A Christmas Carol

A Christmas Carol

Overview
A Christmas Carol is a novella by English author Charles Dickens
Charles Dickens
Charles John Huffam Dickens was an English novelist, generally considered the greatest of the Victorian period. Dickens enjoyed a wider popularity and fame than had any previous author during his lifetime, and he remains popular, having been responsible for some of English literature's most iconic...

 first published by Chapman & Hall on 17 December 1843. The story tells of sour and stingy Ebenezer Scrooge
Ebenezer Scrooge
Ebenezer Scrooge is the principal character in Charles Dickens's 1843 novel, A Christmas Carol. At the beginning of the novel, Scrooge is a cold-hearted, tight-fisted and greedy man, who despises Christmas and all things which give people happiness...

's ideological, ethical, and emotional transformation after the supernatural visits of Jacob Marley
Jacob Marley
Jacob Marley is a fictional character who appears in Charles Dickens' 1843 novella A Christmas Carol.- Relationship with Scrooge:In life, Marley was the business partner of Ebenezer Scrooge. As teenagers, both men had been apprenticed in business and met as clerks in another business...

 and the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Yet to Come. The novella met with instant success and critical acclaim.

The book was written and published in early Victorian era
Victorian era
The Victorian era of British history was the period of Queen Victoria's reign from 20 June 1837 until her death on 22 January 1901. It was a long period of peace, prosperity, refined sensibilities and national self-confidence...

 Britain when it was experiencing a nostalgic interest in its forgotten Christmas traditions, and at the time when new customs such as the Christmas tree
Christmas tree
The Christmas tree is a decorated evergreen coniferous tree, real or artificial, and a tradition associated with the celebration of Christmas. The tradition of decorating an evergreen tree at Christmas started in Livonia and Germany in the 16th century...

 and greeting cards were being introduced.
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Quotations

Old Marley was as dead as a door-nail. Mind! I don't mean to say that I know, of my own knowledge, what there is particularly dead about a door-nail. I might have been inclined, myself, to regard a coffin-nail as the deadest piece of ironmongery in the trade. But the wisdom of our ancestors is in the simile; and my unhallowed hands shall not disturb it, or the Country's done for. You will therefore permit me to repeat, emphatically, that Marley was as dead as a door-nail.

Oh! But he was a tight-fisted hand at the grindstone, Scrooge! a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous, old sinner! Hard and sharp as flint, from which no steel had ever struck out generous fire; secret, and self-contained, and solitary as an oyster.

"Bah!" said Scrooge, "Humbug!"

I should have liked, I do confess, to have had the lightest license of a child, and yet to have been man enough to know its value.

"Merry Christmas! What right have you to be merry? What reason have you to be merry? You're poor enough." "Come, then," returned the nephew gaily. "What right have you to be dismal? What reason have you to be morose? You're rich enough."

"If I could work my will," said Scrooge indignantly, "Every idiot who goes about with 'Merry Christmas' on his lips, should be boiled with his own pudding, and buried with a stake of holly through his heart. He should!"

"Why do you doubt your senses?" [asks Marley's Ghost] "Because," said Scrooge, "a little thing affects them. A slight disorder of the stomach makes them cheats. You may be an undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of an underdone potato. There's more of gravy than of grave about you, whatever you are!"

"You are fettered," said Scrooge, trembling. "Tell me why?" "I wear the chain I forged in life," replied the Ghost. "I made it link by link, and yard by yard; I girded it on of my own free will, and of my own free will I wore it."

"It is required of every man," the Ghost returned, "that the spirit within him should walk abroad among his fellowmen, and travel far and wide; and if that spirit goes not forth in life, it is condemned to do so after death. It is doomed to wander through the world — oh, woe is me! — and witness what it cannot share, but might have shared on earth, and turned to happiness!"

Encyclopedia
A Christmas Carol is a novella by English author Charles Dickens
Charles Dickens
Charles John Huffam Dickens was an English novelist, generally considered the greatest of the Victorian period. Dickens enjoyed a wider popularity and fame than had any previous author during his lifetime, and he remains popular, having been responsible for some of English literature's most iconic...

 first published by Chapman & Hall on 17 December 1843. The story tells of sour and stingy Ebenezer Scrooge
Ebenezer Scrooge
Ebenezer Scrooge is the principal character in Charles Dickens's 1843 novel, A Christmas Carol. At the beginning of the novel, Scrooge is a cold-hearted, tight-fisted and greedy man, who despises Christmas and all things which give people happiness...

's ideological, ethical, and emotional transformation after the supernatural visits of Jacob Marley
Jacob Marley
Jacob Marley is a fictional character who appears in Charles Dickens' 1843 novella A Christmas Carol.- Relationship with Scrooge:In life, Marley was the business partner of Ebenezer Scrooge. As teenagers, both men had been apprenticed in business and met as clerks in another business...

 and the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Yet to Come. The novella met with instant success and critical acclaim.

