A Christmas Carol Trivia
Charley Dickens said, “My father was always at his best at Christmas.” Charles Dickens loved to celebrate Christmas. His favorite time during the holidays was Twelfth Night, the feast of the Epiphany.
Early in 1843, as a response to a government report on the abuse of child laborers in mines and factories, Dickens vowed he would strike a “sledge-hammer blow . . . on behalf of the Poor Man’s Child.”
That sledge-hammer was A Christmas Carol.
It only took Dickens about six weeks to write A Christmas Carol.
Tiny Tim and Bob Cratchit helped speed up the process. When Dickens wrote he “saw” his characters much like the way that young Ebenezer Scrooge saw the characters from the books he had read.
As Dickens wrote A Christmas Carol he said that the Cratchits were “ever tugging at his coat sleeve, as if impatient for him to get back to his desk and continue the story of their lives”.
“Old Marley was as dead as a door-nail.” This line appears toward the beginning of the novel. Dickens included this because of a dream.
He had dreamt that one of his good friends was pronounced to be “as dead Sir . . . as a door-nail”.
“If you were free to-day, to-morrow, yesterday, can even I believe that you would choose a dowerless girl.”
Belle says the above to Scrooge in Stave Two of A Christmas Carol. A dowery is a gift given by the bride’s parents to the newly married couple.
To marry a dowerless girl means that no money, property or goods would be given by the bride’s parents to the groom or couple. It means that the groom would be marrying for love.
The Cratchit family is based on Dickens’s childhood home life.
He lived in poor circumstances in a “two up two down” four-roomed house which he shared with his parents and five siblings.
Like Peter Cratchit, young Charles, the eldest boy, was often sent to pawn the family’s goods when money was tight. Also, like many poor families, the Cratchit’s had nothing in which to roast meat. They relied on the ovens of their local baker which were available on Sundays and Christmas when the bakery was closed.
A Christmas Carol was first published in 1843. Initially, six thousand copies of the book were printed. More copies were ordered after the first printing was sold in only five days.
Technically speaking, A Christmas Carol was published by Chapman & Hall. However, in an interesting turn of events, Dickens paid the publishing costs himself. There was an unusual agreement between the two parties.
Dickens would fund the publication of A Christmas Carol and would receive the profits. Chapman & Hall would be paid for the printing costs and receive a fixed commission on the number of copies sold.
One literary critic called A Christmas Carol a “national institution”.
Dickens’s friend and fellow author, William Makepeace Thackeray, was quick to correct the critic and call the book a “national benefit”.
At the time Dickens wrote A Christmas Carol Christmas wasn’t commonly celebrated as a festive holiday.
In The Pickwick Papers and A Christmas Carol Dickens’s descriptions of feasting, games and family unity combined with his message that Christmas was a time “when want is keenly felt and abundance rejoices” helped revive popular interest in many Christmas traditions that are still practiced today.
Some trivia items were contributed by John D. Huston