Even though Dickens himself liked The Chimes even better than his famous Christmas Carol, this short story has received little attention from both readers and scholars. We believe that this novella that alternates between realism and fantasy as it recounts a poor man’s supernatural experience on New Year’s Eve deserves a greater audience.
Students annotating this Christmas story are often confronted with Dickens’s subtle allusions to contemporary social concerns, for example the 1830 “Swing Riots” or the harsh vagrancy laws. Whereas contemporary readers would have immediately understood these hints, today’s readers are at a loss to understand the full scope of Dickens’s references. Existing editions of The Chimes do not solve this problem, as their annotations are usually very brief and superficial. The “Annotating Dickens” group aims at providing modern readers with the information needed in order to fully understand the artistic and social context in which the story was written. Our members gain a thorough knowledge of nineteenth-century literature and culture, ranging from the fashion for Christmas ghost stories to Victorian attitudes towards suicide to the plight of agricultural workers.
When we have fixed the dates for our meetings in the winter term 2017/18, we will announce them here.