Well, I didn’t quite make it by Christmas, but I have managed to get it finished before the old year dies.
Last year, I recorded Dickens’ second short Christmas book, The Chimes, and this year I have recorded his third, The Cricket on the Hearth.
This little book sat on the family bookshelf when I was a child, and it always looked a very strange title to me.
It is a very sentimental story, but not without flashes of Dickensian humour, and is the tale of John Peerybingle, the good-hearted carrier, and his young wife Mary (‘Dot’), interwoven with the story of poor toymaker Caleb Plummer, his beloved blind daughter Bertha, and the harsh old toy merchant Tackleton, who is due to marry May Fielding, a childhood friend of Dot. Comic relief is provided by Tilly Slowboy, the disaster-prone nursemaid of John and Dot’s baby, and Boxer, the family dog.
The cricket who chirps on the family hearth assumes fairy form to save the day when disaster looms in the form of a mysterious stranger.
The novella is subdivided into chapters called ‘Chirps’, similar to the ‘Quarters’ of The Chimes or the ‘Staves’ of A Christmas Carol.
I wish all my listeners a very happy and peaceful New Year.