The Seven Poor Travellers, By Charles Dickens

"Charles Dickens" here means editor as well as author. This is the fifth Christmas number, from 1854, of his journal Household Words. Dickens himself tops and tails the festive story cycle, set after an archetypal Christmas Eve dinner ("I never saw a finer turkey, finer beef") in a Rochester almshouse.

The "travellers" are voiced in their narrations by Wilkie Collins (who contributes a remarkable early detective story), George Augustus Sala, Eliza Linn Linton and Adelaide Procter, as well as by their editor - with his Francophile soldiers' tale from Napoleonic times.

Sentimental and sinister by turns, this reprint gathers us around the glowing fire of Dickens's Christmas business at its highly profitable peak.