A Christmas Carol
Dickens, Charles. A Christmas Carol: In Prose: Being a Ghost Story of
Christmas . Illus. John Leech. London, 1844. Print.
In 1843, with his fifth child on the way, Dickens was short of money and
hit upon the idea of writing a short Christmas novel as a quick way to
increase the balance of his bank account, writing the book in only six
weeks. Because he lavished care on it, even insisting on hand-colored
plates, it brought in only a fraction of the profit he had hoped despite
many copies being sold.
Appearing on December 19, 1843, it was an instant success, going through
many re-printings in the following months, and has never been out of
print. The Carol has been described as “the most perfect work Dickens
ever wrote.” Ebenezer Scrooge is far and away Dickens’s best-known
character, even among people who have never read Dickens.
There are some over-enthusiastic fans who say that Dickens invented
Christmas. The fact is that among the upper classes of Victorian
Britain, the celebration of Christmas had been muted since the Puritans’
“war on Christmas” during their rule (1642–1660). What Dickens did was
to make Christmas celebrations respectable again and restore the joy and
warmth of the season.
This first edition is bound in a publisher’s embossed and textured brown
cloth with a gilt wreath and titles on the cover and with gilt titles
and decorations on the spine. The title page incorrectly identifies this
as a fourth edition; it was likely the fourth printing of the first
edition from the original form.
Of the eight illustrations in the first edition of A Christmas Carol
none is better known than “Fezziwig’s Ball,” considered to be the most
popular non-secular image of the holiday.
Doctor Marigold’s Prescriptions
Dickens, Charles. Doctor Marigold’s Prescriptions: The Extra
Christmas Number of All the Year Round. London, 1865. Print.
With the tremendous success of A Christmas Carol, Dickens saw the
potential of offering Christmas stories during the holiday season. Each
year he produced a special “extra Christmas number” of Household
Words, employing a frame plot to bring together a series of stories by
a variety of writers. The Christmas number typically sold around 300,000
This 48-page volume is bound in blue paper wrappers and contains a
tipped-in notice of the completion of Our Mutual Friend, with other
works advertised on the reverse of the notice. Doctor Marigold’s
Prescriptions was written in collaboration with other writers; of the
eight chapters, chapters I, VI, and VII are by Dickens.