Ronald Searle Does Dickens

In my post I liken a butcher’s in the Leadenhall Market that I knew 60 Christmases ago to ‘a film set for ‘A Christmas Carol”. When, in 1960, Ronald Searle produced these endpapers for the Perpetua Books 1961 edition of Charles Dickens’s story of that name he surely would have had a similar scene in mind.

I scanned the illustrations to this book yesterday in readiness for today’s post.

Marley’s ghost haunts the frontispiece.

Dramatic black and white drawings are interspersed with

evocative two-page colour spreads which, like the endpapers, because of the large format of the publication, have to be scanned page at a time, struggling to make the presented images fit reasonably well.

At my initial attempt I scanned the double spreads which resulted in these first two pictures being trimmed at the sides, thus losing the lamp in number one and the mouse in the second – effectively ruining the artist’s whimsical compositions.

After more Christmas preparations we dined this evening on Jackie’s well-filled beef and onion pie; creamy mashed potato; crunchy carrots, tender cabbage, and thick, meaty gravy, with which the Culinary Queen drank Hoegaarden and I drank Recital red wine, 2018.


  1. At the danger of being condemned for blasphemy by every responsible English person, I will confess: I am allergic to Dickens. This is mostly due to my mother’s stuffing the full translated collection of his works down my immature seven-year-old throat ( I have inherited the huge set of books). I do, however, admire these illustrations and I thank you for sharing them, Derrick.
    My best wishes for a joyous, healthy, and safe holiday season!

    1. That was too young, and I wonder how Dickens would have been translated anyway. I only appreciated him in my adulthood – his characters lack complexity. It is as a storyteller that he deserves his place in literature.
      Your good wishes reciprocated, Dolly. Thanks very much.

      1. E.M. Forster discusses Dickens’ characters at some length in Aspects of the Novel. If I remember correctly (it’s been a long time), Forster says that Dickens’ characters are flat, but he makes them vivid by shaking them.

  2. I’ve loved Searle ever since as a child I came across his illustrations of the Nigel Molesworth books. He’s a genius ‘as any fule kno!’

  3. Such a vivid memorable wonderful tale brought to life even more with these marvelous illustrations! πŸ™‚
    It’s like the illustrator read and embodied the story, felt the emotions, got to know the characters, and then created his artwork. I love it! πŸ™‚
    PS…I always look forward to the part where Scrooge’s heart laughs. πŸ™‚ People often remember the “original” Scrooge…I like to remember the forever changed Scrooge. πŸ™‚ Ha! He needed a name change to reflect his newness of life. πŸ™‚

  4. Ghostly, but I’m smiling all the way through reading your Article Derrick, as I thoroughly enjoyed the marvellous drawings you scanned for us.. well done my friend

  5. I’m having a difficult time getting these images to load (still trying), but the little I have seen indicates these illustrations are very good! Thank you for sharing them, Derrick!
    Wishing you and Jackie a wonderful Christmas Eve tomorrow. <3

  6. An apt tale for the season. I read my way through Dickens during my various trips home from university: two full days on the train that travelled very slowly through the countryside, picking up or dropping milk cans and mail en route – I usually had a compartment to myself, which was perfect for getting lost in the world(s) of Dickens πŸ™‚

  7. It is a great story for sure.
    I have a quiz on Christmas Day so see if you know the answer to this three parter
    Who played Scrooge in each of these 3 films?
    a) The Muppet Christmas Carol
    b) Mickey’s Christmas Carol
    c} Scrooged

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