a christmas carol


  • [13] Several works may have had an influence on the writing of A Christmas Carol, including two Douglas Jerrold essays: one from an 1841 issue of Punch, “How Mr. Chokepear
    Keeps a Merry Christmas” and one from 1843, “The Beauties of the Police”.

  • [112] A few of the many editions of A Christmas Carol Ruth Glancy, the professor of English literature, states that the largest impact of A Christmas Carol was the influence
    felt by individual readers.

  • Dickens had written three Christmas stories prior to the novella, and was inspired following a visit to the Field Lane Ragged School, one of several establishments for London’s
    street children.

  • [59] Dickens wrote A Christmas Carol in response to British social attitudes towards poverty, particularly child poverty, and wished to use the novella as a means to put forward
    his arguments against it.

  • [32] The professor of English literature Robert Douglas-Fairhurst considers that in the opening part of the book covering young Scrooge’s lonely and unhappy childhood, and
    his aspiration for money to avoid poverty “is something of a self-parody of Dickens’s fears about himself”; the post-transformation parts of the book are how Dickens optimistically sees himself.

  • [15] Social influences Charles Dickens in 1842, the year before the publication of A Christmas Carol Dickens was touched by the lot of poor children in the middle decades
    of the 19th century.

  • ‘”[74] The poet Thomas Hood, in his own journal, wrote that “If Christmas, with its ancient and hospitable customs, its social and charitable observances, were ever in danger
    of decay, this is the book that would give them a new lease.

  • [79] After Dickens’s death, Margaret Oliphant deplored the turkey and plum pudding aspects of the book but admitted that in the days of its first publication it was regarded
    as “a new gospel”, and noted that the book was unique in that it made people behave better.

  • [84] In 1863 The New York Times published an enthusiastic review, noting that the author brought the “old Christmas … of bygone centuries and remote manor houses, into the
    living rooms of the poor of today”.

  • He capitalised on the success of the book by publishing other Christmas stories: The Chimes (1844), The Cricket on the Hearth (1845), The Battle of Life (1846) and The Haunted
    Man and the Ghost’s Bargain (1848); these were secular conversion tales which acknowledged the progressive societal changes of the previous year, and highlighted those social problems which still needed to be addressed.

  • [12] The tales and essays attracted Dickens, and the two authors shared the belief that returning to Christmas traditions might promote a type of social connection that they
    felt had been lost in the modern world.

  • [111][112] The writer James Joyce considered that Dickens took a childish approach with A Christmas Carol, producing a gap between the naïve optimism of the story and the
    realities of life at the time.

  • [75] The religious press generally ignored the tale but, in January 1844, Christian Remembrancer thought the tale’s old and hackneyed subject was treated in an original way
    and praised the author’s sense of humour and pathos.

  • A Christmas Carol has never been out of print and has been translated into several languages; the story has been adapted many times for film, stage, opera and other media.

  • While Dickens’s Victorian audiences would have viewed the tale as a spiritual but secular parable, in the early 20th century it became a children’s story, read by parents
    who remembered their parents reading it when they were younger.

  • [95] Duration: 5 minutes and 0 seconds.5:00First film adaptation, Scrooge, or, Marley’s Ghost, 1901 In the years following the book’s publication, responses to the tale were
    published by W. M. Swepstone (Christmas Shadows, 1850), Horatio Alger (Job Warner’s Christmas, 1863), Louisa May Alcott (A Christmas Dream, and How It Came True, 1882), and others who followed Scrooge’s life as a reformed man – or some who
    thought Dickens had got it wrong and needed to be corrected.

  • Dickens acknowledged the influence of the modern Western observance of Christmas and later inspired several aspects of Christmas, including family gatherings, seasonal food
    and drink, dancing, games and a festive generosity of spirit.

  • “[78] The reviewer for Tait’s Edinburgh Magazine—Theodore Martin, who was usually critical of Dickens’s work[75]—spoke well of A Christmas Carol, noting it was “a noble book,
    finely felt and calculated to work much social good”.

