‘The Victorians, with sentimental efficiency, rendered the feast irremovable. … [But we can] discount the myth that the Prince Consort and Charles Dickens were responsible for the rich Christmas constellation that we are now, far from reluctantly, stuck with. There just happened to be something in the Victorian ethos that found apt expression in the feast – cult of the family, religiosity, the civic duty of charity, gigantesque consumption. The 1840 Christmas dinner menu for Windsor Castle, filling stomachs not quite satisfied with roast swan, etc., with afterthoughts of curried rabbit and a groaning cold sideboard, is a glorious nightmare. At Windsor Castle there was a Christmas tree, a genuine innovation of Albert’s, but dear Mr Dickens invented nothing. His ‘Christmas Carol’ sums up, with endearing mawkishness, Victorian robustness and sanctimony.’ […] But there is a private wisdom that shines, even in office parties, inept gifts and Boxing Day hangover. Dickens was right: Christmas is a good time and a loving one. I send, out of exile, such seasonal blessings as you will accept.’
Anthony Burgess, ‘Merry Xmas Nevertheless’, 1978.
Here is Burgess reading from ‘A Christmas Carol’ in a recording, presumably made for radio, found in our archives.
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