Old Marley was as dead as a door-nail.

 

Background.

item “Old Marley was as dead as a door-nail.” is a quotation from A Christmas Carol (Stave 1).

item A Christmas Carol is a novella, or short story, written by Charles Dickens and first published in the Christmas of 1843.

 

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Illustration from the original publication of A Christmas Carol showing Ebenezer Scrooge (left), here being visited by the ghost of his former business partner, Jacob Marley.

Context.

item The quote is a description of Jacob Marley, the former business partner of Ebenezer Scrooge at the beginning of A Christmas Carol. who is now long dead.

item Jacob Marley died seven years prior to the setting of A Christmas Carol, on the same day it is set, Christmas Eve. His ghost visits Scrooge but this quote is used by Dickens to confirm to the reader at the outset of the story that he is definitely dead.

item Taken from the following opening paragraph in Stave 1 of A Christmas Carol:

Marley was dead: to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that. The register of his burial was signed by the clergyman, the clerk, the undertaker, and the chief mourner. Scrooge signed it: and Scrooge’s name was good upon ’Change, for anything he chose to put his hand to. Old Marley was as dead as a door-nail.

Mind! I don’t mean to say that I know, of my own knowledge, what there is particularly dead about a door-nail. I might have been inclined, myself, to regard a coffin-nail as the deadest piece of ironmongery in the trade. But the wisdom of our ancestors is in the simile; and my unhallowed hands shall not disturb it, or the Country’s done for. You will therefore permit me to repeat, emphatically, that Marley was as dead as a door-nail.

 

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