God Bless Us, Everyone
December 19, 2017
It took the author only six weeks to complete the novella which was published on December 19, 1843. All 6,000 of the original copies sold out in less than six days and the book, arguably, is one of the most famous literary works in history.
A Christmas Carol in Prose, Being a Ghost-Story of Christmas – the full title – is known better by the simpler name ‘A Christmas Carol.’
Charles Dickens was appalled by the conditions he saw at a school for the poor and was inspired to write the story. From the infallible Wikipedia:
“Dickens had written three Christmas stories prior to the novella, and was inspired to write the story following a visit to the Field Lane Ragged school, one of several establishments for London’s half-starved, illiterate street children. The treatment of the poor and the ability of a self-interested man redeeming himself by transforming into a more sympathetic character are the key themes of the story. There is discussion among academics as to whether this was a fully secular story, or if it is a Christian allegory.”
The book had an additional 13 publication runs in 1844, obviously resonating with the reading public in Victorian England. Since its first edition, the book has never been out of print and has been translated into several languages and adapted for theatre, movies and TV.
The path to success for Dickens, however, was not an easy one. Despite being a successful author, by mid-1843 he encountered financial problems. In those days authors were paid a salary by publishers and the author’s writings didn’t truly belong to them. Dickens’ publishers, Chapman and Hall, were about to reduce his salary by 50 pounds as sales of his current book had fallen. Also from the infallible Wikipedia:
“As the result of the disagreements with Chapman and Hall over the commercial failures of Martin Chuzzlewit Dickens arranged to pay for the publishing himself, in exchange for a percentage of the profits. Production of A Christmas Carol was not without problems. The first printing contained drab olive endpapers that Dickens felt were unacceptable, and the publisher quickly replaced them with yellow endpapers, but, once replaced, those clashed with the title page, which was then redone. The final product was bound in red cloth with gilt-edged pages, completed only two days before the publication date of 19 December 1843.”
Perhaps my favorite part of this story is how Dickens, despite setbacks, prevailed and in 1852, started a tradition of reading an abbreviated version of the story as a public performance every Christmas season until his death in 1870. In fact he read A Christmas Carol in this manner 127 times.
I’ve seen a number of different versions of “A Christmas Carol.” Although many critics laud the 1954 film with Alistair Cook as Scrooge as the best adaptation, I’m partial to the George C. Scott version from 1984. What’s your favorite version?
I encourage you to click on the Wikipedia link and read more on how this famous Christmas story came to be.