A Christmas Carol

A Merry Hello to You,

I like learning new things and, whenever possible, I would like to add historical tidbits (especially pertaining to the Victorian era) to my blog posts. A few days ago I learned something interesting and in the holiday spirit, wanted to share. So, did you know…

On December 19th, this very day 172 years ago,
A Christmas Carol was published?

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Learning this led me to research this classic tale further.

English writer and social critic Charles John Huffam Dickens, born 203 years ago, created some of the world’s best-known fictional characters and is regarded today as the greatest novelist of the Victorian era.

His own story is one of rags to riches.

Charles Dickens was born on 7 February 1812 to John and Elizabeth Dickens. He attended school in Portsmouth, but when his father, a clerk in the navy pay office was thrown into debtors’ prison, 12-year-old Charles was sent to work in a factory. The miserable treatment of children and the institution of the debtors’ jail became interwoven into several of his novels.

While Dickens’ humiliating childhood experiences are not directly described in A Christmas Carol, his conflicting feelings for his father as a result of those experiences are reflected in the dual personality of  Ebenezer Scrooge.

In 1824, Dickens’ father, John, was thrown in Marshalsea Debtors’ Prison. His wife Elizabeth Barrow and their four youngest children joined her husband in Marshalsea (customary at the time), whilst 12-year-old Charles was forced to take lodgings nearby, pawn his collection of books, leave school and accept employment in a blacking factory.

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On June 9, 1870, at 58, Charles died of a stroke at Gad’s Hill Place in Kent working on The Mystery of Edwin Drood. The mystery novel, intended to run in twelve parts, was left unfinished as he was laid to rest in the Poet’s Corner at Westminster Abbey along side several notable authors and poets. 

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Gad’s Hill Place, Dickens’s country estate near Rochester, Kent, where he lived from 1857 until his death. At 9 years Charles saw the house and dreamed of owning it. (It is gorgeous. I would dream of owning it too). Today, it houses a school. (photo by highamvillage.)

Dickens began to write A Christmas Carol in September 1843. The book was completed in six weeks, with the final pages written in early December. The book was published 172 years ago, on this day…

19 December 1843!

Despite his earlier success, Dickens found himself actually owing money to his publisher. With his most recent novel not selling well, Dickens feared his success had peaked and faced some serious financial problems as Christmas 1843 approached.

But a visit to the grimy industrial city of Manchester motivated him to tell the story of a greedy businessman, Ebenezer Scrooge, who would be transformed by the Christmas spirit.

As the result of a feud with his publisher over the slim earnings on his previous novel, Dickens declined a lump-sum payment for the tale. Instead, hoping to earn more money, he published A Christmas Carol at his own expense. 

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“Bah!” said Scrooge, “Humbug!”

With his wife pregnant once again, Charles was deeply disappointed with the production of the book. The first printing contained drab olive end papers that Dickens felt were unacceptable, and the publisher Chapman and Hall quickly replaced them with yellow end papers, 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 release date of 19 December 1843… 

We all know the story beginning with Scrooge, a miser who shows a decided lack of concern for the rest of mankind and ending with him seeing life in a completely different way.

The redemption of Ebenezer Scrooge touched readers deeply. The concern Dickens wanted to convey for those less fortunate struck a deep chord. As result, the Christmas holiday began to be seen as a time for family celebrations and charitable giving.

The tale, and its widespread popularity, helped Christmas become established as a major holiday in Victorian Britain.

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Like Scrooge’s change of demeanor, I believe if we live our life with a kind spirit and joyful merriment – not only at Christmas but all year long – what a wonderful life we will have.

“God Bless us, everyone!”

XOXOXO
Susan

trumpingangel2

© 1996 Susan Reader

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