On Saturday 1st December Brian Oxberry, Chairman of the Malton branch of the Charles Dickens Society, gave a talk on a theme close to his heart. Dressed in period clothes of the mid-nineteenth century, Brian described how Dicken’s ‘A Christmas Carol’ was influenced by his visits to the North Yorkshire town of Malton. These visits came about due to the friendship of Dickens with Charles Smithson. The latter was a solicitor with a practice in London and eventually with the family firm of solicitors in Malton. Dickens often travelled to Malton to visit his friend Charles Smithson at his home in Easthorpe Lodge.
Books such as ‘Nicholas Nickleby’ and ‘Oliver Twist’ illustrated Dickens concern for the plight of the poor and especially how poverty affected children in England. These stories were serialised in magazines or papers. However it was Smithson’s office on Chancery Lane that inspired Dickens when describing Scrooge’s counting house plus the bells of St Leonards on Church Hill that woke Scrooge to be confronted by the ghost of Jacob Marley, his one time partner, that led to the publication in book form of ‘A Christmas Carol.’ This book, is still. being published. A copy of which was signed by Dickens and presented to Charles Smthson’s widow in 1844. This copy found its way to New York in 2012. It was put up for auction and the people of Malton led by ex- broadcaster, Salina Scott, raised funds to bring it back to Malton. It is today exhibited by the Talbot Hotel in Malton.
Brian who had committed the story to memory, then delivered his version in a very entertaining way. He brought the story to life by including dialogue spoken with characteristic flourishes and emphasis. The prolonged applause from his audience indicated the enjoyment felt by Brian’s story.