The History of “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens

One of the most well-known stories that comes around every holiday season is “A Christmas Carol,” by Charles Dickens. Although many people enjoying hearing the story every December and appreciate being reminded of the lessons that the story teaches, few understand the backstory and history of the famous piece. A Crossroads In Dickens’ Career In the fall of 1843, Charles Dickens was 31 years old and struggling to figure out where to take his writing career. He had achieved success early in his career with “Oliver Twist,” but more recent text like “Martin Chuzzlewit” had turned out to be not nearly as prosperous. Not only was Dickens’ popularity dwindling, but he was also facing pressure to provide for his family, as his wife was pregnant with their fifth child. There was no doubt that Dickens needed to produce a memorable piece. But, even he could not have predicted the success that “A Christmas Carol” would go on to have. Not only did it turn into Dickens’ most well-known piece, but it also had a lasting cultural impact for hundreds of years. To this day, people turn to the story to remind them about the true meaning of Christmas. Where Did Dickens Get The Idea For The Story? Dickens’ drew upon his life experiences to help create the story. He was inspired to create a tale that brought attention to the widespread poverty that was destroying London at the time. Dickens, who himself grew up poor, had always had a soft spot for the poor of England. Reflecting on his parent’s struggles with poverty, Dickens wrote, “My whole nature was so penetrated with grief and humiliation.” In the mid-1800’s, London was in the middle of transforming to an industrialized society, often resulting in people, including children, performing back-breaking labor for up to 16 hours a day, six or seven days a week. Malnutrition and unemployment were both rising drastically. In Dickens’ mind, the point of “A Christmas Carol” was to address the greed and callousness that he had seen become a tremendous problem in London’s society. When describing Dickens, author Michael Slater wrote, “He had an idea of the state as a bad and neglectful parent of the poor.” Fun Facts About “A Christmas Carol” It took Dickens about a month-and-a-half to write the story. However, he often wrote for five to six hours a day before taking a long walk. Dickens considered these to be “brainstorming” walks. They would sometimes last up to 20 minutes. There was no first draft of the piece. Using black ink and goose quill, Dickens wrote the book in one effort, adding any necessary corrections to the margins. In 1897, more than five decades after Dickens penned the piece, entrepreneur J.P. Morgan purchased the original manuscript. The Morgan Library and Museum in New York City continues to house the original story to this day. During the winter months, the museum tends to put the manuscript on display for guests to see. Last year, the museum set up an entire exhibit dedicated to the famed author entitled, “Charles Dickens and the Spirit of Christmas.”