  • [113] In early 1844 The Gentleman’s Magazine attributed a rise of charitable giving in Britain to Dickens’s novella;[114] in 1874, Robert Louis Stevenson, after reading Dickens’s
    Christmas books, vowed to give generously to those in need,[115] and Thomas Carlyle expressed a generous hospitality by hosting two Christmas dinners after reading the book.

  • “[77] William Makepeace Thackeray, writing in Fraser’s Magazine, described the book as “a national benefit and to every man or woman who reads it, a personal kindness.

  • [102] Legacy The phrase “Merry Christmas” had been around for many years – the earliest known written use was in a letter in 1534 – but Dickens’s use of the phrase in A Christmas
    Carol popularised it among the Victorian public.

  • Some of Dickens’s scenes—such as visiting the miners and lighthouse keepers—have been forgotten by many, while other events often added—such as Scrooge visiting the Cratchits
    on Christmas Day—are now thought by many to be part of the original story.

  • [19] In March he wrote to Dr Southwood Smith, one of the four commissioners responsible for the Second Report, about his change in plans: “you will certainly feel that a Sledge
    hammer has come down with twenty times the force—twenty thousand times the force—I could exert by following out my first idea”.

  • [110] The novelist William Dean Howells, analysing several of Dickens’s Christmas stories, including A Christmas Carol, considered that by 1891 the “pathos appears false and
    strained; the humor largely horseplay; the characters theatrical; the joviality pumped; the psychology commonplace; the sociology alone funny”.

  • Davis considers that in A Christmas Carol, Dickens showed that Christmas could be celebrated in towns and cities, despite increasing modernisation.

  • British-made films showed a traditional telling of the story, while US-made works showed Cratchit in a more central role, escaping the depression caused by European bankers
    and celebrating what Davis calls “the Christmas of the common man”.

  • Chapman and Hall issued second and third editions before the new year, and the book continued to sell well into 1844.

  • [46][n 7] The two figures of Want and Ignorance, sheltering in the robes of the Ghost of Christmas Present, were inspired by the children Dickens had seen on his visit to
    a ragged school in the East End of London.

  • In the lead-up to and during the Great Depression, Davis suggests that while some saw the story as a “denunciation of capitalism, …most read it as a way to escape oppressive
    economic realities”.

  • [9] The professor of English literature Paul Davis writes that although the “Goblins” story appears to be a prototype of A Christmas Carol, all Dickens’s earlier writings
    about Christmas influenced the story.

  • [80] The writer and social thinker John Ruskin told a friend that he thought Dickens had taken the religion from Christmas, and had imagined it as “mistletoe and pudding –
    neither resurrection from the dead, nor rising of new stars, nor teaching of wise men, nor shepherds”.

  • [20] In a fundraising speech on 5 October 1843 at the Manchester Athenaeum, Dickens urged workers and employers to join together to combat ignorance with educational reform,[21]
    and realised in the days following that the most effective way to reach the broadest segment of the population with his social concerns about poverty and injustice was to write a deeply felt Christmas narrative rather than polemical pamphlets
    and essays.

  • [11] Among earlier authors who influenced Dickens was Washington Irving, whose 1819–20 work The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent.

  • [89] Performances and adaptations By 1849 Dickens was engaged with David Copperfield and had neither the time nor the inclination to produce another Christmas book.

  • [107] Dickens advocated a humanitarian focus of the holiday,[108] which influenced several aspects of Christmas that are still celebrated in Western culture, such as family
    gatherings, seasonal food and drink, dancing, games and a festive generosity of spirit.

  • [37] For the character Tiny Tim, Dickens used his nephew Henry, a disabled boy who was five at the time A Christmas Carol was written.

  • The story was illicitly copied in January 1844; Dickens took legal action against the publishers, who went bankrupt, further reducing Dickens’s small profits from the publication.

  • [16] Dickens returned to the tale several times during his life to amend the phrasing and punctuation.

  • [116] In 1867 one American businessman was so moved by attending a reading that he closed his factory on Christmas Day and sent every employee a turkey,[75] while in the early
    years of the 20th century Maud of Wales – the Queen of Norway – sent gifts to London’s crippled children signed “With Tiny Tim’s Love”.

