A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens was published on December 19 in 1843. The novella helped craft the modern version of Christmas with its focus on family, food, drink and giving. Scrooge has entered the lexicon for anyone who is mean and tight-fisted. We know where the phrase ‘Bah humbug’ originates, but did you know the book also popularised the 'Merry Christmas' greeting?
Ebenezer Scrooge is the miser who finds redemption after seeing the ghost of his old business partner Jacob Marley, and the spirits of Christmas Past, Present and Future.
The book's full original title is A Christmas Carol. In Prose. Being a Ghost Story of Christmas, but today it's just known as A Christmas Carol. For learning more about the classic story, the annotated edition of A Christmas Carol is a good place to start.
A Christmas Carol became a stage play within months of publication. It has been adapted numerous times for TV, film and radio. There’s the 2009 Disney film with Jim Carrey but Scrooge has also been played by Patrick Stewart, Albert Finney, Alistair Sim, and Basil Rathbone. There’s also a Mr Magoo Christmas Carol and a Muppets’ Christmas Carol.
The book’s illustrations helped craft the festive holiday that is celebrated today. Two artists, John Leech and Arthur Rackham, have been crucial in helping us visualize Tiny Tim, Scrooge, and the streets of Victorian London on Christmas Eve. Leech illustrated the Chapman & Hall first edition. Copies of this edition are highly collectable - AbeBooks sold one for $27,500 (approx. £20,000) in 2020. Arthur Rackham illustrated the Heinemann edition in 1915 – Rackham was a major name in the golden age of book illustration.
A Christmas Carol is part of Dickens’ Christmas Books series along with The Chimes, The Cricket on the Hearth, The Battle of Life and The Haunted Man and the Ghost's Bargain. These stories became part of Dickens’ reading tours in the 1850s and 1860s.
There are several pop-up editions. We recommend Little Brown’s edition with paper engineering by Bruce Foster and illustrations by Chuck Fischer.