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What Christmas is as We Grow Older

This is a guest post from the highly talented writer and conversationalist, Charles Dickens. His books have appeared in such places as every bookstore since his death and on television shows such as every other BBC special. This is an essay he wrote many years ago now, and—because Chronological Snobbery has no place here—I believe it is still appreciable and applicable today. Merry Christmas from the Ink Society!

          Time was, with most of us, when Christmas Day encircling all our limited world like a magic ring, left nothing out for us to miss or seek; bound together all our home enjoyments, affections, and hopes; grouped everything and every one around the Christmas fire; and made the little picture shining in our bright young eyes, complete.

         Time came, perhaps, all so soon, when our thoughts over-leaped that narrow boundary; when there was some one (very dear, we thought then, very beautiful, and absolutely perfect) wanting to the fulness of our happiness; when we were wanting too (or we thought so, which did just as well) at the Christmas hearth by which that some one sat; and when we intertwined with every wreath and garland of our life that some one's name.

        That was the time for the bright visionary Christmases which have long arisen from us to show faintly, after summer rain, in the palest edges of the rainbow! That was the time for the beatified enjoyment of the things that were to be, and never were, and yet the things that were so real in our resolute hope that it would be hard to say, now, what realities achieved since, have been stronger!

       What! Did that Christmas never really come when we and the priceless pearl who was our young choice were received, after the happiest of totally impossible marriages, by the two united families previously at daggers—drawn on our account? When brothers and sisters-in-law who had always been rather cool to us before our relationship was effected, perfectly doted on us, and when fathers and mothers overwhelmed us with unlimited incomes? Was that Christmas dinner never really eaten, after which we arose, and generously and eloquently rendered honour to our late rival, present in the company, then and there exchanging friendship and forgiveness, and founding an attachment, not to be surpassed in Greek or Roman story, which subsisted until death? Has that same rival long ceased to care for that same priceless pearl, and married for money, and become usurious? Above all, do we really know, now, that we should probably have been miserable if we had won and worn the pearl, and that we are better without her?

       That Christmas when we had recently achieved so much fame; when we had been carried in triumph somewhere, for doing something great and good; when we had won an honoured and ennobled name, and arrived and were received at home in a shower of tears of joy; is it possible that THAT Christmas has not come yet?

       And is our life here, at the best, so constituted that, pausing as we advance at such a noticeable mile-stone in the track as this great birthday, we look back on the things that never were, as naturally and full as gravely as on the things that have been and are gone, or have been and still are? If it be so, and so it seems to be, must we come to the conclusion that life is little better than a dream, and little worth the loves and strivings that we crowd into it?

       No! Far be such miscalled philosophy from us, dear Reader, on Christmas Day! Nearer and closer to our hearts be the Christmas spirit, which is the spirit of active usefulness, perseverance, cheerful discharge of duty, kindness and forbearance! It is in the last virtues especially, that we are, or should be, strengthened by the unaccomplished visions of our youth; for, who shall say that they are not our teachers to deal gently even with the impalpable nothings of the earth!


       Therefore, as we grow older, let us be more thankful that the circle of our Christmas associations and of the lessons that they bring, expands! Let us welcome every one of them, and summon them to take their places by the Christmas hearth.

       Welcome, old aspirations, glittering creatures of an ardent fancy, to your shelter underneath the holly! We know you, and have not outlived you yet. Welcome, old projects and old loves, however fleeting, to your nooks among the steadier lights that burn around us. Welcome, all that was ever real to our hearts; and for the earnestness that made you real, thanks to Heaven! Do we build no Christmas castles in the clouds now? Let our thoughts, fluttering like butterflies among these flowers of children, bear witness! Before this boy, there stretches out a Future, brighter than we ever looked on in our old romantic time, but bright with honour and with truth. Around this little head on which the sunny curls lie heaped, the graces sport, as prettily, as airily, as when there was no scythe within the reach of Time to shear away the curls of our first-love. Upon another girl's face near it—placider but smiling bright—a quiet and contented little face, we see Home fairly written. Shining from the word, as rays shine from a star, we see how, when our graves are old, other hopes than ours are young, other hearts than ours are moved; how other ways are smoothed; how other happiness blooms, ripens, and decays—no, not decays, for other homes and other bands of children, not yet in being nor for ages yet to be, arise, and bloom and ripen to the end of all!