  • [88] The small profits Dickens earned from A Christmas Carol further strained his relationship with his publishers, and he broke with them in favour of Bradbury and Evans,
    who had been printing his works to that point.

  • Dickens wrote A Christmas Carol during a period when the British were exploring and re-evaluating past Christmas traditions, including carols, and newer customs such as cards
    and Christmas trees.

  • Horrified by what he read, Dickens planned to publish an inexpensive political pamphlet tentatively titled, An Appeal to the People of England, on behalf of the Poor Man’s
    Child, but changed his mind, deferring the pamphlet’s production until the end of the year.

  • [76] The critic from The Athenaeum, the literary magazine, considered it a “tale to make the reader laugh and cry – to open his hands, and open his heart to charity even toward
    the uncharitable … a dainty dish to set before a King.

  • [62] Douglas-Fairhurst observes that the use of such figures allowed Dickens to present his message of the need for charity without alienating his largely middle-class readership.

  • When he asks the spirit to show a single person who feels emotion over his death, he is only given the pleasure of a poor couple who rejoice that his death gives them more
    time to put their finances in order.

  • [44] When Dickens was young he lived near a tradesman’s premises with the sign “Goodge and Marney”, which may have provided the name for Scrooge’s former business partner.

  • The following day he gives Cratchit an increase in pay, and begins to become a father figure to Tiny Tim.

  • [22] Writing history John Leech, illustrator of the first edition By mid-1843 Dickens began to suffer from financial problems.

  • [24] Michael Slater, Dickens’s biographer, describes the book as being “written at white heat”; it was completed in six weeks, the final pages being written in early December.

  • The publication of Davies Gilbert’s 1823 work Some Ancient Christmas Carols, With the Tunes to Which They Were Formerly Sung in the West of England and William Sandys’s 1833
    collection Christmas Carols, Ancient and Modern led to a growth in the form’s popularity in Britain.

  • [83] Dickens had criticised the US in American Notes and Martin Chuzzlewit, making American readers reluctant to embrace his work, but by the end of the American Civil War,
    the book had gained wide recognition in American households.

  • A major part of this stave is taken up with Bob Cratchit’s family feast and introduces his youngest son, Tiny Tim, a happy boy who is seriously ill.

  • Stave one A Christmas Carol opens on a bleak, cold Christmas Eve in London, seven years after the death of Ebenezer Scrooge’s business partner, Jacob Marley.

  • He subsequently wrote four other Christmas stories.

  • He was influenced by the experiences of his own youth and by the Christmas stories of other authors, including Washington Irving and Douglas Jerrold.

  • [57][n 10] Other writers, including Kelly, consider that Dickens put forward a “secular vision of this sacred holiday”.

  • [9] The story is followed by a passage about Christmas in Dickens’s editorial Master Humphrey’s Clock.

  • [1] By the end of 1842 Dickens was a well-established author with six major works[n 1] as well as several short stories, novellas and other pieces.

  • The change in circumstances gave him what his biographer, Michael Slater, describes as a “deep personal and social outrage”, which heavily influenced his writing and outlook.

  • [40][n 5] It is possible that Scrooge’s name came from a tombstone Dickens had seen on a visit to Edinburgh.

  • [11] The Dickens scholar John O. Jordan argues that A Christmas Carol shows what Dickens referred to in a letter to his friend John Forster as his “Carol philosophy, cheerful
    views, sharp anatomisation of humbug, jolly good temper … and a vein of glowing, hearty, generous, mirthful, beaming reference in everything to Home and Fireside”.

  • [27] Slater says that A Christmas Carol was intended to open its readers’ hearts towards those struggling to survive on the lower rungs of the economic ladder and to encourage
    practical benevolence, but also to warn of the terrible danger to society created by the toleration of widespread ignorance and actual want among the poor.

  • [50] Some writers, including the Dickens scholar Grace Moore, consider that there is a Christian theme running through A Christmas Carol, and that the novella should be seen
    as an allegory of the Christian concept of redemption.

