December 19, 1843 — “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens is published today, selling 6,000 copies the first day.
The idea to write the book is said to have come to him in October of 1843. “His wife was due to have a baby in January, and he thought he’d pay for her medical care and a trip abroad by writing a short book that could be sold at Christmas,” according to charlesdickenschristmascarol.com.
In a six-week rush, and published at his own expense, the book became one of many public and private efforts by Dickens to bring about social reform.
“His disgust with the blinkered conceit of the privileged classes was genuine and lifelong,” according to todayinliterature. “In this letter he rails at the ‘sleek, slobbering, bow-paunched, over-fed, apoplectic, snorting cattle’ with whom he was forced to eat a charity dinner; in that, he predicts dire consequences for their ‘stupendous ignorance of what is passing out of doors.'”
Some in the upper classes were like-minded; some went as far as they dared to mock Dickens and the “cult of benevolence” with which they associated him. They dubbed him “Mr. Popular Sentiment,” and scoffed at the naive politics of his novels, calling them the “gospel of geniality.’
After A Christmas Carol sold out the first day, Dickens is said to have had high hopes that his blow for the poor might also do something for his own poverty. By May of 1844, it was in its seventh edition. Unfortunately, high production costs ate up most of his expected profit, and then legal fees to contest a pirated edition of the book left him in debt.
Words of Wisdom
It is a fair, even-handed, noble adjustment of things, that while there is infection in disease and sorrow, there is nothing in the world so irresistibly contagious as laughter and good humour.