A Christmas Carol – Dec 1843 – a Christmas tale
This novella was written in October and November 1843, its name in full A Christmas Carol. In Prose. Being a Ghost Story of Christmas, but it is more commonly known as A Christmas Carol.
This was published at a time that the British were reviewing their Christmas traditions. Dickens had previously written three Christmas stories, he had recently visited a school for London’s street children.
Dickens was at odds with his publishers at this time over the arrangement for Martin Chuzzlewit, he therefore published this at his own cost, it was illustrated by John Leech. It was completed just two days before its publication date of 19th December 1843. The lavish production led to it being priced at five shillings. This limited its appeal, but still sold six thousand copies in the first few days.
It built its popularity to become his most well-recognised work, the first edition had sold out by Christmas Eve, two more editions were produced before the new year. There were thirteen editions released by the end of 1844.
A pirated version in condensed form was launch in January 1844, at just twopence per copy. This led to legal action, its publisher was closed down, but the action decremented Dickens profits by £700 on the venture.
He had hoped for £1,000 but the first edition earned him a net £230, though that is the equivalent in 2020 terms of some £24,000. He made only £740 by the end of 1844.
Dickens did public readings of the novella in 1849 and by his death (1870) had completed over 120 of these. It has never been out of print, and it has prompted many stage, television and opera versions.
Dickens produced further Christmas tales – The Chimes (1844), The Cricket on the Hearth (1845), The Battle of Life (1846) and The Haunted Man and the Ghost’s Bargain (1848).
The tale is divided into ‘Staves’.
Ebenezer Scrooge is a London-based miser, he has no redeeming characteristics, focused entirely on making money. He dislikes Christmas with a passion and refuses, Fred, his nephew’s invitation to dinner.
The ghost of his ex-partner visits him on Christmas Eve, Jacob Marley had died seven years ago to the day. A miser, like Scrooge, he is suffering in the after-life and alerts Scrooge to the consequences of his actions. He advises that he has a chance for redemptions and advises that he is to be haunted by three ghosts – the ghost of Christmas Past, the ghost of Christmas Present and the ghost of Christmas Yet to Come.
The ghosts duly arrive and show Scrooge the error of his ways, past, present and future. The first ghost shows him his childhood at boarding school, his first employer, Mr Fezziweg, and Belle, his ex-fiancée. Belle is shown with her family denouncing Scrooge.
The second ghost takes him to a market showing people buying and preparing for Christmas dinner. He is taken to a miner’s cottage to a lighthouse and to his nephew Fred’s party. But then he is taken to the Cratchits, where we meet Tiny Tim, happy despite his crippled condition, Markley advises that Tiny Tim will die unless his situation changes.
The third ghost takes Scrooge to a funeral of a disliked business man, the mourners only attending for the free lunch. His charwoman, laundress and the local undertaker steal his belongings and sell them to a fence. He implores the ghost to show him someone feeling emotion over the death and sees a poor couple rejoicing that they have more time to settle their finances. He presses the ghost to show any tenderness about any death and is shown the Cratchits mourning Tiny Tim. This third scene ends with a look at a neglected grave, it bears the name of Ebenezer Scrooge. Scrooge pledges to change his ways.
The next day he is found to be a reformed character, making a donation to charity, anonymously delivers a turkey to his bullied clerk, Bob Cratchit and spending the day with his previously spurned nephew, Fred.
He raises Bob’s salary to assist with the care of his crippled son, Tiny Tim. He becomes ‘as good a friend, as good a master, and as good a man, as the good old city knew.’
· Scrooge, Ebenezer
· Marley, Jacob
· Cratchit, Bob
· Cratchit, Tiny Tim
· Ghost of Christmas Past
· Ghost of Christmas Present
· Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come
· Cratchit, Mrs
· Cratchit, Belinda
· Cratchit, Martha
· Cratchit, Peter
· Dilber, Mrs
· Fezziwig, Mrs
· Joe, Old
· Wilkins, Dick