aprilhenry (aprilhenry) wrote,

163 years later, the story still works

Yesterday was the anniversary of the first publication of A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens. While I still firmly believe it's a mistake to write to the market, that's what Dickens did. His previous novel, Martin Chuzzlewit, had flopped, and he was suddenly strapped for cash. Martin Chuzzlewit had been satirical and pessimistic, and Dickens thought he might be more successful if he wrote a heartwarming tale with a holiday theme.

He wrote the book in just six weeks, struggling to get it done in time for Christmas. He no longer had a publisher so he published the book himself, ordering illustrations, gilt-edged pages and a lavish red bound cover. He priced the book at just 5 shillings, in hopes of making it affordable to everyone. It was released within a week of Christmas and was a huge success. In the first few days it sold 6,000 copies, and it went into a second and then a third printing.

Some people credit the book with revitalizing Christmas. It was in the middle of the Industrial Revoluion, and most people had to work as many as 16 hours a day. Most people couldn't afford to celebrate Christmas, and Puritans believed it was a sin to do so. But A Christmas Carol helped return some of the old traditions of feasting, family, and spreading cheer.

Charles Dickens wrote, "I have always thought of Christmas time, as ... the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys."

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Tags: dickens
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