivity, light and joy – and made sure to share it with those around him. Christmas in the Dickens household (when Charles was a father himself) was legendary. He would perform magic tricks for his friends, the table would be set elaborately, his wife would make and/or supervise the making of all manner of foods, they would have a warm fire and sing/perform together… Dickens made for himself and his family the Christmas he wished for as a child.

 

dickensBefore Dickens published A Christmas Carol (written in only a six short weeks, and published the week before Christmas at considerable expense to Mr. Dickens), he and his wife Catherine were experiencing your average hardships. They were expecting their fifth child, and supplications of money from his aging father and family, with dwindling sales from his previous works had put him into a tough financial place. In the fall of 1843, a 31-year-old Dickens was asked to deliver a speech in Manchester, supporting adult education for manufacturing workers there. His extreme interest in the subject (one that hit a bit too close to home, I believe) and his resolve to aid the lowly pushed an idea to the forefront of his mind – a speech can only do so much… to get to the crux of the matter he would need to get into the hearts, minds and homes of his readership and country. As the idea for A Christmas Carol took shape and his writings began, Dickens himself became utterly obsessed with his own story. As his friend John Forster remarked, Dickens “wept and laughed, and wept again’ and that he ‘walked about the black streets of London fifteen or twenty miles many a night when all sober folks had gone to bed” while writing it. Dickens took the financial hit publishing it on his own, in a beautiful cloth bound book with gilt leaf edging, and colorful illustrations by John Leech.

 

The book became an instant sensation, and this book – celebrating the joy, kindness and positivity possible in humans, not to mention the ability to change for the better – did even better than Dickens could have imagined. It transformed into a handbook, of sorts – how to live a successful, kind life, both in the holiday season and beyond.

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So what can we here in 2020 take away from A Christmas Carol and Dickens’ obsessive love of the holiday? Well, the first thing might be to embrace the warmth of home. With all the griping about the hell that 2020 has put us through, and the harsh realities of staying home for months and months, staying away from friends, not being able to eat out or travel… perhaps one last push of 2020 can be for us all to embrace what we have right in front of us – a roof over our heads, a fire (or a heater), and good food. I realize that in past years (and in A Christmas Carol, of course) we might have not only embraced the love we could find in our own households, but invited others to experience it as well. Perhaps in 2020 the time has come to focus more of our attention on those in our immediate household. Shower them with as much love and kindness as we would use for all of those around us.

 

Similar to how Dickens and his family celebrated, decorate as festively and as cozily as you so choose – don’t let a lack of visitors deter you from putting together a beautiful tree, or hanging a wreath on your door. Pass the longer evenings with a great book and a hot drink, or perhaps do as Dickens did and allow your creativity to flourish. Finally take the time to write that story you’ve been meaning to, or put together a skit for your family to act out on Christmas morning. As Dickens probably did, send your letters off to far away family and friends with your love, and perhaps a gift or two… the real gift, of course, being that your thoughts are with them, even when you cannot be. For those that do not celebrate the holiday of Christmas, we say the same endearments hold true… enjoy the winter season with your immediate family, decorate however you choose, drink warm hot toddies and allow the candlelight to spark your creativity. Whatever you do… don’t allow yourself to forget the main take-away of A Christmas Carol. Be caring, giving, and loving to all of those around you, value their lives as you value your own. Only then will you truly find the spirit of Christmas inside of you!

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Safe and Happy Holidays to All

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