The Chimes

by Charles Dickens

Other authorsArthur Rackham (Illustrator), Edward Wagenknecht (Introduction)
Hardcover, 1991





Easton Press (1991).


Anbsp;follow-up to A Christmas Carol, this is the story ofnbsp;a poor ticket porter whose outlook is changed from despair to hope by the spirits of the chimes on New Year's Eve As Trotty's working day as a lowly messenger draws to a close, his daughter, Meg, arrives with her fiancé Richard in tow, and they proudly announce their wedding for the following day. This is cause for celebration, although their happiness is tempered by the comments of an alderman and other well-off citizens on the rights of the poor to marry. During the night, Trotty hears the chimes of a church bell and ventures out to climb the belltower. At the top he is greeted by goblins who tell him that he died during the climb and must now spend his time watching his friends and family live out their lives. What he witnesses makes for grim viewing, and Totty finds himselfnbsp;attempting to rescue his daughter from the brink of destruction.nbsp;He wakes as if from a dream to the bells chiming out the beginning of a new year, and finds that no time has passed and it is New Year's Day. But as he sees his daughter cheerfully preparing for her wedding day, he is baffled as to whether this is just a dream within a dream. Tackling familiar themes of redemption, social injustice, and family,nbsp;this is a story of hope and contemplation and is a moving festive read well worth discovering.… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member souloftherose
The second of Mr Dickens' Christmas Books. According to the introduction in my volume, following the huge success of A Christmas Carol Dickens wanted to write an even more savage attack on the political and economic theories of the day and I think he succeeded but, perhaps because of that, this short book is less fun to read than A Christmas Carol.

Toby Veck is a ticket-porter (a man employed to deliver articles on the London streets). He spends most of his days standing on the street waiting to be given a message. Due to the unreliable nature of his work he's not always able to pay his rent and grocery bills on time but despite this he is a relatively cheerful fellow who is very fond of his daughter, his only living relative.

In a way, The Chimes has a similar story to A Christmas Carol. There are some Scrooge-like characters who believe the poor are only poor because they are lazy and good for nothing and if they simply worked harder and were better people then they wouldn't be such a burden on society (sounds worryingly familiar to some modern day politicians). There are visitations by ghosts (in this case the spirits of the bells from the chapel close to where Toby stands all day) and then there is a happy ending.

The problem is that the spirits visit Toby, who has only been guilty of feeling discouraged about the state of the world after spending a day being told off by the clever sounding Scrooge-like gentlemen. As a result of this sound telling off, Toby has second thoughts about allowing his daughter to marry someone equally poor (one of the pet theories of these gentlemen is that the poor shouldn't be allowed to marry and have children who will also be poor). The spirits visit Toby and show him visions of what will become of his daughter and her fiancee if they don't marry. The visions are more harrowing than those in A Christmas Carol and the happy ending doesn't quite take away the sting of the visions as it seems to in A Christmas Carol. It feels monstrously unfair that poor Toby has to go through all this when all he has done is listened to people whom he will have been told to think of as his betters and I was never convinced that if the spirits hadn't intervened that Toby wouldn't have woken up the next morning to be his usual cheerful self and allowed his daughter to get married.

Apparently (and again, I've gleaned all this useful info from the introduction - aren't they marvellous things?) the Scrooge-like gentlemen in The Chimes were caricatures of specific politicians from Dickens' time and to have them reform in the book as Scrooge did would have softened his attack so poor old Toby had to take the fall. So, it's not a bad book by any means but at the end I was left feeling that it just didn't quite work. Perhaps one that is worth reading if you're after an insight into Dickens' political and sociological views than if you want a good story.
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LibraryThing member theokester
Following Dickens's success with A Christmas Carol he started a tradition of releasing a new story each year at Christmas time. His second Christmas story was The Chimes. The book follows an old porter/messenger in London named Trotty Veck. As with Christmas Carol and many of his other works, Dickens has plenty of focus on the social structure of the country. Trotty is a very poor old widower with a single daughter, Meg. At the onset of the book, Meg brings Trotty lunch and announces that she plans to get married within the week on New Year's Day. At first Trotty is a little nervous but generally happy for his daughter. As the day goes on, Trotty becomes less sure of whether or not they should marry or even if any of them deserve to be happy.