       Welcome, everything! Welcome, alike what has been, and what never was, and what we hope may be, to your shelter underneath the holly, to your places round the Christmas fire, where what is sits open- hearted! In yonder shadow, do we see obtruding furtively upon the blaze, an enemy's face? By Christmas Day we do forgive him! If the injury he has done us may admit of such companionship, let him come here and take his place. If otherwise, unhappily, let him go hence, assured that we will never injure nor accuse him.

       On this day we shut out Nothing!

       "Pause," says a low voice. "Nothing? Think!"

       "On Christmas Day, we will shut out from our fireside, Nothing."

       "Not the shadow of a vast City where the withered leaves are lying deep?" the voice replies. "Not the shadow that darkens the whole globe? Not the shadow of the City of the Dead?"

        Not even that. Of all days in the year, we will turn our faces towards that City upon Christmas Day, and from its silent hosts bring those we loved, among us. City of the Dead, in the blessed name wherein we are gathered together at this time, and in the Presence that is here among us according to the promise, we will receive, and not dismiss, thy people who are dear to us!

         Yes. We can look upon these children angels that alight, so solemnly, so beautifully among the living children by the fire, and can bear to think how they departed from us. Entertaining angels unawares, as the Patriarchs did, the playful children are unconscious of their guests; but we can see them—can see a radiant arm around one favourite neck, as if there were a tempting of that child away. Among the celestial figures there is one, a poor misshapen boy on earth, of a glorious beauty now, of whom his dying mother said it grieved her much to leave him here, alone, for so many years as it was likely would elapse before he came to her— being such a little child. But he went quickly, and was laid upon her breast, and in her hand she leads him.

       There was a gallant boy, who fell, far away, upon a burning sand beneath a burning sun, and said, "Tell them at home, with my last love, how much I could have wished to kiss them once, but that I died contented and had done my duty!" Or there was another, over whom they read the words, "Therefore we commit his body to the deep," and so consigned him to the lonely ocean and sailed on. Or there was another, who lay down to his rest in the dark shadow of great forests, and, on earth, awoke no more. O shall they not, from sand and sea and forest, be brought home at such a time!

       There was a dear girl—almost a woman—never to be one—who made a mourning Christmas in a house of joy, and went her trackless way to the silent City. Do we recollect her, worn out, faintly whispering what could not be heard, and falling into that last sleep for weariness? O look upon her now! O look upon her beauty, her serenity, her changeless youth, her happiness! The daughter of Jairus was recalled to life, to die; but she, more blest, has heard the same voice, saying unto her, "Arise for ever!"

       We had a friend who was our friend from early days, with whom we often pictured the changes that were to come upon our lives, and merrily imagined how we would speak, and walk, and think, and talk, when we came to be old. His destined habitation in the City of the Dead received him in his prime. Shall he be shut out from our Christmas remembrance? Would his love have so excluded us? Lost friend, lost child, lost parent, sister, brother, husband, wife, we will not so discard you! You shall hold your cherished places in our Christmas hearts, and by our Christmas fires; and in the season of immortal hope, and on the birthday of immortal mercy, we will shut out Nothing!

       The winter sun goes down over town and village; on the sea it makes a rosy path, as if the Sacred tread were fresh upon the water. A few more moments, and it sinks, and night comes on, and lights begin to sparkle in the prospect. On the hill-side beyond the shapelessly-diffused town, and in the quiet keeping of the trees that gird the village-steeple, remembrances are cut in stone, planted in common flowers, growing in grass, entwined with lowly brambles around many a mound of earth. In town and village, there are doors and windows closed against the weather, there are flaming logs heaped high, there are joyful faces, there is healthy music of voices. Be all ungentleness and harm excluded from the temples of the Household Gods, but be those remembrances admitted with tender encouragement! They are of the time and all its comforting and peaceful reassurances; and of the history that re-united even upon earth the living and the dead; and of the broad beneficence and goodness that too many men have tried to tear to narrow shreds.

--Charles Dickens, 1851

Image: Unknown Painter,


The Maids of the Inn


This is a guest post from the dear F.W. Boreham.


Campagne de France (An Oil Selection)

Campaign of France
1864, Oil on Canvas
Jean-Louis-Ernest Meissonier

"God and the soldier
All men adore
In time of trouble,
And no more;
For when war is over
And all things righted,
God is neglected -
The old soldier slighted."


--Written on a sentry box at Prince Edward's Gate, Gibralter 

For more items of this nature please visit our Oil section here but not here.