The book was written and published in early Victorian era
Victorian era
The Victorian era of British history was the period of Queen Victoria's reign from 20 June 1837 until her death on 22 January 1901. It was a long period of peace, prosperity, refined sensibilities and national self-confidence...

 Britain when it was experiencing a nostalgic interest in its forgotten Christmas traditions, and at the time when new customs such as the Christmas tree
Christmas tree
The Christmas tree is a decorated evergreen coniferous tree, real or artificial, and a tradition associated with the celebration of Christmas. The tradition of decorating an evergreen tree at Christmas started in Livonia and Germany in the 16th century...

 and greeting cards were being introduced. Dickens' sources for the tale appear to be many and varied but are principally the humiliating experiences of his childhood, his sympathy for the poor, and various Christmas stories and fairy tales.

The tale has been viewed as an indictment of nineteenth century industrial capitalism and was adapted several times to the stage, and has been credited with restoring the holiday to one of merriment and festivity in Britain and America after a period of sobriety and sombreness. A Christmas Carol remains popular, has never been out of print, and has been adapted to film, opera, and other media.

Context


In the middle 19th century, a nostalgic interest in pre-Cromwell
Oliver Cromwell
Oliver Cromwell was an English military and political leader who overthrew the English monarchy and temporarily turned England into a republican Commonwealth, and served as Lord Protector of England, Scotland, and Ireland....

 Christmas traditions swept Victorian England following the publications of Davies Gilbert
Davies Gilbert
Davies Gilbert FRS was a British engineer, author, and politician. He was elected to the Royal Society on 17 November 1791 and served as President of the Royal Society from 1827 to 1830....

's Some Ancient Christmas Carols (1822), William B. Sandys
William B. Sandys
William B. Sandys , was an English solicitor, member of the Percy Society, fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of London, and remembered for his publication Christmas Carols Ancient and Modern , a collection of seasonal carols that Sandys had gathered and also apparently improvised...

's Selection of Christmas Carols, Ancient and Modern (1833), and Thomas K. Hervey
Thomas Kibble Hervey
Thomas Kibble Hervey was a British poet and critic.Thomas Kibble Hervey was born in Paisley, Scotland, and raised in Manchester, England where he was educated at Manchester Grammar School. He entered Caius College, Cambridge in 1822, but migrated to Trinity College the following year...

's The Book of Christmas (1837). That interest was further stimulated by Prince Albert
Prince Albert
Prince Albert was the husband and consort of Queen Victoria.Prince Albert may also refer to:-Royalty:*Prince Albert Edward or Edward VII of the United Kingdom , son of Albert and Victoria...

's introduction of the Christmas tree in 1841, the first Christmas card in 1843, and a revival in carol singing. Hervey's study on Christmas customs attributed their passing to social change and the urbanization of England.

Dickens' Carol was one of the greatest influences in rejuvenating the old Christmas traditions of England, but, while it brings to the reader images of light, joy, warmth and life, it also brings strong and unforgettable images of darkness, despair, coldness, sadness and death. Scrooge himself is the embodiment of winter, and, just as winter is followed by spring and the renewal of life, so too is Scrooge's cold, pinched heart restored to the innocent goodwill he had known in his childhood and youth.

Sources


Dickens was not the first author to celebrate the Christmas season in literature, but it was he who superimposed his secular vision of the holiday upon the public. The forces that impelled Dickens to create a powerful, impressive, and enduring tale were the profoundly humiliating experiences of his childhood, the plight of the poor and their children during the boom decades of the 1830s and 1840s, Washington Irving
Washington Irving
Washington Irving was an American author, essayist, biographer and historian of the early 19th century. He was best known for his short stories "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" and "Rip Van Winkle", both of which appear in his book The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent. His historical works...

's stories of the traditional old English Christmas, fairy tales and nursery stories, as well as satirical essays and religious tracts.

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 principally responsible for the dual personality of the tale's protagonist, Ebenezer Scrooge. In 1824, Dickens' father
John Dickens
John Dickens was the father of English novelist Charles Dickens and was the model for Mr Micawber in his son's semi-autobiographical novel David Copperfield.-Biography:...

 was imprisoned in the Marshalsea
Marshalsea
The Marshalsea was a prison on the south bank of the River Thames in Southwark, now part of London. From the 14th century until it closed in 1842, it housed men under court martial for crimes at sea, including those accused of "unnatural crimes", political figures and intellectuals accused of...

