The Cricket on the Hearth – 1845 – a Christmas tale
In July 1845, Dickens contemplated forming a periodical focusing on the concerns of the home. It was to be called The Cricket, but the plan fell through. He transformed his idea into a Christmas book in which he chose to abandon social criticism and use simple fantasy for his hero’s redemption. Its full title was The Cricket on the Hearth: A Fairy Tale of Home.
Dickens wrote it between 17 Oct and 1 Dec 1845. It is a novella published by Bradbury and Evans, and released 20 Dec 1845. The illustrations were by Daniel Maclise, John Leech, Richard Doyle, Clarkson Stanfield and Edwin Henry Landseer.
Like all of Dickens’s Christmas books, it was published in book form, not as a serial.
It is subdivided into chapters called ‘Chirps’,
John and Dot Peerybingle’s marriage is threatened by their difference in age.
When John, a carrier, is fearful of Dot’s fidelity he consults the spirit of the Cricket on the Hearth. Dot had claimed its chirping brought them luck. The cricket assures him all will be well, and acts as a sort of guardian angel.
They take in a lodger who Tackleton suggests has had an affair with Dot,
The Peerybingles meet Caleb Plummer, a poor toymaker, living with a blind daughter, Bertha, His son, Edward, who had travelled to South America, was feared dead.
But the lodger turns out to be Edward returned in disguise. It is shown that Dot has not been unfaithful.
The tale also presents the resolution of Tackleton, a toy maker, hard-heartedness in a Scrooge-like side story. He releases May, who he had intended to marry.
The cricket is right, the situation proves to be a misunderstanding and the couple regain their happiness.
· Fielding, May – a friend to Dot
· Fielding, Mrs – a peevish old lady, May’s mother
· Peerybingle, John – a carrier, a rather slow man
· Peerybingle, Mary (Dot) – John’s wife, younger
· Plummer, Bertha – the blind daughter of Caleb
· Plummer, Caleb – a poor toymaker
· Plummer, Edward – the son of Caleb
· Slowboy, Tilly – a clumsy girl, Dot’s nursemaid
· Tackleton (Gruff) – a stern, sarcastic toy merchant