Monday, December 24, 2012

Countdown to Christmas 2012: Year-End Round-Up

(from The Book of Days)
So this Christmas countdown degenerated into a pair of advent book-ends. But hey, as Scrooge teaches us, it's never too late to make amends and there's still time for a Christmas round-up featuring some of my favourite subjects from the inaugural year of American Scrapbook. Is it a coincidence that they've all written on Christmas?

1. Walter Scott. Have I written anything here that hasn't looped back to Scott in one way or another? Not much, I bet, and nor is that likely to change in 2013. Here, then, is Scott's glorious evocation of Christmas from the introduction to Canto VI of Marmion, published in 1808:
1808 seems very early for this kind of thing, and though I haven't dug around this much I imagine you could trace a line of influence from this to Washington Irving's writings on Christmas, and then straight to Dickens. So modern Christmas loops back to Scott too, inevitably.

2. Susan Fenimore Cooper. Rural Hours was one of the books that I was most pleased to stumble across this year, and it certainly doesn't disappoint at Christmas-time. On December 23rd, Cooper paints a fascinating portrait of Santa Claus at mid-century:
And on December 25th she presents an equally compelling account of the status of Christmas Day itself - required reading for those with an antiquarian interest in seasonal celebration.

3. Charles Dudley Warner. Warner featured in my first post here, and it feels right to return to the comforts of his Backlog Studies at Christmas. The season provides the setting for the book's climax (if that's the word for it):
And in this instance, the talk around Warner's fireplace develops into a rather charming short-story which features, cutely, the protagonists reading one of Dickens' Christmas stories to each other.

So there we have it - Christmas in the early, mid and late nineteenth century, should you find yourself looking for some seasonal reading. Oh, and William Harrison Ainsworth would have been featured here, too, of course, if I could have found a digitised version of his seminal 1828 Christmas annual, The Christmas Box, described in this blog-post. Instead, it's a salutary reminder that not everything exists on-line quite yet. Maybe next year. In the meantime, Merry Christmas.

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