 and twelve-year-old Charles was forced to take lodgings nearby, pawn his collection of books, leave school, and accept employment in a blacking factory. The boy had a deep sense of class and intellectual superiority and was entirely uncomfortable in the presence of factory workers who referred to him as "the young gentleman". He developed nervous fits. When his father was released at the end of a three-month stint, young Dickens was forced to continue working in the factory, which only grieved and humiliated him further. He despaired of ever recovering his former happy life. The devastating impact of the period wounded him psychologically, coloured his work, and haunted his entire life with disturbing memories. Dickens both loved and demonized his father, and it was this psychological conflict that was responsible for the two radically different Scrooges in the tale – one Scrooge, a cold, stingy, and greedy semi-recluse, and the other Scrooge, a benevolent, sociable man whose generosity and goodwill toward all men earn for him a near-saintly reputation. It was during this terrible period in Dickens' childhood that he observed the lives of the men, women, and children in the most impoverished areas of London and witnessed the social injustices they suffered.
Dickens was keenly touched by the lot of poor children in the middle decades of the 19th century. In early 1843, he toured the Cornish
Cornwall
Cornwall is a unitary authority and ceremonial county of England, within the United Kingdom. It is bordered to the north and west by the Celtic Sea, to the south by the English Channel, and to the east by the county of Devon, over the River Tamar. Cornwall has a population of , and covers an area of...

 tin mines where he saw children working in appalling conditions. 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. Inspired by the February 1843 parliamentary report exposing the effects of the Industrial Revolution upon poor children called Second Report of the Children's Employment Commission, Dickens planned in May 1843 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. He wrote to Dr. Southwood Smith, one of eighty-four commissioners responsible for the Second Report, about his change in plans: "[Y]ou 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." The pamphlet would become A Christmas Carol.

In a fund-raising speech on 5 October 1843 at the Manchester Athenæum (a charitable institution serving the poor), Dickens urged workers and employers to join together to combat ignorance with educational reform, and realized 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. It was during his three days in Manchester, he conceived the plot of Carol.

Washington Irving's The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon
The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon
The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent., commonly referred to as The Sketch Book, is a collection of 34 essays and short stories written by American author Washington Irving. It was published serially throughout 1819 and 1820...

, depicting the harmonious warm-hearted English Christmas festivities he experienced while staying at Aston Hall
Aston Hall
Aston Hall is a municipally owned Jacobean-style mansion in Aston, Birmingham, England. Washington Irving used it as the model for Bracebridge Hall in his stories in The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon.-History:...

, Birmingham, England, that had largely been abandoned, attracted Dickens, and the two authors shared the belief that the staging of a nostalgic English Christmas might restore a social harmony and well-being lost in the modern world. In "A Christmas Dinner" from Sketches by Boz
Sketches by Boz
Sketches by "Boz," Illustrative of Every-day Life and Every-day People is a collection of short pieces published by Charles Dickens in 1836 accompanied by illustrations by George Cruikshank. The 56 sketches concern London scenes and people and are divided into four sections: "Our Parish",...

(1833), Dickens had approached the holiday in a manner similar to Irving, and, in The Pickwick Papers
The Pickwick Papers
The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club is the first novel by Charles Dickens. After the publication, the widow of the illustrator Robert Seymour claimed that the idea for the novel was originally her husband's; however, in his preface to the 1867 edition, Dickens strenuously denied any...

(1837BC), he offered an idealized vision of an 18th century Christmas at Dingley Dell. In the Pickwick episode, a Mr. Wardle relates the tale of Gabriel Grub, a lonely and mean-spirited sexton, who undergoes a Christmas conversion after being visited by goblins who show him the past and future – the prototype of A Christmas Carol.

Other likely influences were a visit made by Dickens to the Western Penitentiary in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania
The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is a U.S. state that is located in the Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic regions of the United States. The state borders Delaware and Maryland to the south, West Virginia to the southwest, Ohio to the west, New York and Ontario, Canada, to the north, and New Jersey to...

 from March 20-22, 1842; the decade-long fascination on both sides of the Atlantic with spiritualism
Spiritualism
Spiritualism is a belief system or religion, postulating the belief that spirits of the dead residing in the spirit world have both the ability and the inclination to communicate with the living...

; fairy tales and nursery stories (which Dickens regarded as stories of conversion and transformation); contemporary religious tracts about conversion; and the works of Douglas Jerrold in general, but especially "The Beauties of the Police" (1843), a satirical and melodramatic essay about a father and his child forcibly separated in a workhouse, and another satirical essay by Jerrold which may have had a direct influence on Dickens' conception of Scrooge called "How Mr. Chokepear keeps a merry Christmas" (Punch
Punch (magazine)
Punch, or the London Charivari was a British weekly magazine of humour and satire established in 1841 by Henry Mayhew and engraver Ebenezer Landells. Historically, it was most influential in the 1840s and 50s, when it helped to coin the term "cartoon" in its modern sense as a humorous illustration...

, 1841).

Plot


Dickens divides the book into five chapters, which he labels "staves", that is, "(song) stanzas" in keeping with the title of the book. (He uses a similar device in his next two Christmas books, titling the four divisions of The Chimes, "quarters", after the quarter-hour tolling of clock chimes, and naming the parts of The Cricket on the Hearth "chirps".)

