Friday, December 24, 2010

A Small Success Story

Charles Dickens, 1842.

On a cold and drizzly winter day in December, a small novella, A Christmas Carol in Prose: Being a Ghost Story of Christmas, debuted in England. The book, known far and wide now by the name, A Christmas Carol, was to become a huge best-seller for Charles Dickens.

At the time of its writing, however, things were bleak for the young writer. His last book, Martin Chuzzlewit, was a commercial failure. Dickens, broke and without a publisher, cast about for a new story. Since Martin Chuzzlewit was a cynical story, he decided his next book should be the opposite. In October of 1843 he began the story of cold-hearted Ebenezer Scrooge, a man who is shown the true meaning of the Christmas spirit.

First edition title page, 1843.

Dickens scrambled to complete the story before Christmas. Since he had lost his publisher, he published the book himself, giving it a merry red cover and gilt-edged pages. The novella sold for five shillings, making it affordable for nearly everyone and nearly everyone, it seemed, bought a copy. It was released on December 19, and was a sell-out within the first few days, selling all six-thousand copies. It went into a second, and a third, printing that season.

A Christmas Carol is a holiday tradition these days. It has spawned plays, movies and television dramas. The very name “Scrooge” is synonymous with penny-pinching miserly behavior. Did Dickens ever dream his story would still be captivating readers one-hundred and sixty-seven years after he wrote it? I think if the Ghost of Christmas Present were to visit him and show him where his little novella has gone, he’d be astounded.

Happy Holidays from all of us at All The World’s Our Page. May the Christmas spirit be with you all year long.


  1. The longevity of the story is amazing, isn't it? As well as the variety of its incarnations - I mean, I remember watching a Barbie version of it with Miss Six this time last year! LOL

    Have a wonderful Christmas, Susan. :-)

  2. Thanks, Susan. I never knew the story behind the story.

  3. Lovely, Susan.
    (er, is it me or does young Charles Dickens look like Alan Rickman playing Severus Snape?)
    I have a joke for you... One of DH's uncles told this joke yesterday; I have no idea what made him think of it in the middle of Christmas.
    So, after the Viet Nam War, the government decided to help vets by giving them money according to how much they were injured, based on the number of inches their injuries were spread across.
    One day, three soldiers showed up at the office. The first soldier said, I'm injured from my forehead all the way to my toes. So the officer measured him and said, 72 inches therefore you get 72000 dollars.
    The second soldier said, I'm injured from my fingernails all the way to my toenails. So he was measured all the way up his arms and then down, and the officer said, 92 inches therefore you get 92000 dollars.
    The third soldier said, I'm injured all the way from my penis to my testicles.
    The officer said, are you sure? We pay by the inch you know.
    And the soldier said, oh yes, I'm sure.
    So the officer knelt down and measured, four inches, five inches, six inches... then he stood up and asked, where are your testicles?
    The officer shrugged and said, I don't know - somewhere in Viet Nam.