A Christmas Carol

Charles-Dickens-dream
Dickens Dream – painting by Robert William Buss painted 1875

Today we’ll talk a bit about the famous Christmas tale, A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens. Be sure to read to the end because you might win a holiday gift. I’m giving away two free e-books and author Patricia Sands has kindly agreed to offer two of her new e-books to some lucky readers. You won’t want to miss it.

A Christmas Carol

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens might just be the best known Christmas story out there. Most of us know about the miserly Mr. Scrooge whose reply to all things Christmassy or charitable is “Bah! Humbug!” He hasn’t an ounce of kindness in his cold heart for those less fortunate than himself. But then, on Christmas Eve, he is visited, in a dream, by three ghosts: the ghosts of Christmas Past, Christmas Present, and Christmas Yet to Come.

A-Christmas-Carol-Scrooge-and-ghost
Scrooge and ghost of Marley

The Ghosts

These ghosts force Scrooge to view his selfish past actions, and he gets a glimpse into the life of his clerk, Bob Cratchit. He sees how this family celebrates Christmas with love in their hearts, even though they are poor and have a sick child. Then Scrooge is forced to look at what his own future will be if he doesn’t change his ways. It’s a sad one. No one attends his funeral and some people are even happy at his demise.

Scrooge is shaken up and sad to see what he has become. When he wakes from his dream, he’s a changed man and vows to make amends for his past deeds.

Victorian Society

The story is written in the form of a novella and its full title is A Christmas Carol. In Prose. Being a Ghost Story of Christmas. It’s a short book with a long title that had a big influence on Victorian society.

A-Christmas-Carol Scrooge and ghost of Christmas Present
Scrooge and Ghost of Christmas Present

In the early 1800s London was a city filled with poverty and misery. It was a time of debtors’ prisons, workhouses, and child labor. There was no compassion. If people were poor, it was surely from their own doing and they had to suffer the consequences.

Children were not excluded from those consequences. The concept of childhood, as we know it today, didn’t exist. Poor children were put to work in mines and factories as soon as they were able – often around the age of six. It wasn’t unusual for younger and smaller ones to be lowered down chimneys to clean them.

At this time, in the UK, Christmas wasn’t widely celebrated. Cromwell and the Puritans had outlawed many Christmas traditions a few hundred years earlier. And even though Cromwell was long gone, the Christmas celebrations were slow to return, and for many people, December 25th wasn’t even a day off work.

Christmas Carol Scrooge and ghost
Scrooge is visited by ghost of Marley

Why this Book?

The condition of the Victorian poor was a subject close to Dickens’ heart because of his own boyhood experience. When Charles was around eleven years old, the Dickens family fell on hard times. Young Charles was sent to a boot black factory to work off the family’s debt and get his parents and siblings out of debtors’ prison. This experience made him forever charitable to the poor.

In 1843 when Dickens read a parliamentary report about how the Industrial Revolution had increased the number of young children working and the awful conditions they worked in, it set his blood boiling. He intended to write a scathing speech in response to it, but then he had a better idea. He would write something with more impact. He would write a story. A story that would prick the social conscience of Victorian England.

Dickens at his desk
Charles Dickens at his writing desk

Writing the Book

When the idea for A Christmas Carol, began to form in Dickens mind, it was late October or early November. There wasn’t much time left before Christmas. His publishers didn’t want to take on the project because Christmas was a minor holiday, and they didn’t think there would be an audience for it. In addition, they didn’t think there was enough time to get it written and published before Christmas.

They had no faith in the project, but Dickens did, and he decided to pay for the publication himself. For the next six weeks, he wrote like a man possessed. On 19 December 1843, just six weeks after he began writing it, A Christmas Carol was published. The first batch of 6,000 copies sold out in a week.

Dickens victorian christmas
Happy Victorian Christmas

Effects of the Book

Dickens’ little book had the desired effect. It showed the Victorians the importance of families being together and of being kind to everyone. It did, indeed, prick the conscience of society and caused people to reevaluate how they treated the poor among them.Charitable giving increased almost immediately after the book’s publication.

Lord Jeffrey, editor of the Edinburgh Review, wrote to Dickens: “Blessings on your kind heart… you may be sure you have done more good by this little publication, fostered more kindly feelings, and prompted more positive acts of beneficence, than can be traced to all the pulpits and confessionals in Christendom.”

A Christmas Carol  became Dickens’ most popular work. It has been published in many editions, translated into several languages, and has never been out of print. The story has been adapted for stage, film, and tv more than any of his other books.

It has even had an influence on our language: The name “Scrooge” has become synonymous with miser. The book also popularized the sayings, “Merry Christmas” and “Bah Humbug!”

*There’s a good film about the writing of A Christmas Carol called The Man Who Invented Christmas. It came out in 2017 and it’s on Netflix in the UK. Have a look at it if you get a chance.

Happy Holidays to All!

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BOOKS – You can find more of my curious histories in my books.

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How Charles Dickens changed Christmas
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Margo Lestz

Margo has authored four books about France. She has a BA in Liberal Studies with International Emphasis and enjoys travel, languages, history, writing, and experiencing other cultures.

6 comments

  1. Dear Margo:

    Thanks for the wonderful offers! A happy coincidence: my library’s historical book club just finished reading “The Man Who Invented Christmas.” At least in the book, one picks up Dickens’ prime motivation for writing the book: his latest books were failing to sell as well as the earlier ones, and given his many expenses, he was looking at heading for debtors’ prison, the bane of his childhood experience with his own father. I was unaware of the movie until you mentioned it. I just learned one can watch it on youtube for $3.99: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_nnCWfSWsVo
    Thanks again! Merry Christmas, everyone!

    1. Oh, how interesting. I hadn’t realized that the movie was based on a book. In the film it also shows his financial problems. Oliver Twist had been a big success, but his next three books were flops. Then along came A Christmas Carol…
      I’ve been to see his house here is London a few times, but I think I’ll go back this year. I like to go around Christmas time.
      Your name is in the pot for the drawings, so Good Luck! and Merry Christmas!

  2. I never tire of reading Dickens novels. Thank you for your interesting blogs, I do enjoy them. I was amazed you have moved to London from Nice, I hope you are loving it, it’s so easy to visit Nice from UK if you get withdrawal. Merry Christmas.

    1. Hi Lesley, You’ve just made me realise that I’ve never read Dickens! Oh My! I’ve seen his works on screen many times but I’ve never actually read his own words. I’ll have to remedy that right now. I’ve just downloaded A Christmas Carol so I can read it the way Charles meant for it to be read. Thanks so much for that.
      And yes, I’m enjoying London. Actually, I’ll probably go to Paris more now. It’s so easy and fast on the train from here.
      Wishing you a very Merry Christmas!
      Margo

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