Drug License

These cold winter days are often the cause of effervescent and therapeutic cups of Beecham's to be sipped on duvets throughout Her Majesty's Kingdom and any number of lesser products upon our own shores. A close relative of mine was recently warding off a seasonal malady through similar means and reminiscing on the benefits of such potions available in his time of need in the castle of Capernwray in Lancaster, England. Forays into local concoctions of similar claims were not coming back completely void and his spirits were being lifted by an alternative brew. The very thought of such soothing medicament made me want to explore their possible benefits to me even in my current state of physical health. Upon recognizing this feeling, a danger* was also immediately discovered. A surreptitious thought was weaseling into the hedgerows of my mind. And here it is: if medicine makes one feel better when ailing then should it not be even the more advantageously partaken for the healthy of countenance?

Let me pause here before answering that question with a resounding "No!" to make a small confession of a possible exorbitant interest of delving into such a vein of discourse. It is a topic that runs somewhat to my heart. You see, I am a student of medicine. I have no defense for such a course of study other than to say that the tracking down of ill-health is much more straight-forward than the tracking down of health. Or rather, the study of medicine is much easier to pin down then the study of health.

Ah, here we find ourselves back to that recent conversation with my close relative. The question above was actually posed in the course of our conversation with a passing mention of the ramifications it would have in the political field to allow certain previously restricted drugs to be used freely among the populace. Now in this regard, I should be against the recreational use of Drugs (Marijuana, etc.) if for no other reason than that they deny the accepted level of "health." The use of these drugs indicates that health is not quite so fulfilling as it needs to be. And so, we, the relative and I, quickly dismissed this dangerous line of reasoning because of the above resounding "No!", but now that I sit here looking out the window on the low winter sky maybe the users of said drugs are on to something. 

Maybe…Maybe…could there be an ailment without a fever of the head or a congestion of the chest?

Our health may not be quite so healthy as I first thought. I would not even have to stop at the physiological fact that we are dying and would be dead unless thousands of our cells did not die each day in the protection of their…something, leader, I suppose...without asking questions or demanding reward for their sacrifice. However, even with their service, death will come, though sometimes slowly, without fail. This we know from history is a losing battle. And, even during these days of "life" is the slow death of relationships, brokenness of trust, the confusion of thoughts, the fear of rejection, the hounding of guilt, and the list goes on and on. There does seem to be some corroboration of the drug users claim that there is something wrong with the prevailing definition of "health." So, thence comes the search of medicine. 

But let us not stop with this failure to find health. For if we are all sick we simply all need to find the right doctor. 

And, what is this that we find when we begin the search across the breadth and width of the world's hospital halls and corridors? ...Nothing but death and loss. 

Except, Except, we do find, if we will only look to a rather unexpected corner of this world, a glimmer of hope. There is no name on a door or credentials on a wall, only a rather rough notice of identity above his head as he hangs bleeding and suffocating to death on some scaffolding. He is the only person from whom all ailments fled and with whom death did not have the final word. How could it when He is The Word?

I have yet to get my drug license and Beecham's is not yet available in the States, but if you are looking for a physician to give life to your faltering bones which no medicine will raise once bare beneath the sod, may I point you to the one upon whom the blow of death was rebuffed and life was brought to light! 


Phillip Tippin
Under a lamp's warm glow
Roeland Park, KS


*The danger is not in the use of medicine to gain health, but rather the assumption we are ever healthy. 

N.B. I forgot to answer that question with a resounding "No!".


An Alchemist or Apothecary in His Laboratory
Egbert van Heemskerck the elder
Oil on Canvas 


The Death of Marley

           “Marley was dead, to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that. The register of his burial was signed by the clergyman, the clerk, the undertaker, and the chief mourner. Scrooge signed it. and Scrooge’s name was good upon ’Change, for anything he chose to put his hand to. Old Marley was as dead as a doornail.

          Mind! I don’t mean to say that I know, of my own knowledge, what there is particularly dead about a door-nail. I might have been inclined, myself, to regard a coffin-nail as the deadest piece of ironmongery in the trade. But the wisdom of our ancestors is in the simile; and my unhallowed hands shall not disturb it, or the Country’s done for. You will therefore permit me to repeat, emphatically, that Marley was as dead as a doornail.”

--Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

"Marley's Ghost"
Wood Engraving, 1843
John Leech