Monday 19 December 2011

A Christmas Carol

"It was said of Scrooge that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge.  May that be said of us, and all of us!"

It sold 6000 copies within the first three days in print, it has never been out of print and it has been adapted to the stage, film, and opera.  Charles Dickens' novella, A Christmas Carol, was first published on December 19, 1843 during a time when England was experiencing a nostalgia for Christmas after the Cromwell years when the holiday was banned.  In 1820, writer Washington Irving had written The Keeping of Christmas at Bracebridge Hall.  In 1837, Thomas K. Hervey had penned The Book of Christmas.  Both books influenced the average Brit's view of Christmas.  In 1841, Queen Victoria married Prince Albert who would bring many of his native-German traditions to Britain including the Christmas tree and Christmas carols.  He also sent the first Christmas card. 

So England was ripe for A Christmas Carol which Dickens originally intended on publishing as a political pamphlet condemning English consumerism and capitalism.  The famous author's father had been thrown into Debtors' Prison when he was a lad, forcing him to quit school and go to work in a factory.  Furthermore, he visited a Cornish tin mine and the Field Lane Ragged School, appalled by the conditions at both locations.  Making his passionate plea, Charles Dickens poured out his story within the space of six weeks.  Many historians maintain that his story of the Cratchit's, based loosely on his own family, changed the way that the English would celebrate Christmas:  what used to be a sacred festival reserved for the confines of the church became a family festival also celebrated at home.  What was once neglected and even ignored, became the most popular celebration of the year.  It was heartwarming to see a family as poor as the Cratchit's praising God and celebrating Christ's birthday. 

Charles Dickens reserved the best line of his novella for last:  "And so, as Tiny Tim observed, God Bless us, Every One!"

Drawing courtesy

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