In Christmas Carol and other books, Dickens takes opportunities to have his characters give social commentary. In The Chimes this comes initially from some of the rich society members of the town as they give messages for Trotty to carry. The first commentary is in direct reaction to the announcement of Meg's wedding plans. Alderman Cute speaks with biting reproach against the lower class in general and Trotty, Meg and her fiance in particular. He talks of the "good old days" and eventually concludes that the poor have no real rights or privileges. In essence, they should be done away with entirely and certainly have no right to marry and carry on their wretched existence by propagating more poor creature.

Trotty carries a message from the Alderman to a member of Parliament. In that house Trotty is berated by a commentary on economic stability and responsibility. He is chastised for being poor and owing a few shillings to a local shop where he buys food. Trotty leaves feeling even more disgraced. On his way home he meets another vagrant, William Fern, and his niece Lillian. Trotty knows William is slated to be arrested by the Alderman. Rather than let him be arrested, Trotty warns Fern and takes him to his own poor home with Meg.

The title of the story is based on the Chimes that ring over the city from the church tower near where Trotty stands to await messages to deliver. After taking the Ferns to his home, Trotty gets pensive again and worries about the burden he's putting on society and wonders about the truth of whether it is better that he and his kind were removed from existence. During the night, the Chimes ring and Trotty can hear them speaking to him, calling to him. He follows them up into the church bell tower and encounters a company of goblins and spirits.

One of the spirits takes the form of Lillian, the niece of William Fern. The spirit takes Trotty on a journey similar to that of Ebenezer Scrooge though rather than showing his past, Trotty is taken throughout the future of London. He sees the hole he leaves with his death. He sees the misery and pain of the poor around him. He sees the hypocritical behavior of the higher classes of society. He sees the pain and suffering of his own daughter and her eventual loss of all hope as she plummets into complete despair. In a scene reminiscent of Christmas Carol, we find Trotty begging the spirit to let him help Meg. He begs to be given another chance. He promises that he has learned the truth of life and knows now that the poor and feeble classes do have a right to existence. Better yet, they have a right to be happy and have hope and joy of better days to come.

I found The Chimes to be less compelling than A Christmas Carol. I think part of that comes due to the lengthy sermons from Alderman Cute, Joseph Bowley (the member of Parliament) and others. While these narrations were interesting at a level they were also very steeped in political and social language of the times. Because I am not super familiar with the details of Victorian social woes there were plenty of allusions and references that just blew by me without the impact that they surely had on readers in Dickens's day. Even though I was bogged down by some of the very specific details, I was touched, shocked and appawled by the nature of the discussions. Especially knowing that these conversations and speeches were based in reality I found myself disgusted at the behavior of these individuals.

I really liked the "spirit voyage" that Trotty goes on and found it very compelling. It had scenes similar to A Christmas Carol where Trotty sees the poverty and vagrancy in which people live but he also gets to see that they are capable of joy and happiness in spite of their enormous lack of sustenance. More than these expected scenes, I really liked the counterpoint scenes of the upper class members of society. I found it interesting to see their hypocrisy and the paradox that in some cases they weren't nearly as happy as those who had nothing.

Doing a little bit of research, it sounds like The Chimes enjoyed great success upon release and had a wonderful reception. In reading the book I had thought that some of Dickens's satirical social commentary might have come a little too close to the mark and earned him reproof from those in government or business but it doesn't sound like there was too much of that. Instead it seems like this well received novel may have fufilled some of Dickens's hope that he could help bring more people to the knowledge of the plight and horrible situation of the poor.

