In Haunted Man by Charles Dickens, Redlaw is tormented by memories of his tragic past. When a demonic spectre appears and offers to take his haunting memories away, Redlaw accepts. He spend most of the book visiting people as passing his gift (i.e. his curse) along to them to disastrous results.
What’s the moral of the story? Well as C.S. Lewis said, “A pleasure is full grown only when it is remembered.” Okay that’s not really what Dickens is saying. But there is something to be said about looking back and remembering your life, whether pleasurable or tragic. Either way, it produces virtue. In the case of Redlaw, retaining his difficult memories brought him closer to Christ once he took the time to see their value.
Haunted Man is a novella published in 1848, twenty years before Dickens died. I mention the date in relation to his death because I was often wondering if there was a correlation as I was reading. I don’t know a great deal about Dickens, but until I’d read this version, which includes an introduction and afterword by Dave Swavely, I’d assumed, like most, that Dickens was not a Christian. His portrayal of organized religion and “religious” types in his novels was not always favorable. Swavely argues that the explicit Christian content in such stories like this one (and some others) proves that, despite his dislike of religious hypocrites, his affair, and separation from his wife, Dickens was, in fact, a Christian. Or at least possibly a Christian. So as I read, I sometimes wondered if he wrote this near the end of his life after repentance. Instead, he didn’t separate from his wife until ten years later. I think this only heightens Swavely’s point in his novella, Next Life, that heaven is filled with saints who were no stranger to sin on Earth.
This version is abridged and includes a fascinating commentary by Dave Swavely. I love his proposed idea that Dickens could have been a Christian and it makes me want to read more from this prolific author. I’ve seen a number of BBC film adaptations of Dickens novels but have only read Great Expectations so far.
I also highly recommend the 2017 film (also a book), The Man Who Invented Christmas, available on Amazon Prime. Although partly fictional, it offers a lot of good tidbits on the life of Dickens as he wrote A Christmas Carol—a similar story to Haunted Man.