Few people may remember that the famous novella “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens includes a character named Fezziwig.
In the story, the Ghost of Christmas Past replays for Scrooge an employee Christmas party that his first boss, Mr. William Lucian Fezziwig, hosted each year. Fezziwig was a kind, compassionate and generous person, whom Scrooge admired. Despite Fezziwig’s charity, Scrooge becomes the exact opposite.
Although William “Will” Fezziwig was born in 1721, “Fezziwig, A Life” by Danny Kuhn begins when Will is 17. Will farms a small plot of land with his father, and one day they find valuable stone in the earth. They want to protect their find and decide to consult the local minister to make a wise decision about it. The minister betrays them, Will and his father are kidnapped, the stone is stolen and his father disappears. Will never sees him again and endures harsh treatment, but kind people save him from certain demise.
Will uses his ingenuity to take advantage of opportunities that come his way, and one merchant, John Spills, recognizes Will as an industrious worker. He also believes Will is educated and hires him as an accountant/clerk. Will accepts Spills’ misconception. “Perception trumps fact, and station reigns over all,” he tells himself.
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Spills is a kind and loving person and sets a good example for Will, who proves himself capable. Spills continues to give him more responsibilities, one of which is to set up a business in London and another to establish contacts in America.
Spills encourages Will to go to coffeehouses in London to make contacts and network with other business people. This is a habit Will embraces and continues throughout his lifetime. Will’s business sense increases profits for Spills and Company. At the same time, Will benefits financially and becomes a respected businessman.
To add to his success, he has a happy marriage with Caddy Bracebridge, the daughter of a relative of Spills. When Spills dies, his wish is that his London business be sold to Fezziwig, which benefits Will even more.
Throughout the story as Will experiences tribulations, he isn’t embittered. Instead he lavishes kindnesses on others, especially those who help him. He gives jobs, helps them overcome adversity and provides education for them. The Jones family, Rev. John Laverty, and Martha Byrnes and her daughters are examples. True to the times, the mode of communication is via letters, and the book is replete with them written to Will and by him.
Another facet that Kuhn includes in the book is that he interlaces Will’s life with historical and literary figures from America and England. Benjamin Franklin, George Washington and his half-brother Lawrence Washington, Samuel Johnson and James Boswell, Henry Fielding and the Young Pretender, Charles Edward Stuart, are among them.
He also has commentary on the issues of the day by having Will express his opinions. Will believes women and the working class must be educated. He detests slavery, and, although not a religious person, believes in religious tolerance. He has compassion for the downtrodden and helps them as much as possible. He compares differences between the English and the Americans. Comments about people in “Charles Town” are sure to delight residents of South Carolina and Charleston.
Academics, historians and aficionados of Dickens will appreciate “Fezziwig.” It’s not a fast-moving, edge-of-your-seat story, but a slow-paced tale so readers can savor the innuendoes, humor and turn of phrase.
Jo Ann Mathews, For The Sun News
Hat trick for local author
Joan Leotta, a local author, storyteller and a freelance writer, has had three books published this summer by three different publishers.
“WHOOSH!” is a picture book released by TheaQ Publishing on Aug. 15. The book details a young girl’s excitement of a snow-covered ground and a dad home from work. The sound of the sled going down the hill at a nearby park (WHOOSH!) guides the tale through the fun and bonding between the child and her dad.
“Secrets of the Heart” is the fourth book in Leotta’s Legacy of Honor series published by Desert Breeze Publishing. This installment is set during the first Gulf War as a woman discovers family secrets, thwarts a jewel thief in Italy and finds romance along the way.
Cane Hollow Press has published “Simply a Smile,” a collection of Leotta’s short stories. The tales are varied in genre and length, including historical, women’s fiction, a mystery and an ekprhastic (art-inpsired). What joins them is that all were inspired by objects.
For more information, reach Leotta at 910-575-0618 or at email@example.com.
If you have book- or author-related news, email firstname.lastname@example.org. Items and reviews run on a space-available basis.
At a glance
Title: “Fezziwig, A Life”
Author: Danny Kuhn
Publisher: Knox Robinson Publishing
Length: 223 pages