Personally I didn't enjoy the story as much as A christmas Carol so Chimes certainly won't a replacement for me as a new classic Christmas story. Still, I felt like the writing, characters and themes were very well presented and I think this is an excellent story well worth reading if only to provide additional subject matter to think on when considering the themes presented in A Christmas Carol. All in all, a solid piece of work.

3.5 out of 5 stars
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LibraryThing member john257hopper
This is Charles Dickens's second Christmas book, published in 1844, following on the heels of the groundbreaking A Christmas Carol the previous year. This is, of course, nowhere near as well known, and when I read The Chimes for the first time seven years ago, I understood why as I thought it lacked any of the charm and deep impact of its predecessor (it's also a New Year's Eve story, rather than a Christmas one). I think more highly of The Chimes now. Its depiction of grinding poverty and class division is more starkly portrayed, and much of the time it is true that it lacks the popular warmth of the more famous story. It contains the same theme of redemption, that of Trotty Veck, though he is no Scrooge, and the worst that can be said of him is that he was naive and gullible. Things turn right just at the end after some harrowing experiences.… (more)
LibraryThing member jasonlf
More didactic and heavy handed than A Christmas Carol, The Chimes was Charles Dickens' second Christmas Novella. It also feels less considerably imaginative and more derivative of his other works than A Christmas Carol (although, in fairness, some of the works it is "derivative" of were actually written later--like Hard Times).

The Chimes tells the story of a poor messenger who encounters his social "betters" with their scrooge-like social Darwinian attitudes about the poor. From this, he sets out to discourage his daughter from marrying an equally poor man. He is then drawn by the chimes to a church, encounters a bunch of goblins, and like the ghost of Christmas yet to come, they show him the future he has created: one of sheer misery, destitution, alcoholism, prostitution, premature death, and ultimately the verge of infanticide/suicide. None of this has anything approaching the subtlety and terror of the ghost of Christmas yet to come. And all of which ends abruptly when the poor messenger wakes from his dream with his daughter about to wed the man after all, and they all live happily ever after.
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LibraryThing member mbmackay
The second of Dickens' short "Christmas books" and continues what seems to be a supernatural trend - ghosts in the Christmas Carol; goblins in this book. Largely a polemic against the churlish attitude to the poor of even those folks who profess a supportive interest, this one is not as well remembered as the Christmas Carol, and I am not going to fight the trend. Read February 2012.… (more)
LibraryThing member Bill.Bradford
One of Dicken's Christmas stories, although it is set at New Year's rather than Christmas. The second written, it is somewhat similar to the first, A Christmas Carol, as it involves a supernatural means of changing a person's heart. While a Christmas Carol involves visits to past, present, and future by supernatural means, in the Chimes only the future is so visited.

The biggest difference in the two books is who is being changed and what is changed. Of course, in A Christmas Carol you have a radical transformation. In the Chimes, Toby Veck has simply lost faith in himself and his fellows, so the transformation is much less. While it still carries a powerful message, and conveys Dicken's social messages about the poor, it is not as moving as A Christmas Carol.
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LibraryThing member nosajeel
More didactic and heavy handed than A Christmas Carol, The Chimes was Charles Dickens' second Christmas Novella. It also feels less considerably imaginative and more derivative of his other works than A Christmas Carol (although, in fairness, some of the works it is "derivative" of were actually written later--like Hard Times).

The Chimes tells the story of a poor messenger who encounters his social "betters" with their scrooge-like social Darwinian attitudes about the poor. From this, he sets out to discourage his daughter from marrying an equally poor man. He is then drawn by the chimes to a church, encounters a bunch of goblins, and like the ghost of Christmas yet to come, they show him the future he has created: one of sheer misery, destitution, alcoholism, prostitution, premature death, and ultimately the verge of infanticide/suicide. None of this has anything approaching the subtlety and terror of the ghost of Christmas yet to come. And all of which ends abruptly when the poor messenger wakes from his dream with his daughter about to wed the man after all, and they all live happily ever after.
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LibraryThing member The_Hibernator
When Trotty's daughter brings him a happy surprise (tripe and news of her engagement for the upcoming New Year), he is quickly disillusioned by a group of wealthy people who delight in "putting-down" poor folk. That evening, Trotty explores his beloved bell-spire and sees things that he never expected to see.

