A reminder from a Christmas past that our actions foreshadow certain endsI’m sure you know and love Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol as much as we do. When we meet the towering, benevolent Ghost of Christmas Present, hidden in his robes we glimpse two disconcertingly withered children. The spirit identifies them as ‘Ignorance’ and ‘Want’. As a little present in this season of goodwill, we enclose a wonderful book, The Last of the Spirits, by one of our favourite authors, Chris Priestley. With the narrative weaving in and out of the events that take place in A Christmas Carol, The Last of the Spirits tells the tale of these two strange children, and how they came to be enclosed in the folds of the spirit’s robes. Chris Priestley’s books are among our best sellers; his formidable skill as a storyteller is adored, and the quality of his writing is admired by adults and children alike. For this and their ability to lead readers to explore other great works of literature, from Dickens to Coleridge and Mary Shelley, his work is also high on the list of books we recommend and supply to our local county and school libraries. Our libraries stand as sentinels against ignorance in society. They also have a long history as places of sanctuary. At this time, when our children are bombarded by fleeting images, peer-group pressure, abbreviated language and dubious information on social media, we need libraries more than ever. All people, particularly children, need somewhere they can gain the confidence to choose what is right for them, to seek out information from verified sources, where they are allowed to take their time and absorb information at their own pace. Libraries offer a unique combination of safety and unfettered freedom. For so many, they have also been the place where discoveries happen, and where lifelong learning is promoted; in a library both children and adults can find inspiration, support and solace. With each book they read, a child’s world becomes a little bigger. They keep alive hope of something beyond that place and time. Libraries teach the value of careful research, and the importance of seeking out other viewpoints. Without robust funding for libraries to purchase books, we will quickly lose access to the many voices, perspectives and opinions of authors, especially those from traditionally under-represented groups. We also stand to lose the many wonderful events organised by libraries, which add light and character to a community. It is wrong that libraries should be pitched against other social services, as if social support of any kind can be compared for value to society. As they always have been in the past, libraries are a vital intervention and investment for present and future generations. If we remain on our present course of closures, and of the casual discarding of trained librarians, then we leave this next generation at the mercy of ignorance. And close on the heels of ignorance comes appalling want.
“They are Man’s and they cling to me, appealing from their fathers. This boy is Ignorance and this girl is Want. Beware them both, and all of their degree, but most of all beware this boy for on his brow I see that written which is Doom, unless the writing be erased.” You can read more about the ghosts that Charles Dickens‘ created for A Christmas Carol on the British Library’s website here: https://www.bl.uk/romantics-and-victorians/articles/ghosts-in-a-christmas-carol
Charles Dickens’ was a passionate campaigner for social reform, the relief of poverty, education for all children and access to education for adults. Dickens’ own experiences of poverty, of his father being sent to a debtors’ prison and the social and political context in which he was writing can be found in all his works. This piece from The British Library explores this aspect of his work.https://www.bl.uk/romantics-and-victorians/articles/oliver-twist-and-the-workhouse
Chris Priestley has found great success with his novels for readers of all ages. He is the author of the brilliant Tales of Terror series which draws on centuries of supernatural literature; The Dead Men Stood Together, a wonderful story woven around Coleridge’s The Rime of the Ancient Mariner; and the fascinating exploration of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Mister Creecher, to name but a few. He is also a talented artist and illustrator. His cartoons have been published in the Independent and other national newspapers. You can find out more about his work here: http://www.chrispriestleybooks.com/ The Last of the Spirits is published by Bloomsbury.