"God Bless Us, Every One!
171 years ago in 1843, well-loved English writer Charles Dickens published A Christmas Carol. Even if they don’t know of Charles Dickens by name, many Americans are familiar with the story of bitter, curmudgeonly old Ebenezer Scrooge and the redemptive journey that ultimately transforms him into a warmer, gentler, and more generous human being.
A Christmas Carol is a timeless tale that remains popular to this day – particularly this time of year – whether in print or adapted to stage, film, or other types of media.
Far lesser known is Dickens’ first novel, The Pickwick Papers, published in 1837. In The Pickwick Papers, Dickens wrote a chapter similar in nature to the plot of A Christmas Carol, evidently developing what would in a few years become the classic.
Among other stories in The Pickwick Papers is ‘The Goblin and the Sexton,’ in which Dickens tells of the morose, melancholy and lonely Gabriel Grub (who was a gravedigger and ‘sexton,’ or one who looks over a church). On Christmas Eve, as he was finishing digging a grave, Gabriel was met by a goblin sitting on a tombstone.
“Who makes graves at a time when all other men are merry, and takes a pleasure in it?," the goblin asked. The goblin soon continued, “We know the man with the sulky face and grim scowl, that came down the street to-night, throwing his evil looks at the children, and grasping his burying-spade the tighter. We know the man who struck the boy in the envious malice of his heart, because the boy could be merry, and he could not. We know him, we know him."
Soon after, a number of goblins poured into the graveyard, which also filled with the lively music of an organ. The goblins proceed to take Gabriel Grubb away and show him the past and the future, much like in A Christmas Carol.
As the story goes, “Above all, [Gabriel] saw that men like himself, who snarled at the mirth and cheerfulness of others, were the foulest weeds on the fair surface of the earth; and setting all the good of the world against the evil, he came to the conclusion that it was a very decent and respectable sort of world after all.” Soon after this realization the goblins faded from view, and Gabriel Grubb fell asleep in the empty graveyard.
When he awoke, “…he was an altered man, and he could not bear the thought of returning to a place where his repentance would be scoffed at, and his reformation disbelieved. He hesitated for a few moments; and then turned away to wander where he might, and seek his bread elsewhere.” The whereabouts of Gabriel Grubb were unknown for some ten years, until he returned a ragged, though content, old man.
Even though Dickens was a great, master storyteller, the role of The Pickwick Papers in developing the message of A Christmas Carol is clear. His story of holiday human redemption was a work in progress for a number of years before he saw it fit to publish A Christmas Carol.
Not only do storylines and plots develop and progress with time, but we as people do so as well and, ideally, we improve with each passing year. The moral of Dickens’ stories is that there is redemption. Like Gabriel Grubb and Ebenezer Scrooge, we all can become better. Doing so often requires patience and resolve, should our initial attempt be flawed or unsuccessful. However, I hope that neither you nor I require visits from goblins or the ghosts of Christmas to recognize we can improve.
Returning to Dickens’ famous A Christmas Carol, we recall the beloved Tiny Tim and his famous line, “God bless us, every one!” As we celebrate this holiday season and the birth of Christ, many celebrate with the giving of gifts, among other traditions. Particularly for Christians such as myself, we celebrate the gift that Jesus brought us with his birth, life, crucifixion, and resurrection.
This holiday season, I wish for you and your loved ones progress, success, health, and serenity. Best wishes for a safe and merry Christmas.
And so I echo the words of Tiny Tim: God bless us, every one!
As always, if you have questions, concerns, or comments, feel free to contact my office. You can call my Abingdon office at 276-525-1405 or my Christiansburg office at 540-381-5671. To reach my office via email, please visit my website at www.morgangriffith.house.gov. "