This week marks marks the 170th anniversary of Charles Dickens’s novella, A Christmas Carol. It also marks the nine-year anniversary of Tim Allen’s The Santa Clause. Hard to choose which one to commemorate, really, but let’s go with A Christmas Carol—sorry, Tim! After all, this classic story not only introduced the world to Ebenezer Scrooge and vilified capitalism, it also breathed nearly two centuries of merriment into what was once a somber holiday. Want to know more about what went on behind the publishing of the holiday classic? We made a list and checked it twice…
1. Writers’ block? Bah humbug!
If you’re an aspiring writer, you may want to step away from your Macbook Pro and get another skim latte before reading on. Despite the book’s literary immortality, it only took Charles Dickens about a month to write A Christmas Carol. And if that wasn’t enough to make you feel like a deadbeat, the author rarely worked past two in the afternoon and took frequent walks of up to 20 miles late at night to clear his head.
2. There is nothing wrong with self publishing. (As long as you’re Charles Dickens.)
When publishing houses turned down Dickens’s holiday story, he decided to go at it alone and managed the editing, printing, and marketing all by himself. Not one to be a miser, Dickens kept the price of the book low to make it as affordable as possible. The strategy was a failure; although the book sold well, the low price made it difficult for him to turn a profit.
3. Even Dickens had to deal with piracy.
Believe it or not, artists in the 19th century also had to contend with people bootlegging their work. Only a couple months after the publication of the yuletide tale, Parley’s Illuminated Library published a condensed edition of Dickens’s story titled A Christmas Ghost Story and sold it for just a penny per copy. Dickens filed a lawsuit against the publisher, which forced them to declare bankruptcy. Although victorious, the author’s legal fees outstripped his book earnings, and he soon found himself in debt.
4. Seasons greetings…
Charles Dickens is said to have popularized the phrase “Merry Christmas” thanks to its repeated use in the book. Without his phrasing we could very well have been wishing each other a “Happy Christmas,” which only sounds slightly less laughable than “Happy Festivus.”
5. The original manuscript lives on.
For his manuscript of A Christmas Carol, Dickens penned the story in black ink, using his customary goose quill. The 68-page text shows the feverish pace with which he wrote: hundreds of revisions were made and his notes are often indecipherable (Tiny Tim was almost originally named Little Fred—who knew?). Digital scans of the manuscript are available from the Morgan Library and Museum in New York. In 2011, the original manuscript received extensive treatment by conservators at the museum.