The tale begins on Christmas Eve in the 1840's, exactly seven years after the death of Ebenezer Scrooge
Ebenezer Scrooge
Ebenezer Scrooge is the principal character in Charles Dickens's 1843 novel, A Christmas Carol. At the beginning of the novel, Scrooge is a cold-hearted, tight-fisted and greedy man, who despises Christmas and all things which give people happiness...

's business partner, Jacob Marley
Jacob Marley
Jacob Marley is a fictional character who appears in Charles Dickens' 1843 novella A Christmas Carol.- Relationship with Scrooge:In life, Marley was the business partner of Ebenezer Scrooge. As teenagers, both men had been apprenticed in business and met as clerks in another business...

. Scrooge is established within the first stave as a greedy and stingy businessman who has no place in his life for kindness, compassion, charity or benevolence. After being warned by Marley's ghost to change his ways (so that he may avoid a miserable afterlife like him), Scrooge is visited by three additional ghosts — each in its turn, and each visit detailed in a separate stave — who accompany him to various scenes with the hope of achieving his transformation.

The first of the spirits, the Ghost of Christmas Past
Ghost of Christmas Past
The Ghost of Christmas Past is a character in the well-known work of the English novelist Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol.The Ghost of Christmas Past was the first of the three spirits that haunted the miser. Ebenezer Scrooge in order to prompt him to repent...

, takes Scrooge to scenes of his boyhood and youth, which stir the old miser's gentle and tender side by reminding him of a time when he was more innocent. The second spirit, the Ghost of Christmas Present
Ghost of Christmas Present
The Ghost of Christmas Present is a character in one of the best-known works of the English novelist Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol. The Spirit closely resembles Father Christmas from local folklore....

, takes Scrooge to several radically differing scenes (a joy-filled market of people buying the makings of Christmas dinner
Christmas dinner
Christmas dinner is the primary meal traditionally eaten on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. In many ways the meal is similar to a standard Sunday dinner. Christmas feasts have traditionally been luxurious and abundant...

, the family feast of Scrooge's near-impoverished clerk Bob Cratchit
Bob Cratchit
Robert "Bob" Cratchit is a fictional character who is the abused, underpaid clerk of Ebenezer Scrooge in the Charles Dickens story A Christmas Carol...

, a miner
Miner
A miner is a person whose work or business is to extract ore or minerals from the earth. Mining is one of the most dangerous trades in the world. In some countries miners lack social guarantees and in case of injury may be left to cope without assistance....

's cottage
Cottage
__toc__In modern usage, a cottage is usually a modest, often cozy dwelling, typically in a rural or semi-rural location. However there are cottage-style dwellings in cities, and in places such as Canada the term exists with no connotations of size at all...

, and a lighthouse
Lighthouse
A lighthouse is a tower, building, or other type of structure designed to emit light from a system of lamps and lenses or, in older times, from a fire, and used as an aid to navigation for maritime pilots at sea or on inland waterways....

, among other sites) in order to evince from the miser a sense of responsibility for his fellow man. The third spirit, the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come
Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come
The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come, A.K.A., The Ghost of Christmas Future, is a fictional character in English novelist Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol. It is the ghost that haunts the miser Ebenezer Scrooge, in order to prompt him to adopt a more caring attitude in life and avoid the horrid...

, harrows Scrooge with dire visions of the future if he does not learn and act upon what he has witnessed. Scrooge's own neglected and untended grave is revealed, prompting the miser to aver that he will change his ways in hopes of changing these "shadows of what may be."

In the fifth and final stave, Scrooge awakens Christmas morning with joy and love in his heart, then spends the day with his nephew's family after anonymously sending a prize turkey to the Cratchit home for Christmas dinner. Scrooge has become a different man overnight and now treats his fellow men with kindness, generosity and compassion, gaining a reputation as a man who embodies the spirit of Christmas. The story closes with the narrator confirming the validity, completeness and permanence of Scrooge's transformation.

Publication


Dickens began to write A Christmas Carol in October 1843, and completed the book in six weeks with the final pages written in the beginning of December. As the result of a feud with his publisher over the meagre earnings on his previous novel, Martin Chuzzlewit
Martin Chuzzlewit
The Life and Adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit is a novel by Charles Dickens, considered the last of his picaresque novels. It was originally serialized between 1843-1844. Dickens himself proclaimed Martin Chuzzlewit to be his best work, but it was one of his least popular novels...

, Dickens declined a lump-sum payment for the tale, chose a percentage of the profits in hopes of making more money thereby, and published the work at his own expense. High production costs however brought him a mere £
Pound sign
The pound sign is the symbol for the pound sterling—the currency of the United Kingdom . The same symbol is used for similarly named currencies in some other countries and territories, such as the Irish pound, Gibraltar pound, Australian pound and the Italian lira...

230 (equal to £ today) rather than the £1,000 (equal to £ today) he expected and needed, as his wife was once again pregnant.A year later, the profits were only £744 and Dickens was deeply disappointed (Kelly 17).

