Dickens on post-holiday blues

Friday January 07, 2011 @ 05:41 PM (UTC)
Oh these holidays! why will they leave us some regret? why cannot we push them back, only a week or two in our memories, so as to put them at once at that convenient distance whence they may be regarded either with a calm indifference or a pleasant effort of recollection! why will they hang about us, like the flavour of yesterday’s wine, suggestive of headaches and lassitude, and those good intentions for the future, which, under the earth, form the everlasting pavement of a large estate, and, upon it, usually endure until dinner-time or thereabouts!

Who will wonder that Barbara had a headache, or that Barbara’s mother was disposed to be cross, or that she slightly underrated Astley’s, and thought the clown was older than they had taken him to be last night? Kit was not surprised to hear her say so—not he. He had already had a misgiving that the inconstant actors in that dazzling vision had been doing the same thing the night before last, and would do it again that night, and the next, and for weeks and months to come, though he would not be there. Such is the difference between yesterday and today. We are all going to the play, or coming home from it.
-The Old Curiosity Shop

I myself have been happily free from post-holiday blues this year. Perhaps such equanimity is the curse of growing maturity, for as Dickens’s closing figure suggests, the descent into melancholy is the obverse of a glorious ascent into joy. I am sure I do not enjoy Christmas nearly so much now as I did when I was a child, for all I do not grieve its going so bitterly.

Oddly, in spite of the Christian (culturally so, for I see that it’s imputed to a medieval abbot, not to Jesus) image of the road to hell’s paving stones, this passage reminds me of the Buddhist idea of samsara, as I learned it in high school. This churning rise and fall of desire and disappointment, aspiration and disgust, does seem to be cyclical, a bit sad, and oh so human.


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