"God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen"
[One of the oldest known recordings of this carol, on wax
cylinder, from 1917 (Edison Records, Public Domain)]
"God bless you merry gentlemen" [sic] is the ONLY carol mentioned by name in Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol"...
...and therefore plays a prominent role in "A Christmas Coda"!
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Snow falls only once in "A Christmas Coda"...
From the Preface:
"While Mr. Charles Dickens endeavoured, I, a poor relation across time and tide, am left but to endeavor. His Ghostly little book did not put any readers out of humour, though mine might find some who wish to lay it. May the Spirit that animates it, and the season, yet pleasantly haunt its tidings of Redemption."
"A Christmas Coda" is a sequel to "A Christmas Carol". It's also the most challenging thing I've written in my entire life, taking over a year to produce less than 100 pages, which is very unlike the fever dream that compelled Mr. Charles Dickens to write his original 1843 novella in less than 6 weeks. Why, then, was it so hard for me?
Well, in part, because I decided to write "in the style of" Dickens himself, which is to say, a voice not naturally my own. I've read most of Dickens' major works, consider him the finest author of English prose, ever, and while I could never hope to equal his style, I very much wanted to pay my respects. If nothing else, the ensuing attempt gained me an even greater appreciation of his talent!
Secondly, I'm not a historian. Which is why I did something I'd never done before: I hired someone to "Victorian fact check" my novella, an enthusiastic researcher who lives smack in the heart of England. She helped me correct anachronisms I never would have even thought to investigate, and confirmed my extensive research into things like debtor's prisons, mortsafes, and the nascent rise of the Christmas tree. "Thank'ee", Ann!
But mostly, "A Christmas Coda" took me so long to write because I wanted so much to do it right. The work upon which it is based is my favorite Christmas tale of all time. In fact, I love the final sequence so much, when Scrooge awakens on Christmas morning, that I sometimes watch just this Act from several different movie adaptations, all in a row, for the simple shared joy of it!
But I've also always had lingering questions. And for years, like the spirits that haunted Scrooge, these would occasionally visit me:
- How did Scrooge help Tiny Tim to walk again?
- Could there be any chance for Scrooge to redeem lost love?
- How could Scrooge ever repay a debt of the magnitude he owed Jacob Marley?
These form the basis of my story. It takes place exactly one year after the events of "A Christmas Carol". And exactly like "A Christmas Carol", it takes place entirely on December the 24th, 25th, and 26th.
Unlike "A Christmas Carol", however, "A Christmas Coda" is free to offer homage (or what we might nowadays label, somewhat ironically, "Easter eggs") to its predecessor, its author, and even a few legacies of the holiday he helped popularize, in references both overt and subtle.
And all without "further intercourse with Spirits", as the last paragraph of "A Christmas Carol" so clearly states.
This may have been the most practical obstacle of all, but though my Ghostly little sequel turned out to be the most difficult thing I ever wrote, it also, I hope, found a way to embody spirit of another sort.
Because, for all the struggle, "A Christmas Coda" has deepened my love of the original tale, and even Christmas itself.
This, finally, is what made it "Special"...
...and, for me, a carol worth singing.
With Tidings of Comfort and Joy,