Bound in red cloth with gilt-edged pages, the book was published in London by Chapman and Hall, and released on 17 December 1843.Following publication, Dickens arranged for the manuscript to be bound in red Morocco leather and presented as a gift to his solicitor, Thomas Mitton. In 1875, Mitton sold the manuscript to bookseller Francis Harvey reportedly for £50 (equal to £ today), who sold it to autograph collector, Henry George Churchill, in 1882, who, in turn, 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. Finally, it was purchased by J. Pierpont Morgan
J. P. Morgan
John Pierpont Morgan was an American financier, banker and art collector who dominated corporate finance and industrial consolidation during his time. In 1892 Morgan arranged the merger of Edison General Electric and Thomson-Houston Electric Company to form General Electric...

 for an undisclosed sum. It is now held by the Pierpont Morgan Library, New York (Douglas-Fairhurst xxx) (Hearn cv,cvi).
Four expensive, hand-coloured etchings and four black and white wood engravings by John Leech accompanied the text. Production was not without problems. The drab olive endpapers were replaced for the second printing with yellow endpapers, but, once replaced, clashed with the title page which was then redone.

Modestly priced at five shillings (equal to £ today), the first run of 6,000 copies sold out by Christmas Eve and the book continued to sell well into the New Year. By May 1844, a seventh edition had sold out. In all, twenty-four editions ran in its original form. In spite of the disappointing profits for the author, the book was a huge artistic success with most critics responding positively.

Critical reception


The book received immediate critical acclaim. The London literary magazine the Athenaeum
Athenaeum (magazine)
The Athenaeum was a literary magazine published in London from 1828 to 1921. It had a reputation for publishing the very best writers of the age....

declared 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." Poet and editor Thomas Hood
Thomas Hood
Thomas Hood was a British humorist and poet. His son, Tom Hood, became a well known playwright and editor.-Early life:...

 wrote, "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. The very name of the author predisposes one to the kindlier feelings; and a peep at the Frontispiece sets the animal spirits capering [...]".

William Makepeace Thackeray
William Makepeace Thackeray
William Makepeace Thackeray was an English novelist of the 19th century. He was famous for his satirical works, particularly Vanity Fair, a panoramic portrait of English society.-Biography:...

 in Fraser's Magazine
Fraser's Magazine
Fraser's Magazine for Town and Country was a general and literary journal published in London from 1830 to 1882, which initially took a strong Tory line in politics. It was founded by Hugh Fraser and William Maginn in 1830 and loosely directed by Maginn under the name Oliver Yorke until about 1840...

(February 1844) pronounced the book, "a national benefit and to every man or woman who reads it, a personal kindness. The last two people I heard speak of it were women; neither knew the other, or the author, and both said, by way of criticism, 'God bless him!'" Thackeray wrote about Tiny Tim, "There is not a reader in England but that little creature will be a bond of union between the author and him; and he will say of Charles Dickens, as the woman just now, 'GOD BLESS HIM!' What a feeling this is for a writer to inspire, and what a reward to reap!".

Even the caustic critic Theodore Martin
Theodore Martin
Sir Theodore Martin KCB KCVO was a Scottish poet, biographer, and translator.-Biography:Martin was the son of James Martin, a solicitor in Edinburgh, where Theodore was born and educated at the Royal High School and University...

 (who was usually virulently hostile to Dickens), spoke well of the book, noting it was "[...] finely felt, and calculated to work much social good". A few critics registered their complaints. The New Monthly Magazine
The New Monthly Magazine
The New Monthly Magazine was a British monthly magazine published by Henry Colburn between 1814 and 1884.-History:Colburn and Frederic Shoberl established The New Monthly Magazine and Universal Register as a "virulently Tory" competitor to Sir Richard Phillips' Monthly Magazine in 1814...

, for example, thought the book's physical magnificence kept it from being available to the poor and recommended the tale be printed on cheap paper and priced accordingly. The religious press generally ignored the tale but, in January 1884, Christian Remembrancer
Christian Remembrancer
The Christian Remembrancer was a high-church periodical which ran from 1819 to 1868. Joshua Watson and Henry Handley Norris, the owners of the British Critic, encouraged Frederick Iremonger to start the Christian Remembrancer as a monthly publication in 1819. Renn Dickson Hampden was briefly...

thought the tale's old and hackneyed subject was treated in an original way and praised the author's sense of humour and pathos. Dickens later noted that he received "by every post, all manner of strangers writing all manner of letters about their homes and hearths, and how the Carol is read aloud there, and kept on a very little shelf by itself". After Dickens' 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 actually made people behave better.

Americans were less enthusiastic at first. Dickens had wounded their national pride with American Notes for General Circulation and Martin Chuzzlewit
Martin Chuzzlewit
The Life and Adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit is a novel by Charles Dickens, considered the last of his picaresque novels. It was originally serialized between 1843-1844. Dickens himself proclaimed Martin Chuzzlewit to be his best work, but it was one of his least popular novels...

