The Man Who Invented Christmas: How Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol Rescued His Career and Revived Our Holiday Spirits

The Man Who Invented Christmas: How Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol Rescued His Career and Revived Our Holiday Spirits

Les Standiford

Language: English

Pages: 122

ISBN: 2:00193747

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

As uplifting as the tale of Scrooge itself, this is the story of how one writer and one book revived the signal holiday of the Western world.

Just before Christmas in 1843, a debt-ridden and dispirited Charles Dickens wrote a small book he hoped would keep his creditors at bay. His publisher turned it down, so Dickens used what little money he had to put out A Christmas Carol himself. He worried it might be the end of his career as a novelist.

The book immediately caused a sensation. And it breathed new life into a holiday that had fallen into disfavor, undermined by lingering Puritanism and the cold modernity of the Industrial Revolution. It was a harsh and dreary age, in desperate need of spiritual renewal, ready to embrace a book that ended with blessings for one and all.

With warmth, wit, and an infusion of Christmas cheer, Les Standiford whisks us back to Victorian England, its most beloved storyteller, and the birth of the Christmas we know best. The Man Who Invented Christmas is a rich and satisfying read for Scrooges and sentimentalists alike.

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Grub is described as “an ill-conditioned, cross-grained, surly fellow—a morose and lonely man, who consorted with nobody but himself, and an old wicker bottle which fitted into his large deep waistcoat pocket.” He is the sort of fellow who raps a carol-singing urchin’s head with his knuckles, and who delights to find a coffin arrived at his graveyard on the holiday: “A coffin at Christmas! A Christmas Box. Ho! Ho! Ho!” Yet after Grub is mystically spirited away by the goblins and treated to a

reunited with his long-lost fiancée, while one of the Webb versions culminated in a near-riot when the three Spirits of Christmas came back on stage to join such stalwarts as Puck, Punch, Pan, and Apollo in a veritable chorus-line grand finale. Stirling’s authorized version actually crossed the Atlantic, where it was performed at the Park Theater in New York City during the Christmas season of 1844. And revivals of both the Webb and Stirling versions were again mounted in London that season. If

installments over many months, would have a much longer shelf-life in the popular entertainment consciousness. One other influence particular to Dickens’s time is also worth considering. Even though the Theatre Act of 1843 weakened government influence over theatrical productions, the office of the Examiner of Plays still remained, wielding considerable influence over what appeared on stage, with subject matter that suggested the merest possibility of the profane receiving special scrutiny.

just what to make of it all. Perhaps most significant, however, was the decision to leave Christmas out of the proceedings. Dickens understandably wanted to achieve the same emotional effect in his audiences without appearing to produce an outright copy of his first holiday tale, but proud as he was to have found the “machinery” of The Chimes, he did not take into account the effect of cutting himself off from some two thousand years of mythic power and buried emotion by leaving Christmas

misfortune and his experience at Warren’s a secret from everyone but his wife and Forster, who did not make them public until his publication of the Life of Charles Dickens following the writer’s death. And while passages in David Copperfield and Little Dorrit would draw even more directly upon these memories, in Oliver Twist, readers saw for the first time the power of what many critics consider the most profound influence on Dickens’s adult life and art. Interpreting a work of art based upon

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