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Old Fezziwig is one of the enduring characters in the classic novella by Charles Dickens A Christmas Carol. He is a former employer of Ebenezer Scrooge, who in many ways represents all that Scrooge is not. The reader meets him when Scrooge is forced to look at his past recollections of Christmas by the Ghost of Christmas Past.
The scene including Scrooge’s employer is often referred to as Fezziwig’s Ball, and it is one of the liveliest and loveliest scenes in A Christmas Carol. Scrooge’s master is of a jolly and jovial temperament, and though a good man of business, he’s also deeply interested in the happiness of his employees, and of the people in the businesses located near him. As an employer he clearly inspires the respect of Scrooge and his fellow apprentice Dick Wilkins, who both quickly obey his order to make ready for the Christmas Ball Fezziwig has planned as a treat to the apprentices, himself, his family, and the neighbors.
The scene clearly is meant to contrast Scrooge’s miserly and evil treatment toward his clerk, Bob Cratchit, especially regarding Christmas. It is also the first time one of Scrooge’s recollections has him enjoying all the attendant fun of the season. He is moved and lively, as Dickens writes: “he remembered everything, enjoyed everything and underwent the strangest agitation.” The moment is clearly a one that signals the beginning of emotional transformation in Scrooge and a willingness to learn to be a better man. Scrooge willingly admits of the master/clerk relationship that Fezziwig has the power to make an employee happy or unhappy, and to determine whether work will be very difficult or easy, by choosing to be kind.
Perhaps one of the most delightful moments in Fezziwig’s Ball is the description of Mr. and Mrs. Fezziwig dancing. Dickens writes of his calves shining like moons, and him dancing quite deftly for a man of his generous size. A description of one part of the dance may puzzle the modern reader, when Dickens writes how Fezziwig “cut.” This is actually a leap into the air with a quick switch in position of the legs, and certainly does suggest that Scrooge’s former master knew his business on the dance floor, in addition to being a wonderful employer.
The happiness in this exuberant celebration is attributed all to the kind and benevolent master, and a reference to him is sure to evoke a pleasant feeling in those who love Dickens’ novella. In recent years, the Boston Beer Company, which produces Samuel Adams® brands, has produced a seasonal beer called Old Fezziwig Ale, which is lightly spiced and has been highly praised as the perfect ale with which to celebrate.