, but Carol was too compelling to be dismissed, and, by the end of the American Civil War
American Civil War
The American Civil War was a civil war fought in the United States of America. In response to the election of Abraham Lincoln as President of the United States, 11 southern slave states declared their secession from the United States and formed the Confederate States of America ; the other 25...

, copies of the book were in wide circulation. The New York Times
The New York Times
The New York Times is an American daily newspaper founded and continuously published in New York City since 1851. The New York Times has won 106 Pulitzer Prizes, the most of any news organization...

published an enthusiastic review in 1863 noting that the author brought the "old Christmas […] of bygone centuries and remote manor houses, into the living rooms of the poor of today" while the North American Review believed Dickens’s "fellow feeling with the race is his genius"; and John Greenleaf Whittier
John Greenleaf Whittier
John Greenleaf Whittier was an influential American Quaker poet and ardent advocate of the abolition of slavery in the United States. He is usually listed as one of the Fireside Poets...

 thought the book charming, "inwardly and outwardly".

For Americans, Scrooge’s redemption may have recalled that of the United States as it recovered from war, and the curmudgeon’s charitable generosity to the poor in the final pages a reflection of a similar generosity practised by Americans as they sought solutions to poverty. The book's issues are detectable from a slightly different perspective in Frank Capra
Frank Capra
Frank Russell Capra was a Sicilian-born American film director. He emigrated to the U.S. when he was six, and eventually became a creative force behind major award-winning films during the 1930s and 1940s...

's It's a Wonderful Life
It's a Wonderful Life
It's a Wonderful Life is a 1946 American Christmas drama film produced and directed by Frank Capra and based on the short story "The Greatest Gift" written by Philip Van Doren Stern....

(1946) and Scrooge is likely an influence upon Dr. Seuss
Dr. Seuss
Theodor Seuss Geisel was an American writer, poet, and cartoonist most widely known for his children's books written under the pen names Dr. Seuss, Theo LeSieg and, in one case, Rosetta Stone....

's How the Grinch Stole Christmas!
How the Grinch Stole Christmas!
How the Grinch Stole Christmas! is a children's story by Dr. Seuss written in rhymed verse with illustrations by the author. It was published as a book by Random House in 1957, and at approximately the same time in an issue of Redbook...

(1957).

Not all responses have been so positive, however. In 2000, conservative American philosopher Michael Levin
Michael Levin
Michael Levin is a philosophy professor at City University of New York. He has published on metaphysics, epistemology, race, homosexuality, animal rights, the philosophy of archaeology, the philosophy of logic, philosophy of language, and the philosophy of science.Levin's central research interests...

 published a libertarian critique of the story in which he attacks Dickens's "Big Lies" and defends Scrooge as "an entrepreneur whose ideas and practices benefit his employees, society at large, and himself."

Impact


Parley's Illuminated Library pirated the tale in January 1844, and, though Dickens sued and won his case, the literary pirates simply declared bankruptcy
Bankruptcy
Bankruptcy is a legal status of an insolvent person or an organisation, that is, one that cannot repay the debts owed to creditors. In most jurisdictions bankruptcy is imposed by a court order, often initiated by the debtor....

. Dickens was left to pay £700 in costs, equal to £ today. The entanglements of the various suits Dickens brought against the publishers, his resulting financial losses, and the slim profits from the sale of Carol, greatly disappointed Dickens. He felt a very special affection for the book's moral lesson and its message of love and generosity. In his tale of a man who is given a second chance to live a good life, he was demonstrating to his readers that they, too, could achieve a similar salvation in a selfish world that had blunted their generosity and compassion.

The novella was adapted for the stage almost immediately. Three productions opened on 5 February 1844 with one by Edward Stirling sanctioned by Dickens and running for more than forty nights. By the close of February 1844, eight rival Carol theatrical productions were playing in London. Stirling's version played New York City's Park Theater during the Christmas season of 1844 and was revived in London the same year. Hundreds of newsboys gathered for a musical version of the tale at the Chatham Theater in New York City in 1844 but brawling broke out which was only quelled when offenders were led off by police to The Tombs
The Tombs
"The Tombs" is the colloquial name for the Manhattan Detention Complex, a jail in Lower Manhattan at 125 White Street, as well as the popular name of a series of preceding downtown jails, the first of which was built in 1838 in the Egyptian Revival style of architecture.The nickname has been used...

