On December 19th 1843, a small, slim volume of a book was published. With a red cloth cover, gilt edgings and priced at five shillings, the cost of printing had to be born by Dickens himself. His Publishers, shy after the woeful success (or lack of it) of Martin Chuzzlewit, refused to pay for the printing. Only 6,000 copies were printed in that first run.
They were sold out by Christmas Eve, and by the end of 1844 were on to their eleventh edition. The book has not been out of print since.
If you’ve read any of my past posts at Christmas time, you must know by now that I am an absolute A Christmas Carol fan: I’ve loved it since first meeting via the musical Scrooge… or it could have been the BBC version starring Michael Hordern… or the 1951 Alastair Sim version…. whichever, it was a story I loved then and love even more now. My family know when I’m feeling stressed, because I will put on The Muppet Christmas Carol and sing along even if the sun is cracking the flags and we’re celebrating Midsummer. I have several different audio versions, and I’ve listened to so many more. I know this book inside and out, almost.
A Christmas Carol is currently on the GCSE syllabus in the UK, and I object very strongly to that. I don’t think it’s a book that should be studied at schools, although it should be read. It’s not a book that should be dissected and reduced to a pile of notes on character, themes, motifs and other linguistic oddities, or at least not in classrooms with the bored and the brassed off, where it’s just another text to rip apart. A Christmas Carol is like a fine wine: to be savoured, rolled slowly around the mouth, the bouquet when it first hits you as important as the trace of berries and liquorice that is left. And like the best wines, it should improve with ageing, both its own and ours. Reduce it to a list of quotes to learn and a set of practice questions and you lose the impact of the whole.
But we do have plenty still to learn from it, and I read it in print version at least once a year. Placing it within the context of its own time and applying the principles to the context of our own time make for uneasy thinking sometimes… how, after 175+ years do we still have poverty, starvation and an underclass in our own country? But uneasy reading makes for people seeking a solution, and even in the brightest, most abundant times of the year we need to keep an eye open for those in need, and to keep our hearts open to loving and helping our fellow men.
A Christmas Carol was the subject of a series of blogposts on my blog the first year I was writing. I do have them, in extended version and with even more material, available in paperback and ebook version as A Christmas Carol by Jo Kneale and Charles Dickens (the cheek!) but in case you missed them the first time round, here are the links to the original posts:
My Christmas Present to You: A Christmas Carol in Ten Parts.
A Christmas Carol Part 1: You Can’t Have the Light Without the Dark
A Christmas Carol Part 2: What is Christmas? It depends on your Point of View.
A Christmas Carol Part 3: Christmas isn’t a Selfish Festival.
A Christmas Carol Part 4: Loneliness is not hygge, but Solitude can Be.
A Christmas Carol Part 5: Christmas Parties are Hygge.
A Christmas Carol Part 6: Family is Hygge
A Christmas Carol Part 7: Food is Hygge, Abundance is Hygge, but it’s Got to Be Used Right.
A Christmas Carol Part 8: The World is Ready To Smile
A Christmas Carol Part 9: Family Means Nobody Left Behind.
A Christmas Carol Part 10: It’s Never Too Late
Of course, the first quote above (that ACC is foolproof) isn’t absolutely correct. People have messed it up (the 2001 animated version with mice in proves that even the best cast can produce a dud) but more people have made a better version than not. If you really want my top versions in different media, here they are:
Film Versions: The Muppet Christmas Carol: (1992) Ideal introduction to The Muppets and Dickens.
Scrooge: (1971) With Albert Finney as Scrooge, and music by Leslie Bricusse, this is a regular watch as well.
Scrooge: (1951) Alastair Sim in an undoubted classic version of the film.
Audio Versions: Tom Baker reads an unabridged Carol that is perfectly paced and very, very listenable to.
Paul Schofield and Ralph Richardson star in an abridged version that, at just under thehour, is long enough for most children to enjoy.
Daily Read: Really? You want more? Okay, try this one: A Christmas Carol: Inspirations for Behavioural Interventions?
Daily Book: Not the straight version, but a history of the book, A Christmas Carol: The Unsung Story by Brian Sibley tells how Dickens came to write the book and of its impact afterwards. It’s sadly out of print, but there are copies to be had on the second hand market.
Self-Care Act For the Day: Do a Scrooge: wrap up warm and, as dusk falls, go out into the street, look up and down at the houses and windows you pass by, greet everybody with a smile and a Merry Christmas. In a non-Covid year I’d suggest taking a pocketful of candy canes out and giving them away, but for this year a smile and a wave will have to do. Enjoy other people celebrating: and enjoy the world as it is.
How to Hygge the British Way is my gift to the world. I don’t get paid for writing it, I’m not in it for the kudos, financial rewards, to become an influencer, work with brands or otherwise make any money from the blog. That’s why there are no ads, and any products I mention and recommend have either been gifted or bought by me with my everyday wages.
I do get a couple of pennies each time someone buys from the Amazon links on my page, as an Amazon Affiliate, but otherwise if you’d like to support me, I like to give something back in return. That’s why I write books. You can find a full list of my books at my Author’s Page on Amazon, but especially recommended for this time of year are:
A Self Care Christmas: A short ebook on keeping Christmas simple and making sure it doesn’t overwhelm.
Celebrating a Contagious Christmas: Available in ebook and paperback, it’s about making this year a festival of Hope.
Happier: Probably my most personal book, it’s the story of how I used hygge and the little rhings in life to help boost my happiness. I still go back and reread to remind myself what I need to do to be a happy human.
Cosy Happy Hygge: Setting up a rhythm to life and rituals to enjoy it to make for a more balanced life that handles waves and storms better.
I wish you all a Merry Christmas, however we get to celebrate it this year, and a Happy, Healthy and Simple New Year.