Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol was first published on December 19, 1843. He had written it at a feverish pace for six weeks beginning it in October of that year and determined that it should be published in time for Christmas. The Morgan Library has the original manuscirpt.
The publication of A Christmas Carol was a pet project for Dickens, and it was popular immediately, if not lucrative. He soon took to the road to stage one-man shows; The New York Public Library still has the script he used as his prompt copy in his performances, complete with Dickens’ own annotations. In December of 2015 Neil Gaiman used that script for a live performance at NYPL, still available as a podcast.
Dickens’ A Christmas Carol is very much a Christmas tradition for me, ever since the first time I saw Patrick Stewart’s one-man version of it at UCLA. Stewart’s version was soon published on CD, and he subsequently starred in a video production.
While I am fond of Patrick Stewart’s version, especially the audio only one-man show, my all time favorite version of A Christmas Carol is the one starring George C. Scott as Scrooge. We discovered the George C. Scott version some Christmases ago, when it was featured on Hulu. We loved it, and watched it repeatedly, even long after Christmas was over and Hulu had removed it from the current streaming offerings; I located the video stram in the cache and we were able to watch it for another month or so. This version also includes memorable roles from David Warner as Bob Cratchit, and Roger Rees as the narrator and Scrooge’s nephew Fred Hollywell and Edward Woodward in an absolutely spot-on Ghost of Christmas Present.
There’s an excellent annotated editon The Annotated A Christmas Carol edited and annotated by Michael Patrick Hearn and published by W. W. Norton. I can’t possibly equal it, but for a Christmas project this year, I’m annotating and published each of the five “staves,” complete with the illustrations that Dickens commissioned from artists and engraver John Leech. The annotations are the kinds of things I might mention or use in teaching Christmas Carol, and range from explaining occasional Victorian idioms, to recipes and historical notes.
Mostly, this light-hearted annotated version is meant to be fun, and to help more people discover a lovely story that, while rich with political commentary, is equally rich with hope and humor.
I’ll update this post in the successive weeks as I publish the next stave. I’m planning to publish the last one on Christmas Eve.