This and That

I read A Christmas Carol every December, so I was delighted to find a first edition of Charles Dickens’ classic novella in the Rare Book Collection of Kresge Library. I never tire of Dickens’ “ghostly little book.” I love his language, humor, and wonderfully drawn characters.

I enjoy the Ghosts of Christmas Past and Present best; the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come frightens me. One of my favorite scenes is when Scrooge’s nephew Fred and the Ghost of Christmas Present collude with Topper to catch Fred’s sister-in-law (the plump one with the lace tucker) during a game of blind man’s bluff. I’m a cheapskate focused on my work, so I have a certain sympathy for Ebenezer. I read the book each year as a reminder to not become a “tight-fisted hand at the grindstone.”

All of us in higher education ought to recall the words of the Ghost of Christmas Present at the end of Stave 3, as he revealed two wretched children hidden in his robes: “This boy is Ignorance. This girl is Want. Beware them both…but most of all beware this boy.”

I sometimes wonder if I should have been born a Victorian. I love their physics-Faraday, Maxwell, and Kelvin are my heroes-as well as their literature.A Christmas Carol was published in 1843, the same year that James Joule measured the mechanical equivalent of heat, George Stokes analyzed incompressible fluids, and Ada Lovelace wrote the first computer program. Holding a first edition in your hands connects you to that time; as if Dickens, like Marley’s Ghost, “sat invisible beside you.” The library’s copy has lovely illustrations, which at that time had to be painstakingly hand-colored.

I intend to continue readingA Christmas Carol each year, with the hope that I, like Scrooge, can “become as good a friend, as good a master, and as good a man, as the good old city knew.”

Encountering the Rare Book, an exhibition celebrating
the Special Collections in Kresge Library at
Oakland University, organized by Andrea Eis.

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