  • included four essays on old English Christmas traditions that he experienced while staying at Aston Hall near Birmingham.

  • [72] It was Dickens’s most popular book in the United States, and sold over two million copies in the hundred years following its first publication there.

  • Stave two The first spirit, the Ghost of Christmas Past, takes Scrooge to Christmas scenes of Scrooge’s boyhood, reminding him of a time when he was more innocent.

  • The scenes reveal Scrooge’s lonely childhood at boarding school, his relationship with his beloved sister Fan, the long-dead mother of Fred, and a Christmas party hosted by
    his first employer, Mr Fezziwig, who treated him like a son.

  • [98] In 1901 it was produced as Scrooge, or, Marley’s Ghost, a silent black-and-white British film; it was one of the first known adaptations of a Dickens work on film, but
    it is now largely lost.

  • Three productions opened on 5 February 1844, one by Edward Stirling, A Christmas Carol; or, Past, Present, and Future, being sanctioned by Dickens and running for more than
    40 nights.

  • [17] The suffering he witnessed there was reinforced by a visit to the Field Lane Ragged School, one of several London schools set up for the education of the capital’s half-starved,
    illiterate street children.


Works Cited

[‘1. These were Sketches by Boz (1836); The Pickwick Papers (1836); Nicholas Nickleby (1837); Oliver Twist (1838); The Old Curiosity Shop (1841); and Barnaby Rudge (1841).[2]
2. ^ Serialisation was in 20 parts, which concluded on 30 June 1844.[3]
3. ^
The addition of the line has proved contentious to some.[29] One writer in The Dickensian – the journal of the Dickens Fellowship wrote in 1933 that “the fate of Tiny Tim should be a matter of dignified reticence … Dickens was carried away by exuberance,
and momentarily forgot good taste”.[29]
4. ^ Carlyle’s original question was written in his 1840 work Chartism.[38]
5. ^ Grub’s name came from a 19th-century Dutch miser, Gabriel de Graaf, a morose gravedigger.[41]
6. ^ Scroggie was unlike
Scrooge in nature, and was described as “a well-known hedonist who loved wine, women, and parties … a dandy and terrible philanderer who had several sexual liaisons which made him the talk of the town … a jovial and kindly man”.[43]
7. ^ Henry
was also used as the basis for Paul Dombey Jr in Dombey and Son.[47]
8. ^ Others who have examined the Christian theme include Geoffrey Rowell,[24] Claire Tomalin[52] and Martin Sable.[53]
9. ^ The author G. K. Chesterton wrote of Dickens’s religious
views that “the tone of Dickens towards religion, though like that of most of his contemporaries, philosophically disturbed and rather historically ignorant, had an element that was very characteristic of himself. He had all the prejudices of his
time. He had, for instance, that dislike of defined dogmas, which really means a preference for unexamined dogmas.”[55] Dickens stated that “I have always striven in my writings to express the veneration for the life and lessons of our Saviour.”[56]
10. ^
The full verse of I John 3:17 is “But whoso hath this world’s good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?”[57]
