It was 170 years ago this month that Ebenezer Scrooge and “Bah! Humbug!” became part of our holiday fabric. Charles Dickens published A Christmas Carol in 1843, and even though it has been around for ages and adapted to film well over a 100 times, there still may be some things you don’t know about the classic novel.
For instance, Dickens wrote the novella, had an illustrator create drawings, published the book and had it in bookstores in six weeks. He began working on it in October and it went on sale on December 17, 1843, just in time for the holidays.
Dickens’ regular publishers did not care much for his short holiday tale, so Dickens did it all himself including editing and printing, binding and advertising. He kept the price low so the masses could afford it. He hoped to make 1,000 British pounds from the printing, but because of the low price he insisted on charging he ended up losing 137 British pounds; an estimated loss of $667 in U.S. dollars at the time.
Though he is a central character, Tiny Tim’s exact illness is never revealed. Literary scholars speculated that he had rickets, but others suggested he may have had a kidney ailment.
Nevertheless, the scene in which Tiny Tim dies during the visit of the Ghost of Christmas Future was perceived as so sad to 19th century Londoners that a critic at a public reading of the story in 1868 said the handkerchiefs that came out following Tiny Tim’s demise looked like a snowstorm inside the meeting hall.
And perhaps the most amazing fact about A Christmas Carol is that ever since Dickens scraped together enough of his own money to share his morality tale with the world, it has never been out of print. That is a 170-year publishing streak.
But it’s no wonder that Dickens’ story has become such an important part of many folks’ holiday traditions, whether through an annual reading or screening of any of the multitude of film versions. My favorite is the original 1951 British film Scrooge starring Alastair Sim, released that same year in the United States as A Christmas Carol.
My first recollection of the film was in the early 60’s, watching with my parents, brother, and sister. Today, though I can almost repeat each scene verbatim, I am still moved by the film’s message of hope and forever reminded of the true meaning and spirit of the holiday season.
God bless us everyone!