“Oh! But he was a tight-fisted hand at the grindstone, Scrooge! a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous, old sinner! Hard and sharp as flint, from which no steel had ever struck out generous fire; secret, and self-contained, and solitary as an oyster.”
This week in 1843, A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens was first published by Chapman and Hall in London. This has become one of the most pervasive, most adapted stories ever written. In fact, it’s so woven into our common cultural thread that I never bothered to read the actually story. Yes, I’ve seen the Muppet version and Scrooged is one of my favorite all-time movies. But when I recently watched the Jim Carrey/Robert Zemeckis version with my oldest daughter, I wondered why I’d never bothered to read Dickens’ words.
This prompted me to download the story, after which I devoured it. A Christmas Carol is a fascinating snapshot of London in the mid-nineteenth century, and it’s easy to see why it was an instant hit. The story is poignant, funny, sad, exciting…everything you want in a novella. And talk about a hero’s journey!
“The cold within him froze his old features, nipped his pointed nose, shrivelled his cheek, stiffened his gait; made his eyes red, his thin lips blue; and spoke out shrewdly in his grating voice. A frosty rime was on his head, and on his eyebrows, and his wiry chin. He carried his own low temperature always about with him; he iced his office in the dog-days; and didn’t thaw it one degree at Christmas.”
So how much do you know about the story? Here are some interesting facts I discovered about A Christmas Carol:
1) Dickens wrote it in just six weeks.
2) It cemented “Merry Christmas” into the popular vernacular, instead of “Happy Christmas.”
3) It sold out its initial run of 6,000 copies in less than a week.
4) The book has never been out of print.
5) Dickens published the work at his own expense.
6) It was pirated in 1844, and Dickens sued the publishers. He won the suit but had to cover the court costs after the publisher declared bankruptcy.
7) It was adapted for the stage almost immediately, with three productions opening in early 1844. Dickens himself performed the tale on stage many times over the years.
8) It was first adapted for film in 1901 with the short British film, Scrooge, or, Marley’s Ghost.
9) The first animated Christmas special ever telecast was Mister Magoo’s Christmas Carol in 1962.
10) In the original draft, Tiny Tim was almost named “Little Fred.”
Have you read the story? If not, what’s your favorite adaptation?