During a visit to Edward Bulwer-Lytton’s Knebworth estate in June 1861 Dickens made an excursion with some companions to see James Lucas, a notorious local hermit.1 The experience provided the inspiration, and was eventually worked up for, that year’s All the Year Round Christmas number entitled “Tom Tiddler’s Ground” (1861). The didactic purpose of this seasonal literary event is made clear by the instructions Dickens sent round to his fellow contributors. He advised them to write pieces that would have “some latent bearing by implication on the absurdity” of the life of a hermit and show “the dependence of mankind upon one anotherand on the wholesome infl uences of the gregarious habits of humanity.”2 Dickens talks notably about the story’s improving “lesson” in a subsequent letter to Thomas Trollope (Letters IX, 549). This kind of tone is, perhaps surprisingly to modern readers, not unique to “Tom Tiddler’s Ground.” It is, rather, a key feature of both the Christmas Books and Christmas Stories, and part of a desire in them to spread a seasonal moral “lesson.” For the productions in some years, however, Dickens’s moralizing purpose is warped into (what seems in retrospect) a kind of petty score-settling. Ruth Glancy informs us that “The Haunted House” (1859) “was inspired by a recent argument he had held with William Howitt, an ardent spiritualist and believer in ghosts” (CS, 307).3 The Christmas number for 1861 is motivated by a similar kind of personal attack upon James Lucas. In the sections of the number in which Dickens (as Mr. Traveller) recreates his meeting with Lucas (Mr. Mopes in the fi ctionalized account), the lifestyle of the latter is condemned in much stronger terms than are suggested by the circular instructions to contributors, thus becoming not only “highly absurd” but also “highly indecent” (CS, 427). He confronts what he conceives to be Mopes’s unnatural denial of his “social nature” and assumption that “he can in any wise separate himself from his kind and the habits of his kind, without becoming a deteriorated spectacle calculated to give the Devil (and perhaps the monkeys) pleasure” (CS, 429). He is angered also by the hermit’s general grubbiness achieved, Dickens assumes, by “steeping himself in soot and grease and other nastiness” (CS, 422).