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"...an enchanted home of Caleb's furnishing..."

In Charles Dickens' The Cricket on the Hearth, the toymaker and widow Caleb Plummer lives with his blind daughter in a hovel owned by his boss, the cold and imperious toy merchant Tackleton.

I have said that Caleb and his poor Blind Daughter lived here. I should have said that Caleb lived here, and his poor Blind Daughter somewhere else — in an enchanted home of Caleb’s furnishing, where scarcity and shabbiness were not, and trouble never entered. Caleb was no sorcerer, but in the only magic art that still remains to us, the magic of devoted, deathless love, Nature had been the mistress of his study; and from her teaching, all the wonder came.

The Blind Girl never knew that ceilings were discoloured, walls blotched and bare of plaster here and there, high crevices unstopped and widening every day, beams mouldering and tending downward. The Blind Girl never knew that iron was rusting, wood rotting, paper peeling off; the size, and shape, and true proportion of the dwelling, withering away. The Blind Girl never knew that ugly shapes of delft and earthenware were on the board; that sorrow and faintheartedness were in the house; that Caleb’s scanty hairs were turning greyer and more grey, before her sightless face. The Blind Girl never knew they had a master, cold, exacting, and uninterested — never knew that Tackleton was Tackleton in short; but lived in the belief of an eccentric humourist who loved to have his jest with them, and who, while he was the Guardian Angel of their lives, disdained to hear one word of thankfulness.

And all was Caleb’s doing; all the doing of her simple father!

I was really moved by this passage, knowing as a father how much you want to shield your kids from all of the bad things in the world - although, ultimately, they will have to face that world on their own, and have to know it as it really is. Caleb finally learns this lesson.

The novella is a sweet, heartwarming story, which is widely characterized as a Christmas tale. This publisher packaged it with A Christmas Carol and The Chimes, although the latter is set at New Years and The Cricket on the Hearth is set during the end of January, and I don't believe either of the lesser-known stories even mentioned Christmas. And it's not just this publisher's marketing angle - I've seen several references elsewhere to these being Christmas stories. Maybe that's how the books have been pitched all along.

January 1, 2018 in Books | Permalink