The Cricket on the Hearth: A Fairy Tale of Home, Charles Dickens
Bradbury & Evans, 174 pages
Viewed online through the Internet Archive
Charles Dickens has often been credited with the invention of contemporary Christmas. For Dickens, Christmas was a time to be spent feasting, dancing, and making merry with family and friends. A spirit of generosity reigned, and people gave gifts for the simple pleasure of increasing another’s happiness. This attitude also encouraged people to consider the welfare of others and to lighten the burdens of the poor and the suffering. Dickens brought these ideals to life in many Christmas-themed short stories and novellas, but his best-known work is undoubtedly A Christmas Carol. Assuming that you are all intimately familiar with that story already, I’ve decided to present a brief synopsis and fantastic link to another of his wonderful Christmas classics, namely The Cricket on the Hearth.
John and Dot Peerybingle live in a comfortable home with their infant son and his nanny. The Peerybingles enjoy a quietly happy domestic life, reflected in the chirping of their household guardian: a cricket on the hearth. When a mysterious stranger comes to lodge with the Peerybingles, however, their harmony is threatened. A menacing neighbour, Mr. Tackleton, suggests to John that Dot may not be entirely loyal, and what begins as a niggling doubt grows into a serious threat to their marriage. Mr. Tackleton himself is no paragon of domestic bliss; he has forced the hand of the fiancee of his employee’s late son, and they are set to be married tomorrow. Before it is too late, the cricket speaks, secret identities are revealed, and the spirit of Christmas restores happiness to all.
The Internet Archive has digitized this story here. Filled with wonderful, original illustrations, this version allows you to turn the pages online as you would in a paper book.