The Chimes: A Goblin Story of Some Bells that Rang an Old Year Out and a New Year In, commonly referred to as The Chimes, is a novella written by Charles Dickens and first published in 1844, one year after A Christmas Carol. It is the second in his series of “Christmas books,” five novellas with strong social and moral messages that he published during the 1840s. In addition to A Christmas Carol and The Chimes, the Christmas books include The Cricket on the Hearth (1845), The Battle of Life (1846), and The Haunted Man and the Ghost’s Bargain (1848).
The book was written in late 1844, during Dickens’ year-long visit to Italy. John Forster, his first biographer, records that Dickens, hunting for a title and structure for his next contracted Christmas story, was struck one day by the clamour of the Genoese bells audible from the villa where they were staying. Two days later Forster received a letter from Dickens which read simply: “”We have heard THE CHIMES at midnight” and the writing of the book began. Forster describes Dickens’ intentions in writing The Chimes as striking “a blow for the poor”.
The novella is a political story like its predecessor A Christmas Carol, written with the intention of swaying readers towards Dickens’ moral message. The chimes represent time, and the main themes of the story are summarised in the three wrongs they accuse the character Trotty of committing:
• 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.
‘Who turns his back upon the fallen and disfigured of his kind; abandons them as vile; and does not trace and track with pitying eyes the unfenced precipice by which they fell from good—grasping in their fall some tufts and shreds of that lost soil, and clinging to them still when bruised and dying in the gulf below; does wrong to Heaven and man, to time and to eternity. And you have done that wrong!’
If you’re interested, the ebook is available for free on Gutenberg here.