Yeah, I had to. As you know from my abusing poor Hans Christian Andersen, I’m not very fond of moralistic authors and this applies to Dickens as well, but A Christmas Carol is a delightful Victorian ghost story and there are some beautiful illustrations by Arthur Rackham I haven’t yet been able to show you, […]
Yeah, I had to.
As you know from my abusing poor Hans Christian Andersen, I’m not very fond of moralistic authors and this applies to Dickens as well, but A Christmas Carol is a delightful Victorian ghost story and there are some beautiful illustrations by Arthur Rackham I haven’t yet been able to show you, in my explorations of the work of this incredible illustrators. So here we go, I won’t tell you the story because I’m sure you’re fed up with it, but I’ll show you some of the 12 beautiful colour plates Rackham produced for William Heinemann around 1915, followed by another revised edition in 1916 with additional black and white pieces.
The first coloured scene Rackham gives us is the one when Scrooge is visited by the ghost of his former business partner, by the end of Stave One (stave meaning stanzas, as Dickens insists that his work is a Carol in prose and names the chapters after verses).
”How now?” said Scrooge, caustic and cold as ever. “What do you want with me?”
I love how Scrooge basically doesn’t give a fuck about being visited by a ghost. Many other illustrators decided to go for the very following scene, in which Scrooge finally gives in to terror, but not Rackham, who always had a talent for picking scenes that no one else did.
This is particularly true for the next picture, which has to be my favourite illustration.
It’s a scene that, for some reason, never finds space in illustrations nor transpositions: when Marley goes away, Scrooge follows him to the window and sees that he hasn’t been the only one visited by spirits, that night. All ghosts are in chains, some of them are linked together and Scrooge is familiar with some of them, particularly one old ghost, who drags a gigantic iron safe attached to his ankle and is suffering from the inability of helping a poor woman who’s living in the street with her baby. John Leech illustrates this particular scene marvellously if you want to look this up.
Another beautiful illustration is in Stave 3, when we visit the day of Christmas with the cheerful Spirit of Christmas Present.
There was nothing very cheerful in the climate of the town, and yet there was an air of cheerfulness abroad that the clearest summer air and brightest summer sun might have endeavoured to diffuse in vain.
A particularly important scene is the party at Fred’s house, so Rackham decides to give us one of the most lively moments in the evening: a guy chasing a girl.
If you’re looking for a far less cheerful mood, you can also check this out: the Ghost of Christmases Yet To Come finally reveals Scrooge his own grave.
Since we never see the spirit’s face. Rackham cleverly decides to picture him from the back,
Not Christmasy enough? Rackham has got you covered with this turkey-dragging impish elf.
Still not enough? Well, Rackham was never fond of illustrating the obvious, but here you have a cornucopia of goods from the Ghost of Christmas Present. Though he doesn’t illustrate the spirit himself, there’s a happy pig. Life is always better with a happy pig.