This story was hard to read at first because it was so darned depressing. I mean, here Trotty was as happy as a clam (because we all know clams smile all the time) and suddenly these horrible wealthy men stomp all over his happiness. As the story goes on, the family becomes even more downtrodden. In fact, I was wondering if the story was going to turn around into a happy Christmas story until the very end.

This wasn't my favorite of Dickens' works. It's nice to read another of his lesser known Christmas stories, but I guess it's lesser-known for a reason. It was quaint and a good poke-in-the-eye to the strong who "put-down" the weak. But other than that, it was kind of a "meh" book for me.
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LibraryThing member Rosa_Saks
The Chimes is the second of Dickens' Christmas Books, but it is really more of a story of New Years Eve, which is when it takes place. The story is "Dickenesque" through and through, as it satirises British society and has a strong social and moral message.

The story begins with Trotty, a "ticket-porter", who spends his days on the steps of a church thinking of the newspapers' reports of crime and immorality in the society. It is New Years Eve, and suddenly his daughter Meg arrives with her fiance, Richard, to announce that they are to marry the next day. As they are not wealthy people, Trotty is filled with gloom and misgivings about their future happiness. I won't give the entire plot away, but Dickens provides the reader with a happy ending in the end, which really is all I want of a Christmas story.

The story wasn't as entertaining as A Christmas Carol, but it does carry some resemblences to it. The Chimes has the same gloomy feeling to it, and it even has some occational goblins visiting the protagonist. What I really like about the story is that the chimes are almost characters in their own right. They help create the perfect atmosphere of gloom, but most importantly, hope. And that is why I think the New Years-setting is so perfect for the story. It represents hope, and a clean slate for all the characters as they wake up on the first day of the new year - Meg and Richard's wedding day.
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LibraryThing member jmoncton

This novella is about Trotty Veck, a poor porter who lives near a church with a set of impressive bells that chime the hours. Like many of Dickens' stories, he is downtrodden and ekes out a meager living. His kind and humble daughter is about to be married on New Year's Day, but when he shares this with some of the Aldermen (wealthy and snobby) they discourage the marriage warning the young couple that they will be doomed to a life of poverty. The bride will soon be tied down with lots of crying children and the husband will become a horrible drunk. One night hearing the bells chime, Trotty goes up to the bell tower and has a magical experience where the bells foretell a bleak future if the young couple don't follow their dreams. Plot sound familiar? It definitely is a similar tale to A Christmas Carol, but without some of the charm that has made that classic a favorite for so many people. It's missing the depth of characters like Ebeneezer Scrooge or Tiny Tim and I found it not nearly as compelling or endearing.… (more)
LibraryThing member therebelprince
Not, perhaps, a good book, The Chimes is, nevertheless, a beautifully-written one. The 10th of Dickens' major works, and the second of his Christmas novellas (written over five successive Christmases), The Chimes picks up the themes of A Christmas Carol: a plea for the poor, a tale of how humans cast as the "low" of society are forced into certain roles, and ultimately a message of hope. A short read, The Chimes is affecting in its own, peculiarly Victorian way, and worth reading for the soft beauty of its writing, and its clear moral message. But that's about all there is to say.… (more)
LibraryThing member hoosgracie
This novella by Dickens was a Christmas gift from Audible. Yuck. It's no wonder that A Christmas Carol is the most well known of his Christmas morality stories as this was not enjoyable. Excellent reader.
LibraryThing member smik
This is really not crime fiction at all, but rather a moralistic tale along the lines of A CHRISTMAS CAROL, where ghosts tell us how we should live. Trotty Veck is convinced that the cathedral bells are talking to him and on New Year's Eve, unable to sleep, goes up into the bell tower where they point out the faults of the way he lives. It is actually a very sombre tale, not the least aspect of which is the squalid nature of daily life for those in England's poorer classes.

