Dickens Publishes 'a Christmas Carol'
The 19th of December 1843 AD
It is entirely fitting that Charles Dickens began writing the work that came to be known as A Christmas Carol (in the Victorian manner the full title is far longer) because of money worries. Like the Cratchits he knew very well what it was to be poor. As a child he had been forced to work long hours in a factory while his father was in prison for debt; and he faced debts in the autumn of 1843 which saw him begin to work feverishly on the ghostly morality tale that became his most popular work.
Charles Dickens started writing the book in October, and finished it in November. That such a rapid production should become a classic is remarkable - 28,000 words written and revised in a matter of weeks. His publishers, Chapman and Hall, rushed it out for the Christmas market, complete with eight hastily created illustrations by John Leech to brighten the 80 pages of text.
Some have credited Dickens with reviving or even 'creating' Christmas, a festival that in a Britain then obsessed with industrial development and commerce was becoming less important for many. He fixed the idea of the Christmas turkey in our collective heart with Scrooge's gift of a massive bird to the starveling Cratchit family; and he rubbed middle class Victorian noses in the poverty their 'social inferiors' had to endure. It was the Christmas that would be featured on millions upon millions of Christmas cards: snow; merry faces with red cheeks; plum pudding and turkey; and steaming Bishop for Scrooge and Bob to drink too. Dickens certainly popularised the idea of Christmas readings, first giving a recital of his work in Birmingham on December 27 1843, little more than a week after it was published. The book certainly helped his finances, selling more than 6,000 copies in a week. Dickens was set too for many a reading of his story going on in future years to tour as far as the USA with the by then much adapted piece.
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