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A Christmas tradition

An anonymous contributor to Wikipedia believes that Charles Dickens wrote A Christmas Carol as a potboiler, to pay off a debt. In contrast, Mark D. Roberts writes,

In October 1843 a trip to Manchester poured fuel on the flame of Dickens’s passion for the poor. As he spoke at the Athenaeum, an institution devoted to caring for the poor in Manchester, Dickens's heart was strangely moved. . .So in October Dickens began to write A Christmas Carol. According to his own testimony, his writing of this short book was rather a spiritual experience.

Dickens always wanted to make money writing a book since, like all of us, he needed money to live. But I think he fell under the same spell as his readers, and fell in love with the story. I guess his inspiration – like “a bright, clear jet of light” – came to him as a gift. He finished the book in less than two months.

He sent out advanced presentation copies on December 17, 1843. (The official release date was the 19th.) By the 22nd, he had sold every copy. It would be a bestseller for the next 150 years, and be adapted for film, theatre, and television. A Christmas Carol evokes almost every British Christmas tradition, especially the one Dickens considered most important and almost single-handedly reestablished – giving to those in need.

In a delectable turn of events, reading the Carol or seeing it performed has itself become part of Christmas tradition in English-speaking countries. I am going to bring the story to my small cousin Sarah this Christmas, and hand the “bright, clear jet of light” to her.


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