11. ^ In 1875 Mitton sold the manuscript to the bookseller
Francis Harvey – reportedly for £50 (equal to £5,000 in 2024 pounds) –[68] who sold it to the autograph collector, Henry George Churchill, in 1882; in turn Churchill sold the manuscript to Bennett, a Birmingham bookseller. Bennett sold it for £200
to Robson and Kerslake of London, which sold it to Dickens collector Stuart M. Samuel for £300. It was purchased by J. Pierpont Morgan for an undisclosed sum and is now held by the Morgan Library & Museum, New York.[69]
12. ^ Dickens’s biographer,
Claire Tomalin, puts the first edition profits at £137, and those by the end of 1844 at £726.[52]
13. ^ The Parley version was titled A Christmas Ghost Story reoriginated from the original by Charles Dickens Esquire and analytically condensed for
this work.[86]
14. ^ One example of this was the introduction of turkey as the main meat of the Christmas meal. In Britain the tradition had been to eat roast goose, but a change to turkey followed the publication of the book. By 1868 Mrs Beeton,
in her Book of Household Management, advised her readers that “A Christmas dinner, with the middle-class of this empire, would scarcely be a Christmas dinner without its turkey.”[104]
15. Ackroyd 1990, pp. 67–68; Slater 2011.
16. ^ Jump up to:a
b Diedrick 1987, p. 80.
17. ^ Jump up to:a b Ackroyd 1990, p. 392.
18. ^ Callow 2009, p. 27.
19. ^ Lalumia 2001; Sutherland, British Library.
20. ^ Rowell 1993; Studwell & Jones 1998, pp. 8, 10; Callow 2009, p. 128.
21. ^ Callow 2009, p.
22. ^ Kelly 2003, pp. 19–20; Slater 2003, p. xvi.
23. ^ Jump up to:a b Slater 2003, p. xvi.
24. ^ Davis 1990a, p. 25.
25. ^ Jump up to:a b Kelly 2003, p. 12.
26. ^ Kelly 2003, p. 20.
27. ^ Restad 1996, p. 137.
28. ^ Douglas-Fairhurst
2006, p. viii; Ledger 2007, p. 117.
29. ^ Douglas-Fairhurst 2006, p. xxiv.
30. ^ Jump up to:a b c Slater 2011.
31. ^ Pykett 2017, p. 92.
32. ^ Jump up to:a b Lee, British Library.
33. ^ Callow 2009, p. 38.
34. ^ Ledger 2007, p. 119.
35. ^
Kelly 2003, p. 15; Sutherland, British Library.
36. ^ Kelly 2003, p. 15; Douglas-Fairhurst 2006, p. xvi.
37. ^ Douglas-Fairhurst 2006, p. xvi; Callow 2009, p. 38.
38. ^ Jump up to:a b Rowell 1993.
39. ^ Douglas-Fairhurst 2006, p. xix; Slater
40. ^ Tomalin 2011, pp. 148–149.
41. ^ Davis 1990a, p. 7.
42. ^ Douglas-Fairhurst 2006, p. xix; Tomalin 2011, p. 148.
43. ^ Jump up to:a b c Davis 1990a, p. 133.
44. ^ DeVito 2014, 522.
45. ^ Dickens 1843, p. 3.
46. ^ Kelly 2003,
p. 14.
47. ^ Jump up to:a b Douglas-Fairhurst 2006, p. xix.
48. ^ Gordon & McConnell 2008; DeVito 2014, 424.
49. ^ Jordan 2015, Chapter 5; Sillence 2015, p. 40.
50. ^ Elwell 2001; DeVito 2014, 645.
51. ^ Jump up to:a b Douglas-Fairhurst
2006, p. xiii.
52. ^ Carlyle 1840, p. 32.
53. ^ Ackroyd 1990, p. 409.
54. ^ Douglas-Fairhurst 2006, p. xviii; Alleyne 2007.
55. ^ Alleyne 2007.
56. ^ DeVito 2014, 392.
57. ^ DeVito 2014, 412.
58. ^ Pelling 2014.
59. ^ DeVito 2014,
60. ^ Ackroyd 1990, pp. 519–520.
61. ^ Ackroyd 1990, p. 519.
62. ^ Kelly 2003, p. 25; Garry & El Shamy 2005, p. 132.
63. ^ Davis 1990b, p. 111.
64. ^ Kelly 2003, pp. 25–26.
65. ^ Moore 2011, p. 57.