I think it is a reminder too of how fiction writing has changed. I can't imagine a novella like this being written today.
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LibraryThing member krau0098
I got this audiobook from Audible as part of their free Christmas audiobook release. This was a like a much darker version of A Christmas Carol by Dickens.

The narration is well done but a bit hard to hear at times (I listen to these in the car while driving). The heavy accents on the character voices make them a bit hard to follow when you have background road noise. When I listened to this in more quiet environments it was a pleasure to listen to. I love Richard Armitage as a narrator and was excited that this was narrated by him.

As for the story itself I enjoyed the imagery throughout, but thought the story lagged at times. Dickens definitely has a way with words and creates quirky and intriguing characters.

However, you can’t help but compare this story to A Christmas Carol. It’s shorter than A Christmas Carol and darker but has the same basic storyline. A ghost visits an old man named Trotty Veck and teaches him the power of compassion and goodwill towards his family.

This isn’t a story that is appropriate for kids though; it involves the topics of suicide, destitution, implied prostitution and mental illness. It’s set in a dark time and the story reflects that.

Overall this was an okay story but not one I would necessarily recommend. A Christmas Carol delivers a very similar story and with a much less sinister tone to it. If you are interested in a lesser known Dickens story check it out; just be aware that it’s not a very uplifting fact it’s downright depressing.
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LibraryThing member Kristelh
The Chimes is one of Dickens Christmas stories along with Christmas Carol, The Cricket on the Hearth, The Battle of Life (1846) and The Haunted Man and the Ghost's Bargain (1848). Dicken's Christmas books have a strong moral message to them. The Chimes is divided into 4 parts called Quarters that represent the bells. The bells are in an old church where Trotty Veck stands. He often hears the bells talking to him. The Christmas Carol had 4 parts called Staves (representing the Carol) and The Cricket on the Hearth had 4 chirps. I've read all three. The Chimes reminds me of The Christmas Carol in many ways. It's New Year's Eve in London. Trotty, a poor elderly "ticket-porter" or casual messenger, is filled with gloom at the reports of crime and immorality in the newspapers. Kind of like the current times, heh? Trotty worries about his daughter who has pledged herself to marry on New Years Day. Trotty makes a visit to the bells and there he has an experience of the Goblin of the bells. The chimes, of course, represent time. That's pretty obvious. The Goblin (bells) accuse Trotty of three sins or crimes;

• Harking back to a golden age that never was, instead of striving to improve conditions here and now.

• Believing that individual human joys and sorrows do not matter to a higher power.

• Condemning those who are fallen and unfortunate, and offering them neither help nor pity.

Over all, a good story, it reminded me a lot of The Christmas Carol. I've read The Cricket on the Hearth but feel it needs a reread.
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LibraryThing member JalenV
Although the art-type J. G. Ferguson edition of Christmas Stories by Charles Dickens containas both 'The Chimes' and "A Christmas Carol,' I'm not going to bother to review the very famous latter. 'The Chimes: a Goblin Story of Some Bells That Rang an Old Year Out and a New Year In' is the story of a ticker-porter named Toby 'Trotty' Veck. He's poor, but honest. He waits around for someone to pay him to take items elsewhere. He is very familiar with a nearby church whose bells ring out the chimes of the title.

Trotty is hanging around, waiting, when his pretty young daughter, Meg, brings him a special treat: tripe for his dinner. Trotty is a widower and Meg is all he has. Meg and her blacksmith beloved, Richard, plan to marry on New Year's Day. Trotty has almost finished his meal when Alderman Cute, accompanied by a Mr. Filer and a red-faced gentleman whose name is never given. They are depressingly like some politicians today. Mr. Filer makes Trotty nervous by blathering about how uneconomical a dish tripe is. He actually claims that unboiled tripe of the number of animals butchered would feed a garrison of 500 men for five months of 31 days, including February. He has the gall to tell Totty that he robs widows and orphans by eating tripe. The red-faced gentleman goes on and on about the good old days. These men even suggest that Meg and Richard had better not get married.

