Goodwill to All Men

When Charles Dickens wrote his book A Christmas Carol, this helped him to discover the true spirit of Christmas.  It was 1843, and times were tough for Charles, as he was already the father of four and soon to be the father of five and winter was approaching quickly.  Dickens had already published The Pickwick Papers, Oliver Twist, Nicholas Nickleby, The Old Curiosity Shop, Barnaby Rudge and he was in the middle of publishing his sixth novel Martin Chuzzlewit, which was being released as a serial.  Charles Dickens thought this was his best work and he didn’t understand why this was begining to fail, only selling 20,000 copies a month whereas The Pickwick Papers and Nicholas Nickleby sold 40-50,000.  It was one of his least popular novels, and since it did not do as well as he expected, he decided to write a quick Christmas story that would be sure to sell.

Dickens needed to publish something that would earn enough money so he could provide for his family.  In September, Dickens visited a Samuel Starey’s Field Lane Ragged School, which provided free education for urban children and this inspired his story.  Dickens empathized with these children as he was also a product of a poor childhood.  The inspiration for Scrooge may have been those who put Dickens’ own father into debtor’s prison and these people were also responsible for young Charles working in a shoe-blacking factory.  Charles Dickens saw conditions in his everyday life that he wanted to change, and he hoped writing about them, would contribute towards reforming them.

He was an industrious author who kept to a tight writing schedule, starting this novella in October of 1843, and it was published six weeks later on December 19, 1843.  Dickens was originally inspired to write about someone who was poor, but he changed his mind and decided to write about someone who was rich, about a terrible miser, someone who lived his entire life for money.

A Christmas Carol was published by Chapman & Hall, with Dickens paying the publishing costs himself.  The owners of the company had no way to gage how this book would do and they began to lose faith in marketability of Dickens’s work especially after the sales of Martin Chuzzlewit were not going well, so they proposed that A Christmas Carol be issued in an inexpensive collection of Dickens’s works, or possibly as part of a new magazine.  Dickens was adamant that A Christmas Carol be published as a high-quality, stand-alone book.  After discussion between the parties they came to an unusual agreement.  Dickens funded the publication and he would receive the profits.  Chapman & Hall would be paid for the printing costs and receive a fixed commission on the number of copies sold.  Since Dickens was paying for the publishing of the book, he wanted the book done his way.  There were issues with the color of the endpapers, the title page and the book binding.

A Christmas Carol was the most successful book of the 1843 holiday season.  By Christmas it sold six thousand copies and it continued to be popular into the new year selling 15,000 in its first year.  Sadly, A Christmas Carol wasn’t the moneymaker that Dickens hoped it would be, he thought he would make a tom of money from it, and he decided to sell it for a relatively low price.  Sales were good, but the publication costs had been high due to its lavish bindings.

A Christmas Carol isn’t a particularly religious book, as it does not extol or deify Jesus.  It is more about Scrooge discovering that life has much more to do with generosity, family gatherings and large cooked birds, than it does with being stingy about his money.  Dickens surely knew of the parable that Jesus taught about a rich man and a poor man named Lazarus and it is possible that Dickens picked up on this tale where Jesus left off.  Dickens story stimulated charity, and it became an important voice to potential middle-class givers.  People related to his characters like Bob Cratchit’s family, Scrooge’s lost love of Belle who later married another man.  They never went to the ball, so all he could do is wonder what might have happened after the ball.

Scrooge feels that those who know best how to acquire wealth and double their money will make the best rulers for any republic.  Scrooge is an elderly man suffering from chronic depression that experiences visual hallucinations causing him to see ghosts that are likely precipitated by a gastrointestinal pathology.  When Scrooge’s sister Fran is dying, she decides to entrust the care of her son Fred to his uncle.  This story painted a vivid picture of a time and place where need was everywhere, especially in London and this let the citizens band together.  Scrooge’s redemption is the anchor for the story along with the ghosts that nudge him on an incredible journey of the heart.  Scrooge learns that it is never too late to try and be a better person.  Scrooge is a tight, dry husk of a soul filled with bitterness and bile who eventually becomes a sympathetic toward Bob Cratchit, a man who always obeyed Scrooge’s rules and was too timid to ask about going home early on Christmas Eve to be with his family.

The ghosts are personal to him and after they visit, he cannot erase the deep meanings that they left with him.  Scrooge sees the first ghost that has the initials JM on a nightgown and he realizes that this is Jacob Marley, his old business partner.  Tiny Tim had rickets, a Vitamin D deficiency, so he used a walking stick made out of oak to get around.  The ghost tells Scrooge that he sees a vacant seat, in the poor chimney-corner, and a crutch without an owner, carefully preserved and says that if these shadows remain unaltered by the Future, the child will die.  Scrooge has a change of heart and the go to part in this book is when Tiny Tim says “God bless us, every one!”.

Written for Sheryl’s Daily Word Prompt – Extol, for Roger Shipp’s Daily Addictions prompt – Ton, for the Daily Spur prompt – Republic, for FOWC with Fandango – Go, for Randomness Inked Scribbling the Unspoken Let it Bleed Weekly Prompt Challenge 32 prompt – Fail, for December Writing Prompts – After the ball, for Ragtag Community – Band, for Di’s Three Things Challenge prompt words – Nudge Timid Double, for Word of the Day Challenge Prompt – Gauge and for Mindlovemisery’s Menagerie Wordle #161 hosted by Yves where the prompts are – Initials Pathology Entrust Anchor Husk Deify Personal Erase Deep Oak Love Try.

23 thoughts on “Goodwill to All Men

      1. Really? I’m surprised that you never read any Dickens. I think we had to read “A Tale of Two Cities” and “Great Expectations” for an English lit class in middle school.

        Liked by 2 people

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