Monday, December 21, 2009

A Christmas Carol

Around Christmas it seems like every other movie is a remake of Charles Dickens’s The Christmas Carol. He struck story gold when he penned that story and even if he’d never written A Tale of Two Cities or Oliver Twist he’d have gone down as a master storyteller simply because of this one tale.

Begun in October of 1843, Dickens completed the story in just six weeks. He published it in December of the same year, and though he didn’t make nearly as much money off the royalties of that first printing as he wanted, it was still an immediate success. For once popular and literary tastes converged.

In a way that newborn novella caused a revolution. The story is credited with returning joy to a holiday that had become increasingly muted, even somber. The not-so-veiled social commentary on the industrialists of the day was said to hit like a sledgehammer. And at least one newspaper credited the tale with a significant increase in giving to the poor.

For all the cutting edge power that the story had in its day, the story has now been reduced to clich├ę. When everyone from Hallmark to Disney, to HBO has copied the idea in every conceivable medium it would be all but impossible for the story not to be trite.

Is there any hope that we could still suck some meaning from the marrow of this story?

The message may not be as radical as it once was, but I do think that some of the lessons are evergreen. Have we lived, so that a visit from the ghosts of Christmas past, present or future would hold no terror for us? Do we revel in ‘stuff’ or in people? Would our passing make a difference to someone?

Does our attitude reflect miserly Scrooge, sorrowful Marley, compassionate Bob Cratchit or even the cheerful, forgiving nephew.

Do you keep Christmas in your heart? What does that even mean?

To me, that means recalling the birth of Christ. That the great God, creator of the universe who holds the seas in the palm of his hand, would deign to robe himself in flesh and descend to earth as a newborn, not a powerful warrior king, but an impoverished infant, reliant on the care of human parents to meet his every need. That boggles my mind.

Why would he do that? It all comes back to who he is. He is love. It is his essence. And so it is also the essence of Christmas. It is every virtue, from humility to generosity, from forgiveness to thankfulness. Keeping that in our heart changes us, just as it changed Scrooge. I need Christmas. I need that joyful reminder of all that God wants for us. Of his plan and action in our lives.

Two questions to you, what does it mean to you to keep Christmas in your heart? And, can you think of any name better than Fezziwig?

In the immortal words of Tiny Tim. “God Bless us every one.”

Monday, December 14, 2009

Betsy Bonaparte

Did you know that Napoleon Bonaparte had American relations? It’s true.

In 1803 Napoleon’s younger brother, Jerome was a naval officer fighting in the Caribbean. To escape captured by the English he retreated to America, and subsequently went to Maryland to visit a friend. There he met Miss Elizabeth Patterson, the daughter of the wealthiest man in Maryland. After a whirlwind two month courtship, he asked for her hand in marriage. Neither side of the family was enthusiastic about the arrangement, but Elizabeth, known as Betsy, did manage to obtain her parents’ permission. Napoleon Bonaparte wasn’t so accommodating, he had plans for his brother. The wedding went ahead anyway.

The couple were married on Christmas Eve 1803 by the Archbishop of Baltimore and immediately set out to take America by storm. Betsy’s beauty was legendary and she had no problem with flaunting it by wearing fashions that raised many an eyebrow. At one point she appeared in Washington, essentially nude. The white muslin gown she wore had been dampened down until it clung to every… um… feature and she had no other layers on beneath it. An ensemble that scandalized the wives of Washington, but didn’t seem to trouble their husbands at all.

At the news of the wedding Napoleon immediately ordered his brother home. Jerome and Betsy managed to ignore Napoleon’s peremptory summons for a while. As they traveled south to New Orleans, but the time came that they had to respond.

A now pregnant Betsy set sail with her husband, hoping to arrive in time for Napoleon’s coronation. When they came within sight of the coast in March of 1805, their ship was boarded and Jerome was taken off. She never saw him again.

Betsy was denied entrance into France, and Napoleon exerted his influence to ensure that other ports were closed to her as well. She finally found safe harbor in England and gave birth to a son, Jerome Napoleon Bonaparte, in July of 1805.

Jerome tried to reason with his brother, but Napoleon would not listen and declared the marriage null. He then demanded that Jerome marry a German princess Catharina of W├╝rttemburg. Jerome caved to the pressure and married the German, without having his marriage to Betsy legally dissolved.

Napoleon sent a letter to Betsy requesting that she stop using the Bonaparte name, and offering her a small stipend if she would drop her claims, and those of her son on Jerome. She promptly replied that she had come by the name honorably and had no intention of dropping it nor any other right or honor which she was due.

In London, Betsy became the belle of the ball. Every Englishman wanted to meet the woman who so thoroughly got Napoleon’s goat. She returned to Maryland with her young son, but after the Battle of Waterloo she returned to Europe and was feted across the continent for her beauty and wit. She finally secured a divorce from Jerome in 1815 by a special act of the Maryland Legislature.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009


I appreciate everyone who has taken the time to read Anne's adventures. I've had a fantastic time writing her story (even when you all didn't make it easy on me!) Thanks for being a part of our adventures!

NOW, I'd really love to get some feedback from you all. Did you like the format? The story?

What can I do better or at least differently?

Would you like to see another story featuring Anne? Something totally different? SHould I drop the whole story idea and move on to something else?

Must Reads

  • All the Tea in China-Jane Orcutt
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  • Wings of a Dream-Anne Mateer