. Even after order had been restored in the theatre, the clamorous cries of one youngster drowned out the bass drum that ushered Marley onto the stage as he rose through a trap door.Other media adaptations include film, a radio play, and a television version. In all there are at least 28 film versions of the tale. The earliest surviving one is Scrooge; or Marley's Ghost (1901), a silent British version.http://www.screenonline.org.uk/film/id/698299/index.html Six more silent versions followed with one made by Thomas Edison
Thomas Edison
Thomas Alva Edison was an American inventor and businessman. He developed many devices that greatly influenced life around the world, including the phonograph, the motion picture camera, and a long-lasting, practical electric light bulb. In addition, he created the world’s first industrial...

 in 1910. The first sound version was made in Britain in 1928. Albert Finney
Albert Finney
Albert Finney is an English actor. He achieved prominence in films in the early 1960s, and has maintained a successful career in theatre, film and television....

 won a Golden Globe as Scrooge in a musical film in 1970 but critical consensus deems the 1951 version starring Alastair Sim
Alastair Sim
Alastair George Bell Sim, CBE was a Scottish character actor who appeared in a string of classic British films. He is best remembered in the role of Ebenezer Scrooge in the 1951 film Scrooge, and for his portrayal of Miss Fritton, the headmistress in two St. Trinian's films...

 the very best adaptation on film (Kelly 28). Other media adaptations include a popular radio play version in 1934 starring Lionel Barrymore
Lionel Barrymore
Lionel Barrymore was an American actor of stage, screen and radio. He won an Academy Award for Best Actor for his performance in A Free Soul...

, an American television version from the 1940s, and, in 1949, the first commercial sound recording with Ronald Colman
Ronald Colman
Ronald Charles Colman was an English actor.-Early years:He was born in Richmond, Surrey, England, the second son and fourth child of Charles Colman and his wife Marjory Read Fraser. His siblings included Eric, Edith, and Marjorie. He was educated at boarding school in Littlehampton, where he...

 (Standiford 171–3).


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
Louisa May Alcott
Louisa May Alcott was an American novelist. She is best known for the novel Little Women and its sequels Little Men and Jo's Boys. Little Women was set in the Alcott family home, Orchard House in Concord, Massachusetts, and published in 1868...

 (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 gotten it wrong and needed to be corrected.

Dickens himself returned to the tale time and again during his life to tweak the phrasing and punctuation, and capitalized on the success of the book by annually publishing other Christmas stories in 1844, 1845, 1846, and 1848. The Chimes
The Chimes
The Chimes: A Goblin Story of Some Bells that Rang an Old Year Out and a New Year In, a short novel by Charles Dickens, was written and published in 1844, one year after A Christmas Carol and one year before The Cricket on the Hearth...

, The Cricket on the Hearth
The Cricket on the Hearth
The Cricket on the Hearth. A Fairy Tale of Home is a novella by Charles Dickens, published by Bradbury and Evans, and released 20  December 1845 with illustrations by Daniel Maclise, John Leech, Richard Doyle, Clarkson Stanfield and Edwin Henry Landseer. Dickens began writing the book around...

, The Battle of Life
The Battle of Life
The Battle of Life: A Love Story is a novella by Charles Dickens, first published in 1846. It is the fourth of his five "Christmas Books", coming after The Cricket on the Hearth and followed by The Haunted Man and the Ghost's Bargain....

, and The Haunted Man and the Ghost's Bargain were all based on the pattern laid down in Carol – a secular conversion tale laced with social injustice. While the public eagerly bought the later books, the critics bludgeoned them. Dickens himself questioned The Battle of Lifes worth.Dickens liked the title and once considered using it for another novel but chose A Tale of Two Cities
A Tale of Two Cities
A Tale of Two Cities is a novel by Charles Dickens, set in London and Paris before and during the French Revolution. With well over 200 million copies sold, it ranks among the most famous works in the history of fictional literature....

instead (Douglas-Fairhurst xxvi).

By 1849, Dickens was engaged with
David Copperfield
David Copperfield (novel)
The Personal History, Adventures, Experience and Observation of David Copperfield the Younger of Blunderstone Rookery , commonly referred to as David Copperfield, is the eighth novel by Charles Dickens, first published as a novel in 1850. Like most of his works, it originally appeared in serial...

and had neither the time nor the inclination to produce another Christmas book. Disappointed with those that followed Carol, he decided the best way to reach his audience with his 'Carol philosophy' was via public readings. In 1853, Carol was the text chosen for his first public reading with the performance an immense success. Thereafter, he read the tale in an abbreviated version 127 times, until 1870 (the year of his death) when it provided the material for his farewell performance.

Themes


Dickens wrote in the wake of British government changes to the welfare system known as the Poor Laws, changes which required among other things, welfare applicants to work on treadmills
Treadwheel
A treadwheel is a form of animal engine typically powered by humans. It may resemble a water wheel in appearance, and can be worked either by a human treading paddles set into its circumference , or by a human or animal standing inside it .Uses of treadwheels included raising water, to power...

. Dickens asks, in effect, for people to recognise the plight of those whom the Industrial Revolution has displaced and driven into poverty, and the obligation of society to provide for them humanely. Failure to do so, the writer implies through the personification of Ignorance and Want as ghastly children, will result in an unnamed "Doom" for those who, like Scrooge, believe their wealth and status qualifies them to sit in judgement of the poor rather than to assist them.

