As we are well and truly into December, I thought it only right that the next meeting of the Nineteenth-Century Book Club explored some of the wonderful Victorian Christmas stories written by some of our favourite authors. Not only are you sure to enjoy these tales yourself, a Christmas collection could come in very handy if you’re still searching for the perfect gift for the book lover in your life…
Any self-respecting list of nineteenth-century Christmas stories would be doing itself an injustice if it didn’t begin with perennial favourite, Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol (1843). Combining Christmas with ghostly visits, this is one for the ages. It’s worth noting that Dickens’s foray into Christmas tales didn’t stop with Ebenezer Scrooge; he also wrote many other yuletide-related short stories, including, ‘The Chimes’, ‘The Haunted Man’, and ‘The Cricket on the Hearth.’
Just when you thought Elizabeth Gaskell couldn’t get any better, you discover her Christmas stories! If you enjoy a bit of a scare as you tuck into your mince pies, then look no further than ‘The Old Nurse’s Story’ (1852). Though not strictly Christmas-based, this spooky tale perfectly fits into the Victorian tradition of the ghost story. If one story isn’t enough to give you your Gaskell fix, then try the collection, Curious, If True (published between 1852 and 1861). Perfect for wintery nights in front of the fire.
I see that my recommendations seem to be connecting Christmas with ghosts, but please stick with me for M. R. James. I know, before you say anything, I’m cheating because he isn’t totally nineteenth century, but hey, it’s Christmas, I can do these things. There’s a good chance you might have watched TV adaptations of his stories (the Christmas telly schedule sometimes repeats the 70’s anthology series of his short-stories), even if you haven’t read them. If that is the case, then why not give his collection a go? With stories including, ‘The Stalls of Barchester Cathedral’ (1910) you’ll be needing that extra sherry before bedtime.
If you love to curl up with a spot of detective fiction, then look no further than Arthur Conan Doyle’s, ‘The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle’ (1892). Combining the genius of Sherlock Holmes with Christmas, you’ll be guessing until the end.
These are just a few suggestions for those of you looking to enjoy some well-deserved reading time this festive season. There are some beautiful collections out there, which, in my humble opinion, make the perfect gift! If you have an independent bookshop nearby, perhaps consider paying them a visit. After the difficult year we’ve all experienced, your business could be just the present they need.
To all of you wonderful readers out there, have a wonderful Christmas, and happy reading.