66. ^ Jump up to:a b c Tomalin
2011, p. 150.
67. ^ Jump up to:a b Sable 1986, p. 67.
68. ^ Tomalin 2011, pp. 149–150.
69. ^ Chesterton 1989, p. 163.
70. ^ Hammond 1871, p. 308.
71. ^ Jump up to:a b Douglas-Fairhurst 2006, p. 421.
72. ^ Jordan 2001, p. 121.
73. ^ Restad
1996, p. 139.
74. ^ Douglas-Fairhurst 2006, p. xvi; Sutherland, British Library.
75. ^ Moore 2011, p. 18.
76. ^ Jaffe 1994, p. 262.
77. ^ Douglas-Fairhurst 2006, p. xvi.
78. ^ Jump up to:a b Kelly 2003, p. 17.
79. ^ Douglas-Fairhurst 2006,
p. xxxi; Varese 2009.
80. ^ Douglas-Fairhurst 2006, p. xix; Varese 2009; Sutherland, British Library.
81. ^ Provenance, The Morgan Library & Museum.
82. ^ Jump up to:a b c d UK CPI inflation.
83. ^ Douglas-Fairhurst 2006, p. xxx; Provenance,
The Morgan Library & Museum.
84. ^ Douglas-Fairhurst 2006, pp. xix–xx; Standiford 2008, p. 132.
85. ^ Jackson 1999, p. 6.
86. ^ Douglas-Fairhurst 2006, p. viii; A Christmas Carol, WorldCat.
87. ^ Kelly 2003, p. 17; Douglas-Fairhurst 2006,
pp. xx, xvii.
88. ^ Jump up to:a b Thackeray 1844, p. 169.
89. ^ Jump up to:a b c d e Douglas-Fairhurst 2006, p. xx.
90. ^ Literature, The Illustrated London News.
91. ^ Chorley 1843, p. 1127.
92. ^ Hood 1844, p. 68.
93. ^ Martin 1844,
p. 129.
94. ^ Welch 2015, p. 169; Notice of Books, The Christian Remembrancer, p. 119.
95. ^ Davis 1990a, p. 59.
96. ^ Christmas Carol, New Monthly Magazine.
97. ^ Senior 1844, p. 186.
98. ^ Restad 1996, p. 136.
99. ^ Charles Dickens,
New York Times.
100. ^ Kelly 2003, p. 18.
101. ^ Kelly 2003, pp. 18–19.
102. ^ Ackroyd 1990, p. 416; Tomalin 2011, p. 150.
103. ^ Douglas-Fairhurst 2006, pp. xxi–xxiii.
104. ^ Douglas-Fairhurst 2006, p. xxvii.
105. ^ Douglas-Fairhurst
2006, p. xxviii.
106. ^ Slater 2009, p. 353.
107. ^ Dickens Visits Birmingham, Birmingham Conservation Trust.
108. ^ Ansari 2020.
109. ^ Billen 2005, pp. 8–10; Douglas-Fairhurst 2006, p. xxviii; Ledger 2007, p. 119.
110. ^ Douglas-Fairhurst
2006, p. xxi.
111. ^ Standiford 2008, p. 168.
112. ^ Sutherland, British Library.
113. ^ Scrooge, or, Marley’s Ghost, BFI Screenonline.
114. ^ A Christmas Carol, BBC Genome.
115. ^ Douglas-Fairhurst 2006, p. viii.
116. ^ Davis 1990a,
pp. 3–4.
117. ^ Cochrane 1996, p. 126; Martin 2011.
118. ^ Jump up to:a b Standiford 2008, p. 183.
119. ^ Scrooge, n. OED.
120. ^ Davis 1990a, p. 13.
121. ^ Rowell 1993; Hutton 1996, p. 113; Kelly 2003, p. 9.
122. ^ Forbes 2008, p. 62.
123. ^
Kelly 2003, pp. 9, 12.
124. ^ Hutton 1996, p. 113.
125. ^ Howells 1910, pp. 276–277.
126. ^ Jump up to:a b Davis 1990a, p. 98.
127. ^ Glancy 1985, p. xii.
128. ^ Harrison 2008, p. 28.
129. ^ Deacy 2016, p. 44.
130. ^ Slater 2003, p.
131. ^ Glancy 1985, p. xiii.
132. ^ Chesterton 1989, p. 137.
133. ^ Davis 1990a, pp. 13–14.
134. ^ Jump up to:a b Davis 1990a, p. 14.
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Online resources
• “A Christmas Carol”. The Radio Times (12): 23. 14 December 1923.
• “A Christmas Carol”. WorldCat. Retrieved 11 January 2017.
• Ansari, Samina (7 May 2020). “How the BMI gave Charles Dickens a new career”.
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Photo credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/wbaiv/13531007054/’]