A Christmas Carol Collection of Facts

And you thought we were done with posts about A Christmas Carol? Dream on, friends. No, instead I have now read the book - and Dickens' other Christmas novellas - and set myself to a mission of learning more about them.

Dickens, as any of use that read Great Expectations in middle school were told, wrote most frequently in serial publications, for which he was paid by the word. Thus, he used a lot of words. And chapter breaks, frustratingly, often end in mini-cliffhangers, to keep readers coming back.

A Christmas Carol was no such work. Instead, Dickens found himself broke and bordering on desperate in the fall of 1843. To combat the problem, he decided to write a Christmas novella - not serialized, and not paid for by the word. He completed the book in a mere six weeks, which is even more impressive when you remember than all manuscripts were handwritten with ink pen in the 19th century. Christmas was a suitable subject, too, for Victorian England, with Prince Albert introducing the Christmas tree in 1841, the first Christmas Card rumored to have been sent in 1843, and a rise in caroling traditions.*

After a dispute with his publisher, Dickens published the novel himself - before self-publishing took on the stigma that it seems to have now. The first edition was printed with "lavish binding, gilt edging, hand-colored illustrations - and a modest price."** The edition sold 6,000 copies in the first few days following publication.

Dickens was in no way the first to write a Christmas story, but nonetheless, he is credited with rekindling the Christmas spirit in Victorian England, which then seeped its way into a war-ridden 1860s America.

From 6,000 copies, the story only grew. Now, it has been adapted into plays, ballets, musicals, and even opera, not to mention the 23+ movie renditions.** Scrooge is rumored to have been Dr. Seuss' inspiration for the Grinch, and elements of Dickens' story present themselves in It's a Wonderful Life.

I'm itching to get my hands on a copy of The Man Who Invented Christmas: How Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol Rescued His Career and Revived Our Holiday Spirits. Has anyone read it?


* Factoids courtesy of Wikipedia.

** From the introduction to the Dalmatian Press edition of Dickens' three Christmas novellas.

*** My personal favorite, as I mentioned in my previous post on the experience of reading the book, is the 1980s made-for-TV version starring George C. Scott as Scrooge, though I also love the Muppet version. Yours?


  1. I'm (obviously, cos I keep going on about it) a big fan of the Muppet version of the story. It follows the original story much closer than I would have assumed and uses a lot of direct quotes from the book. Plus who doesn't love Muppets?

    I'd love to read "The Man Who Invented Christmas". I'll have to be on the lookout for it

  2. You describe well how the crush of normal duties impedes the literary life! For me the most painful part comes when I'm in a bookstore, where I always find myself thinking, "I don't need more books, I need more time for reading!"

    Here's a link to a great essay on Dickens and Oprah! Good insights.


  3. Favorite Christmas Carol adaptation is the one with Alastair Sim as Scrooge, thought I seem to recall we've had this debate already! :)

  4. John - Thanks for the link! And yes, we've definitely had the argument before, and George C. Scott and I won. At least, we like to think so :-)

  5. WAnted to let you know that PaperBack Swap has only 5 people waiting for the Dickens/Christmas book. It was last posted in October & Should move along briskly after the holiday.


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