Background.

A Christmas Carol.
  • A Christmas Carol is a novella, or short story, written by Charles Dickens and first published in the Christmas of 1843. The allegorical tale tells the story of the transformation of the mean-spirited Ebenezer Scrooge through the visits of the spirit of his former business partner and three ghosts over the course of a Christmas Eve night. It remains a much-loved traditional Christmas tale.

Context.

Quotation said by the Ghost of Christmas Past who is talking to Ebenezer Scrooge. The Ghost has appeared in front of of Scrooge as predicted by the apparition of Scrooge’s former business partner Jacob Marley. On the Ghost’s head is a magnificent beam of light and beneath his arm he carries an enormous extinguisher cap to put out the light when it isn’t required.

When the Ghost appears before him, Scrooge has a special desire to see the Spirit in his cap; and begged him to be covered. Scrooge has already been told by the Ghost that that he represents his past, and seeks to cover the light that might show up these memories.

The Ghost replies with this quote, and tells Scrooge that ‘you are one of those whose passions made this cap, and force me through whole trains of years to wear it low upon my brow‘.

Illustration from the original publication of A Christmas Carol showing a joyous Mr and Mrs Fezziwig dancing away at their Christmas party. The scene is one of a number from the past that
Ebenezer Scrooge is transported to by the Ghost of Christmas Past.
Illustration from the original publication of A Christmas Carol showing a joyous Mr and Mrs Fezziwig dancing away at their Christmas party. The scene is one of a number from the past that Ebenezer Scrooge is transported to by the Ghost of Christmas Past.

Source.

Taken from the following passage in Stave 2 (The First Of The Three Spirits) of A Christmas Carol:

“Who, and what are you?” Scrooge demanded.

“I am the Ghost of Christmas Past.”

“Long Past?” inquired Scrooge: observant of its dwarfish stature.

“No. Your past.”

Perhaps, Scrooge could not have told anybody why, if anybody could have asked him; but he had a special desire to see the Spirit in his cap; and begged him to be covered.

“What!” exclaimed the Ghost, “would you so soon put out, with worldly hands, the light I give? Is it not enough that you are one of those whose passions made this cap, and force me through whole trains of years to wear it low upon my brow!”

Scrooge reverently disclaimed all intention to offend or any knowledge of having wilfully “bonneted” the Spirit at any period of his life. He then made bold to inquire what business brought him there.

“Your welfare!” said the Ghost.

Scrooge expressed himself much obliged, but could not help thinking that a night of unbroken rest would have been more conducive to that end. The Spirit must have heard him thinking, for it said immediately:

Your reclamation, then. Take heed!

It put out its strong hand as it spoke, and clasped him gently by the arm.“Rise! and walk with me!”

Characters.

Ghost of Christmas Past.

The Ghost of Christmas Past is the first of the three spirits to haunt Ebenezer Scrooge. This angelic spirit shows Scrooge scenes from his past that occurred on or around Christmas, in order to demonstrate to him the necessity of changing his ways, as well as to show the reader how Scrooge came to be a bitter, cold-hearted miser. This includes his childhood and school days, his apprenticeship with the jovial Fezziwig, and his engagement to Belle.

  • In a 2019 BBC television adaptation of A Christmas Carol, the character of The Ghost of Christmas Past was played by English actor Andy Serkis.

Ebenezer Scrooge.

Ebenezer Scrooge is one of the most famous characters created by Charles Dickens and arguably one of the most famous in English literature. The protagonist of A Christmas Carol, Scrooge is the cold-hearted and mean-spirited accountant. His business partner, the equally mean Jacob Marley, died seven years previous and he lives alone, having never married. Through a visit one Christmas Eve by the ghost of Marley and three subsequent spirits, Scrooge is awakened to his meaness and the impact it has on others.

  • In screen adaptations of A Christmas Carol, the character of Ebenezer Scrooge has been played by actors that include Alastair Sim (1951 film), Albert Finney (1970 musical film), Michael Hordern (1977 TV Movie), George C. Scott (1984 TV Movie), Michael Caine (1992 musical fantasy film), Patrick Stewart (1999 TV Movie) and Guy Pearce (2019 TV Mini-Series). Michael Hordern had previously appeared alongside Alastair Sim in the 1951 film (titled Scrooge), this time playing the character of Jacob Marley.

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Would you so soon put out, with worldly hands, the light I give?
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Resources.

We have made our A Christmas Carol quotation slides (seen at the top of each quotation page) available to download for academic or other non-commercial purposes. Available as GIF images, the files can be used for presentation slides, flashcards, handouts etc. Dimensions are 1500 by 850 pixels. We make them free to download and use on the undertanding they are not then sold or used for commercial purposes (and a credit to our site would be nice!).

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