First, the TLS has published the second installment of their "guided tour" to Dickens's A Christmas Carol:
Does his ecstasy have something of mania about it? Perhaps. And more than a little of evangelical conversion, surely – though only in the loosest sense. (The religious claims made for Carol, which relishes sensual glut, are overstressed.) Because, far from being reborn into that world of systematic moral conviction inhabited by the Murdstones, the Gradgrinds, or the Revd Chadband, Scrooge is on the contrary released into a profoundly happy uncertainty – “I don’t know anything!” – which describes reality rather well: that state of continuous creation and anticipation which we can call doubt, or hope, as we choose. I think, I am almost sure, that Dickens preferred the latter. (read the rest here; for Part I, see here)Second, if you've got anyone who's fond of Dickens on your gift list, a last-minute idea might be to head over here for a Dickens-themed e-card.
Third, the Guardian offers up Booze By Boz, including 'smoking bishop':
Smoking bishopAnd finally, Patrick Leary of the excellent VICTORIA list-serv sent us all this inspired excerpt from one of R. L. Stevenson's letters, and I can't resist passing it along:
"'A merry Christmas, Bob!' said Scrooge, with an earnestness that could not be mistaken, as he clapped him on the back. 'A merrier Christmas, Bob, my good fellow, than I have given you, for many a year! I'll raise your salary, and endeavour to assist your struggling family, and we will discuss your affairs this very afternoon, over a Christmas bowl of smoking bishop, Bob! Make up the fires, and buy another coal-scuttle before you dot another i, Bob Cratchit!'" (A Christmas Carol)
5 oranges * 1 grapefruit * 1/4 lb sugar * 2 bottles red wine * 1 bottle ruby port * 30 cloves
Bake the oranges and grapefruit in the oven until they are pale brown and then put them into a warmed earthenware bowl with five cloves pricked into each. Add the sugar and pour in the wine. Then, either (i) cover and leave in a warm place for a day, or (ii) warm the mixture gently (do not boil) for about three hours. Squeeze the oranges and grapefruit into the wine and pour it through a sieve. Add the port and heat (again, don't boil). Serve in warmed cups/glasses and drink hot.
"I wonder if you ever read Dickens’s Christmas Books? I have read only two of them yet, and I have cried my eyes out, and have a terrible time not to sob. But, 0 dear God, I feel so good after them, and would do anything to make the world a little better for people. I wish I could lose no time; I want to go out and comfort some one. I shall never listen to the nonsense they tell me about not giving money. I shall give money; not that I haven’t done so always, but I shall do it with a high hand now. Oh, what a jolly thing it is for a man to have written books like these books, and just filled people’s hearts with a desire to do good!"A jolly thing indeed!