Some critics like Restad have suggested that Scrooge's redemption underscores what they see as the conservative, individualistic, and patriarchal aspects of Dickens's Carol philosophy', which propounded the idea of a more fortunate individual willingly looking after a less fortunate one. Personal moral conscience and individual action led in effect to a form of 'noblesse oblige
Noblesse oblige
Noblesse oblige is a French phrase literally meaning "nobility obliges".The Dictionnaire de l’Académie française defines it thus:# Whoever claims to be noble must conduct himself nobly....

' which was expected of those individuals of means.

Legacy


While the 'Merry Christmas' was popularized following the appearance of the story, and the name 'Scrooge
Ebenezer Scrooge
Ebenezer Scrooge is the principal character in Charles Dickens's 1843 novel, A Christmas Carol. At the beginning of the novel, Scrooge is a cold-hearted, tight-fisted and greedy man, who despises Christmas and all things which give people happiness...

' and exclamation 'Bah! Humbug!'
Humbug
Humbug is an old term meaning hoax or jest. While the term was first described in 1751 as student slang, its etymology is unknown. Its present meaning as an exclamation is closer to 'nonsense' or 'gibberish', while as a noun, a humbug refers to a fraud or impostor, implying an element of...

 have entered the English language, Ruth Glancy argues the book's singular achievement is the powerful influence it has exerted upon its readers. In the spring of 1844, The Gentleman's Magazine
The Gentleman's Magazine
The Gentleman's Magazine was founded in London, England, by Edward Cave in January 1731. It ran uninterrupted for almost 200 years, until 1922. It was the first to use the term "magazine" for a periodical...

attributed a sudden burst of charitable giving in Britain to Dickens's novella; in 1874, Robert Louis Stevenson
Robert Louis Stevenson
Robert Louis Balfour Stevenson was a Scottish novelist, poet, essayist and travel writer. His best-known books include Treasure Island, Kidnapped, and Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde....

 waxed enthusiastic after reading Dickens's Christmas books and vowed to give generously; and Thomas Carlyle
Thomas Carlyle
Thomas Carlyle was a Scottish satirical writer, essayist, historian and teacher during the Victorian era.He called economics "the dismal science", wrote articles for the Edinburgh Encyclopedia, and became a controversial social commentator.Coming from a strict Calvinist family, Carlyle was...

 expressed a generous hospitality by staging two Christmas dinners after reading the book. In America, a Mr. Fairbanks attended a reading on Christmas Eve in Boston
Boston
Boston is the capital of and largest city in Massachusetts, and is one of the oldest cities in the United States. The largest city in New England, Boston is regarded as the unofficial "Capital of New England" for its economic and cultural impact on the entire New England region. The city proper had...

, Massachusetts
Massachusetts
The Commonwealth of Massachusetts is a state in the New England region of the northeastern United States of America. It is bordered by Rhode Island and Connecticut to the south, New York to the west, and Vermont and New Hampshire to the north; at its east lies the Atlantic Ocean. As of the 2010...

 in 1867, and was so moved he closed his factory on Christmas Day and sent every employee a turkey. In the early years of the 20th century, the Queen of Norway sent gifts to London's crippled children signed "With Tiny Tim's Love"; Sir Squire Bancroft raised £20,000 for the poor by reading the tale aloud publicly; and Captain Corbett-Smith read the tale to the troops in the trenches of World War I.

According to historian Ronald Hutton
Ronald Hutton
Ronald Hutton is an English historian who specializes in the study of Early Modern Britain, British folklore, pre-Christian religion and contemporary Paganism. A reader in the subject at the University of Bristol, Hutton has published fourteen books and has appeared on British television and radio...

, the current state of observance of Christmas is largely the result of a mid-Victorian revival of the holiday spearheaded by A Christmas Carol. Hutton argues that Dickens sought to construct Christmas as a self-centred festival of generosity, in contrast to the community-based and church-centred observations, the observance of which had dwindled during the late 18th and early 19th centuries. In superimposing his secular vision of the holiday, Dickens influenced many aspects of Christmas that are celebrated today in Western culture, such as family gatherings, seasonal food and drink, dancing, games, and a festive generosity of spirit.

Adaptations


The story has been adapted to other media including film, opera, ballet, a Broadway musical (1979's Comin' Uptown, which featured an all African-American cast), a BBC
BBC
The British Broadcasting Corporation is a British public service broadcaster. Its headquarters is at Broadcasting House in the City of Westminster, London. It is the largest broadcaster in the world, with about 23,000 staff...

 mime production starring Marcel Marceau
Marcel Marceau
Marcel Marceau was an internationally acclaimed French actor and mime most famous for his persona as Bip the Clown.-Early years:...

, and Benjamin Britten
Benjamin Britten
Edward Benjamin Britten, Baron Britten, OM CH was an English composer, conductor, and pianist. He showed talent from an early age, and first came to public attention with the a cappella choral work A Boy Was Born in 1934. With the premiere of his opera Peter Grimes in 1945, he leapt to...

's 1947 chamber orchestra composition Men of Goodwill: Variations on 'A Christmas Carol.

External links