19 December 2012

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens


Charles Dickens was born on February 7th, 1812, so as his centenary year draws to a close it seemed fitting to look at 'A Christmas Carol'. The book has never been out of print since it was first published 169 years ago in December 1843. Here are some things you may not know about it:

In the preface, Dickens wrote: '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 houses pleasantly, and no one wish to lay it.'

He finished the book in six weeks, writing most of it in November (a familiar idea to some of us) and it is just under 35,000 words. (If he had lived today he may have tried for 50,000 and written it in four weeks for NaNoWriMo)

Dickens decided to self-publish the work at his own expense. (It sold out by Christmas Eve.) He originally priced his book at five shillings (equivalent to £20 or $33 today) but high costs meant low profits. (I think he would have identified with today's Indie Publishers - see David Perdue's blog for the details HERE)

Keen on active book promotion, Dickens had a specially shortened version he used for public readings. There are records of about 150 readings by Dickens of 'A Christmas Carol', despite the fact that, at the time, public readings of fiction or poetry were considered 'a desecration of one's art and a lowering of one's dignity.' (He would definitely have made a YouTube promo video.)

In the first draft manuscript, the character of 'Tiny Tim' was called 'Little Fred'. This could have been a reference to his brother Alfred who died at a young age. Dickens changed his mind and used the name Fred for Scrooge’s nephew.

We can have some insight into how Dickens wrote from the original manuscript, which has a lot of deleted words replaced with more active verbs. (We can all learn from that.)

The original manuscript was bound in red Morocco leather by Dickens and changed hands many times before ending up in the Pierpont Morgan Library, New York where it is put on public display every Christmas.

The phrase 'Merry Christmas' appears twenty-one times in 'A Christmas Carol' and although not invented by Dickens, this went a long way to making it a popular greeting - particularly on Christmas cards.

The full text of A Christmas Carol is on Project Gutenberg HERE


(Image credits Wikimedia Commons and Nvadertim)

2 comments:

  1. Thanks for the interesting facts. Dickens 'A Christmas Carol' is why I write today. Merry Christmas!

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  2. Dickens would be pleased to know that - good luck with your new book 'The Throne of Olympus', I'd like to invite you to guest post about it here sometime

    Merry Christmas!

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