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Asking Scrooge to Help the Poor

Asking Scrooge to Help the Poor Victorian Age Fiction Visual Arts

No one can successfully persuade Ebenezer Scrooge to donate anything to anyone.  Even at Christmas, when so many poor people need help, he turns away from the needs of others.

Two gentlemen, seeking donations for the poor, visit Scrooge on Christmas Eve, 1843.  They also ask for his help.  Scrooge turns them away, asking whether there aren’t enough prisons and work houses for needy people.

Arthur Rackham created this illustration for a 1915 edition of “A Christmas Carol,” published by J.B. Lippincott Company.  He gave it this caption:

THEY WERE PORTLY GENTLEMEN, PLEASANT TO BEHOLD

The image illustrates this passage of the full text:

'At this festive season of the year, Mr. Scrooge,' said the gentleman, taking up a pen, 'it is more than usually desirable that we should make some slight provision for the poor and destitute, who suffer greatly at the present time. Many thousands are in want of common necessaries; hundreds of thousands are in want of common comforts, sir.'

'Are there no prisons?' asked Scrooge.

'Plenty of prisons,' said the gentleman, laying down the pen again.

'And the Union workhouses?' demanded Scrooge. 'Are they still in operation?'

'They are. Still,' returned the gentleman, 'I wish I could say they were not.'

'The Treadmill and the Poor Law are in full vigour, then?' said Scrooge.

'Both very busy, sir.'

'Oh! I was afraid, from what you said at first, that something had occurred to stop them in their useful course,' said Scrooge. 'I am very glad to hear it.'

'Under the impression that they scarcely furnish Christian cheer of mind or body to the multitude,' returned the gentleman, 'a few of us are endeavouring to raise a fund to buy the Poor some meat and drink, and means of warmth. We choose this time, because it is a time, of all others, when Want is keenly felt, and Abundance rejoices. What shall I put you down for?'

'Nothing!' Scrooge replied.

'You wish to be anonymous?'

'I wish to be left alone,' said Scrooge. 'Since you ask me what I wish, gentlemen, that is my answer. I don't make merry myself at Christmas, and I can't afford to make idle people merry. I help to support the establishments I have mentioned—they cost enough: and those who are badly off must go there.'

'Many can't go there; and many would rather die.'

'If they would rather die,' said Scrooge, 'they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population. Besides—excuse me—I don't know that.'

'But you might know it,' observed the gentleman.

'It's not my business,' Scrooge returned. 'It's enough for a man to understand his own business, and not to interfere with other people's. Mine occupies me constantly. Good afternoon, gentlemen!'

Seeing clearly that it would be useless to pursue their point, the gentlemen withdrew. Scrooge resumed his labours with an improved opinion of himself, and in a more facetious temper than was usual with him.

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Author: Carole D. Bos, J.D. 5082stories and lessons created

Original Release: Dec 28, 2013

Updated Last Revision: Jun 02, 2016


Media Credits

Image described above, by Arthur Rackham, included in the 1915 edition of “A Christmas Carol” published by J.B. Lippincott Company, at page 12.  

Illustration placed online, courtesy The Project Gutenberg.

PD

 

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