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Charles Dickens's Christmas Carol | Page 49 (52 of 70)
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Recording of A Christmas Carol courtesy of Naxos AudioBooks.


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49

STAVE IV.

The Last of The Spirits.

The Phantom slowly, gravely, silently, approached. When it came near him, Scrooge bent down upon his knee; for in the very air through which this Spirit moved, it seemed to scatter gloom, and mystery.

It was shrouded in a deep black garment, which concealed its head, its face, its form, and left nothing of it visible, save one outstretched hand. But for this, it would have been difficult to detach its figure from the night, and separate it from the darkness by which it was surrounded.

He felt that it was tall and stately, when it came beside him, and that its mysterious presence filled him with a solemn dread. He knew no more, for the Spirit neither spoke nor moved.

"I am in the presence of the Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come?" said Scrooge.

The Spirit answered not, but pointed onward with its hand.

"You are about to shew me, shadows of the things that have not happened, but will happen in the time before us," Scrooge pursued. "Is that so, Spirit?"

The upper portion of the garment was contracted for an instant in its folds, as if the Spirit had inclined its head. That was the only answer he received.

Although well used to ghostly company by this time, Scrooge feared the silent shape so much, that his legs trembled beneath him, and he found that he could hardly stand when he prepared to follow it. The Spirit paused a moment: as observing his condition, and giving him time to recover.

But Scrooge was all the worse for this. It thrilled him with a vague uncertain horror to know that behind the dusky shroud, there were ghostly eyes, intently fixed upon him, while he, though he stretched his own to the utmost, could see nothing but a spectral hand, and one great heap of black.

"Ghost of the Future!" he exclaimed. "I fear you more than any Spectre I have seen. But, as I know your purpose is to do me good; and as I hope to live to be another man from what I was: I am prepared to bear you company, and do it with a thankful heart. Will you not speak to me?"

It gave him no reply. The hand was pointed straight before them.

"Lead on!" said Scrooge. "Lead on. The night is waning fast, and it is precious time to me, I know. Lead on, Spirit!"

Charles Dickens (1812–1870)
Autograph manuscript signed, December 1843
Page 49
Purchased by Pierpont Morgan before 1900; MA 97

Compelled by personal financial difficulties, Dickens wrote A Christmas Carol in only six weeks, during a period of intense creativity in fall 1843. The original manuscript of A Christmas Carol reveals Dickens's method of composition, allowing us to see the author at work. The pace of writing and revision, apparently contiguous, is urgent, rapid, and boldly confident. Deleted text is struck out with a cursive and continuous looping movement of the pen and replaced with more active verbs—to achieve greater vividness or immediacy of effect— and fewer words for concision. This heavily revised sixty-six-page draft—the only manuscript of the story—was sent to the printer in order for the book to be published on 19 December, just in time for the Christmas market.


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