Trotty Veck is given a letter to take to a Member of Parliament, Sir Joseph Bowley. Sir Joseph likes to call himself the poor man's friend and father, but by listening to him the reader can tell he's no such thing. The letter is about a laboring man under suspicion named Will Fern. Alderman Cute thinks he should be put down. (I'm not sure if that means imprisoned or hanged.)

On his way home, Trotty happens to meet Will Fern, who is on his way to Alderman Cute. Trotty warns him off before inviting Will and his orphaned nine-year-old niece, Lillian, to his house to eat and rest. Lillian and Meg are very taken with each other. The reader will not be surprised to figure out that Will Fern is a good man, no matter what Alderman Cute thinks. Will is looking for Lillian's mother's friend to leave her with.

Trotty goes to check on the church's bell tower because the chimes are louder than they usually are. The door isn't locked. He goes up all the way to the bells and swoons. Then follow the goblins, which is a spooky enough sight.

The story takes a turn for the even more depressing and Trotty witnesses a bleak future for Meg, Richard, and Lillian. Richard and Meg haven't married. Richard is a drunkard. Meg makes a meager living embroidering. Lillian, it's hinted, has turned to prostitution. Will Fern, let out of jail after nine years, gives a heart-felt speech to the Sir Joseph & Lady Bowley, Alderman Cute, Mr. Filer, and the red-faced gentleman. There's also a scene about Trotty's grocer, Mrs. Chickenstalker, married to Sir Joseph's porter, Mr. Tugby.

This story is even darker than 'A Christmas Carol'. How is Dickens to bring some New Year hope into it all?
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LibraryThing member bibleblaster
A New Year Carol (replete with ghosts and a life-changing glimpse of a possible future). Definitely worth reading, with Dickens' usual concern for the poor and the most vulnerable in society. A scathing portrait of officials who "know what's best for these people." Apparently considered far too radical by some reviewers in his time...Go, Dickens!… (more)
LibraryThing member Xleptodactylous
I have not reviewed a book like this for a long time. By that I mean commenting it and analysing it like I would books when I was at University. For that I could give this book 5 / 5 stars, because I have truly missed doing that. It is not perfect and I would suggest it is not particularly written well, which could gain it only 1 / 5 stars. It was intriguing and often captivating, but then again it alienated me and occasionally I felt it beating me off for not truly understanding, making me feel uneducated and possibly a bit stupid. It was hard to get in to, but it was also hard to put down at times. I felt a resonance within me for the story it was telling, but I felt a dull echo alongside for the calamity it actually was.

I still do not know how many stars to give it. I have never come across a book I cannot assigned a rating to. Occasionally there will be a book that should be a 2, but I might give it a 3 for the cover or a certain way that book made me feel, or for making me laugh more than it really should have. I rarely give 5 stars because I feel people really over-sell and over-rate books and I do not believe they deserve a 5-star rating. Most of my 5-star ratings on GoodReads should actually be a 4.5 or 4.7. There are only two or three books I can honestly say should have 5.0-stars.

I cannot give it 1-star because it spoke to me on a deep level in a way no other 1-star book has. I cannot give it 5-stars because it was seriously flawed and, though there are no perfect books out there (that I have read yet) all of the books I have given 5-stars were given out of pure joy and adoration. I do not adore this book and I would not describe my feeling as I came out of it as joy.

I will probably re-read this book. I may have to, just to understand it. It has taught me a lot, mostly about music which is not an uninteresting topic to me. The storyline has almost become a by-product, but the world, the meanings and the writing is at the forefront. It is a contemporary classic, but at the same time it is not.

(Full breakdown review available on blog.)
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