(Author’s note: according to the website, Dickens Fair is “A Victorian Christmas Card Come to Life!” Located just south of San Francisco, Dickens Fair runs for approximately each weekend between Thanksgiving and Christmas Day. It’s a truly wonderful and Christmassy recreation of Dickens’ London, which I greatly enjoy visiting on a yearly basis. Personal favorites are waltzing at Fezziwig’s, the delightful shows and shops, the delicious scent of the candied almonds… oh, and Charles Dickens giving wonderful readings from his beloved book A Christmas Carol!
Thus this blog entry: an attempt to communicate how wonderful Dickens Fair is, but perhaps in a more Victorian-era style of writing. The Fair is a fantastic way to start your Christmas season — check it out, and let me know what you thought of it in the comments!)
Dearest Mamá & Papá;
O! but it has been too long since I have written you, and there is so much to say! I must beg your forgiveness for my tardiness; I have been a most recalcitrant daughter in that respect, though I trust my news will inspire delight in me once more.
O my dear family, London has been such a wondrous adventure! I cannot tell you how delightful it has been for a young woman of the former Colonies to visit the bustling capital city of the far-spread United Kingdom. The delicious and mouth-watering scent of cinnamon-roasted almonds sweetens the air, and spirits everywhere are elevated by the joyous singing of carolers and troubadours wandering the streets. Also entrancing are the many and beautiful Christmas decorations which adorn every shop window and brighten the very air itself, it seems! Further, early in the morning it is possible to collect a daguerreotype of the Grand Concourse before it is thronged with passersby, which allows me to share with you its delightful nature.
Papá, Fezziwig’s was just as delightful as you described, for despite the Mr. and Mrs. themselves being constantly surrounded by well-wishers, such that I shall have to present your letters later, I was most kindly treated. Many were the gentlemen who gladly swept me up into yet another delightful Roger de Coverly or Strip the Willow, and when those delightful country dances were not in performance, the various gentlemen present escorted both myself and the other ladies present in many quite dreamy waltzes! Mamá, you need have no fear: I sat out the rowdy polkas as per your excellent advice, and I assure you we were most genially chaperoned at all times.
Indeed, I was most grateful for the steadying presence of both my dear B_ and the various gentlemen present, for you shall never guess who I spotted there as he departed the premises! It was none other than that dreadful villain Bill Sykes – I declare, upon realization of his identity, for a moment I found myself quite faint! I had just marked him to B_ as a most striking-looking gentleman, were it not for the formidable scowl upon his unshaven countenance — and it was his surly grunt of reply to the doorman’s cheerful greeting of, “Happy Christmas, Mr. Sykes!” which caused us providentially to pause. Considering the fellow’s ill-bred rudeness, I was not surprised in the least to hear him later, in a less savory section of town, to be quite fierce and growling while calling out for some poor lass named Nancy to emerge and show herself to “her Bill”! Indeed, I found myself in instant sympathy with the young woman in ragged clothes who, upon spotting Mr. Sykes, hid her countenance from him only long enough for him to pass – then shrilly cried out warning to this Nancy to hide herself safely away (though do not fear for me, Mamá – my sturdy B_ was a most dependable and reputable escort throughout all my perambulations!).
There were a few other curious incidents which occurred while we strolled the streets of Merry Olde London, though I hesitate to mention them for fear I cause you doubt of my faculties. Nevertheless I assure you both most earnestly, Mamá and Papá, that I had not been tippling in the least! And yet, twice I could swear I saw… a ghost! The first one seemed a most lugubrious gentleman, laden with great and heavy chains and with its face drawn into a perpetual frown of dissatisfaction. At first I commented in puzzlement upon it to dear B_, though I became most trepidatious upon realization that B_ could not spot it in the least! I watched with great concern as two laughing children ran unsuspectingly past the ghost – yet it merely paused in its slow, steady perambulation only long enough to allow passage of the heedless and high-spirited children… and then it continued on out of sight.
That caused quite the cold shiver of fear down my spine, I must say! Fortunately the second viewing was of a far less oppressive nature. Indeed, at least one of the two spirits present seemed a most remarkable and jovial personage, laughing and merry and full of Christmas cheer. Further, it seemed to my startled gaze that the spirit’s very presence brightened the pleasure of those unwitting partiers nearby – which consequently made perfect sense in the context of how he was addressed by the second spirit there: as the Ghost of Christmas Present! Most odd and marvelous, I declare. However, the second and less appetizing ghost appeared to be some poor soul who’d died in his sleep, for it appeared to be a much older gentleman sporting naught but a nightcap, slippers, and a dressing gown! Were they both other than spirits I should have been quite flushed in embarrassment for the poor fellow’s indecent state of public dishabille. They too were present but for mere moments – and before I could remark upon them to my dear B_ … they too had departed.
But enough of such dour subjects! Let me tell you of the most marvelous occurrence, dear family: I actually spotted Queen Victoria herself!! Can you believe such?! I was quite breathless with excitement! It initially appeared but a parade of the gallant redcoats processing along the street, with accompanying gentlemen of rank sternly calling out that the passersby make way — but then I was sure I heard them mention the Queen! Dearest B_ was so patient — for I was simply beside myself with excitement as I urged us both into a corner from which we might have an excellent view — and sure enough, there she was! Such a gracious lady — and I declare, so young! — yet also clearly beloved by her people.
Yet this was not the only delightful shock I was to receive, for much to my surprise: I was privileged to be present during one of Mr. Charles Dickens’ readings! We were strolling along the street and enjoying the colorful and delightful decorations, cheerful shopkeepers, and happily chattering passers-by, and I happened to glance in through the window of a charming little pub called “The Green Man” – and who should I espy there holding forth most enthusiastically, but Mr. Dickens himself?! Well, I tell you! I slipped in quick as a wink — and at the barmaid’s pleasant, “C’n I he’p ye, mum?” I inquired as to the propriety of settling quietly nearby the gentleman, but to listen. I was most delighted at her acquiescence, and soon thereafter had crept as close as I could, settling into an available chair as quiet as a mouse.
O! Mamá, Papá, I so dearly wished you both to be at my side just then – since, as it transpired, Mr. Dickens was reading from his book “A Christmas Carol”! Such a flood of happy memories were released as I listened: of all of us curled up by the crackling fireside, cozy and warm as we shared reading one chapter a night of that lovely little story, culminating on Christmas Eve! Mr. Dickens himself was a joy as well: such merrily twinkling eyes behind those wire-rimmed spectacles! Such delighted laughter as he shared in the excitement and joviality within the chapter which first endeared the Fezziwigs to us! Why, listening to him I could scarce believe the pair of spirits which troubled me earlier could be any other but Mr. Ebenezer Scrooge himself and his companion the joyous spirit of Christmas Present!
Alas, my inkwell runs dry so I must close for the nonce, that I may pop round to the stationer’s for more paper and ink to write more of the gay and celebratory holiday marvels which we encountered. I await with great joy the opportunity to escort you both around this merry old city in a year or two; I trust your delight will be as great as mine.
Until then believe me, Mamá and Papá:
Your affectionate daughter.