I HAVE endeavoured in this Ghostly little book, to raise the Ghost of an Idea, which shall not put my readers out of humour with themselves, with each other, with the season, or with me. May it haunt their house pleasantly, and no one wish to lay it.

Parts that I can't understand are bold. Could anyone help me to get their meanings?

  • 1
    A request for help in understanding the meaning of a passage is NOT a request for proofreading help and should NOT be closed as such. A proofreading request is a request for help with writing a sentence correctly and is at its off-topic worst when it betrays no interest at all in why the sentence submitted for proofreading is faulty (if it is). The OP's question here is centrally a request for an explanation of what the phrases "with the season" and "to lay it" mean in the context of the sentence in which they appear. – Sven Yargs Dec 21 '17 at 8:42
  • "to lay it" is a little more difficult, but it's actually a "pun" or a "double entendre" in this instance. You are correct that it has something to do with "laying a ghost", but that is its "double meaning". Dickens is trying to pun about how he prays that no one place the ghostly little book down or away while it haunts that person's house, but the pun is that he also prays that the person not lay the ghost, i.e., that he exorcise the ghost that is the book, which means to remove the ghost. Dickens doesn't want his readers to get rid of the ghost that is his book. – Nick Jan 7 '18 at 18:07
  • 1
    "to lay a ghost" is an old-fashioned idiomatic expression in English that means to get rid of a distressing, worrying, or frightening memory or thought. Outside this use of "lay" in this expression, we probably wouldn't use "lay" to mean "to quiet" or "to become quiet" or "to cause to vanish or disappear". I've heard it used also in the phrase "to lay doubt", but, in Modern English, we would usually use the verb "allay" for this meaning: "to allay doubt." – Nick Jan 7 '18 at 18:07
  • "with the season" is short for the "Christmas season". Also, as a non sequitur, Dickens uses "with each other" when, in correct English, it should be "with one another". We use "each other" when comparing two persons; we use "one another" when comparing three or more persons. Dickens is clearly not comparing two readers, so it should be "one another", but many native speakers use "each other" in this instance despite its being grammatically incorrect. – Nick Jan 7 '18 at 18:08
  • @Nick That's a baseless rule, and in Merriam–Webster's Dictionary of English Usage's words, it was cut out of the whole cloth. – userr2684291 Nov 18 '18 at 14:49

"With the season" just means "with the time of year", i.e. "with Christmas".

"To lay it" is a little trickier. To lay something can mean "to put it down", but an older meaning is "to put it away". The something, in this case, is "this Ghostly little book", so "to lay it" means either to put the book down, or to put it away. However, Dickens is having a little joke with his readers, since "to lay a ghost" means to exorcise it.

lay the ghost of sth (to rest)

to finally stop being worried or upset about something that has worried or upset you for a long time:

  • With one stunning performance, he has laid to rest the ghost of all his defeats last season.

Cambridge Dictionary

  • I found in Longman Dict. expression "to lay the ghost (of something)" too, so I thought that "to lay it" could be related to "the Ghost of an Idea", but I didn't find it really suitable. – Sergey Dec 21 '17 at 5:36
  • In which dictionary can I find that old meaning of "to lay" as "to put (smth) away"? Or "to lay smth" is a short form of "to lay (smth) aside"? – Sergey Dec 21 '17 at 6:17
  • It's not an "old" meaning – Will Crawford Dec 21 '17 at 8:48
  • en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/rest covers lay (someone) to rest – Will Crawford Dec 21 '17 at 8:49
  • If I lay something aside or away or down, that use of "lay" is not an old meaning; we say that all the time: "I laid the book on the nightstand and went to bed." What is old-fashioned is the use of "lay" in the idiom "to lay a ghost". Outside that idiom and "to lay doubts", we would almost never use it to mean "to quiet or make vanish". Even in "to lay doubts", most native speakers like me would use "allay": "We allayed all the doubts that they had." – Nick Jan 7 '18 at 18:18

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