The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent. is a collection of essays, sketches and tales by Washington Irving (1783-1859), generally considered one of the first American writers to achieve international recognition. Charles Dickens knew the book well: as he confided to Irving in 1841, it had been ‘second nature’ to him ever since he had pored over it with such delight as a child.
Readers on both sides of the Atlantic especially liked the Christmas sketches in which the solitary Crayon is invited to join the traditional old English celebrations at Bracebridge Hall. Beginning with a crowded stagecoach journey through the frozen countryside, Irving lovingly describes the family gathering in the gleaming candlelit parlour, the feasting and drinking, and the traditional songs, dances and games which the whole household enjoys together before settling down to tell ghost stories round the fire. This deliberately nostalgic picture helped spark a renewed interest in the festival of Christmas, and over fifteen years later was an obvious source of inspiration for the Christmas scenes in Dickens's Pickwick Papers.
- Article by:
- John Sutherland
- Poverty and the working classes, The novel 1832–1880, London
Professor John Sutherland considers how Dickens’s A Christmas Carol engages with Victorian attitudes towards poverty, labour and the Christmas spirit.
- Article by:
- Judith Flanders
- The middle classes, Popular culture
Judith Flanders describes how many of our own Christmas traditions – from trees and crackers to cards and carols – have their origins in 19th-century industrial and commercial interests.