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The Life of Our Lord
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Charles Dickens's other Christmas classic, with a new introduction by Dickens's great-great-grandson, Gerald Charles Dickens. Charles Dickens wrote The Life of Our Lord during the years 1846-1849, just about the time he was completing David Copperfield. In this charming, simple retelling of the life of Jesus Christ, adapted from the Gospel of St. Luke, Dickens hoped to teach his young children about religion and faith. Since he wrote it exclusively for his children, Dickens refused to allow publication. For eighty-five years the manuscript was guarded as a precious family secret, and it was handed down from one relative to the next. When Dickens died in 1870, it was left to his sister-in-law, Georgina Hogarth. From there it fell to Dickens's son, Sir Henry Fielding Dickens, with the admonition that it should not be published while any child of Dickens lived. Just before the 1933 holidays, Sir Henry, then the only living child of Dickens, died, leaving his father's manuscript to his wife and children. He also bequeathed to them the right to make the decision to publish The Life of Our Lord. By majority vote, Sir Henry's widow and children decided to publish the book in London. In 1934, Simon & Schuster published the first American edition, which became one of the year's biggest bestsellers.
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Gr 3 Up Until 1934, when the last of Dickens' children died, this remained a private document, unpublished at the author's wish. It was written for his own children as a simple introduction to Jesus Christ. Always a rebel against religious pomposity and high-flown theology, Dickens intended his family to learn about the human Christ who served the poor, loved children, and lived a beautiful and blameless life. He seldom alludes to Christ's divinity. Since this is a father's personal statement and not a faithful version of Gospels and Acts, perhaps he can be forgiven the condescensions and discrepancies appearing in the manuscript, such as confusing Herodias with Salome and Mary Magdalene with Mary of Bethany, stating that the Hebrew Sabbath occurs on Sunday, and eliminating Moses and Elijah from the Transfiguration. Unfortunately, however, an anti-Semitic tone appears whenever he mentions the Jews by name. He both ignores Jesus' Jewishness and the fact that his followers were largely Jewish. The work is probably best viewed as a period piece done with the author's usual charm and fervor, including earnest asides to his audience, but not polished with his usual care. The format is handsome. Each page of text is framed with a decorative border. The full-page illustrations, done in warm soft colors, are crisp and solid. There are no references to specific New Testament sources. Foreward, afterward, facsimiles of pages from the manuscript, and several prayers of the Dickens family are also included. Patricia Pearl, First Presbyterian School, Martinsville, Va.

Reverend Frederick Buechner author of On the Road with the Archangel and Listening to Your Life Perhaps the most touching aspect of Charles Dickens's The Life of Our Lord is how in it he sets all his literary powers aside and tells the Gospel story in the simple, artless language of any father telling it to his children. It is not surprising, remembering his own troubled childhood as he was surely remembering it himself, that he sums up the Christian message by saying that it is to do good even to those who do evil to us and to be always gentle, merciful, and forgiving.

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