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  • Writer's pictureAbby Brenker

The History of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol

A Christmas Carol is arguably the most famous Christmas story of all time. It’s also arguably, the most famous ghost story of all time. And it’s no mistake that it’s both. Let's talk aboout the history of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol.


Though Dickens was born into a middle class family in 1812, his father was taken to a debtors' prison by the time he was only 12 years old. Dickens was forced to sell his beloved collection of books as a way to bring in money for the family. He also had to drop out of school and start work at a rat-infested shoe-blacking factory. Dickens became a fairly prolific author, many biographers attribute his creative drive to the hard life he experienced in his early life.

In October of 1843, Dickens started to write A Christmas Carol. He finished writing it in six weeks, finishing up the last pages in early December of 1843. Famously, he originally composed much of the story in his head while he took walks at night, often up to 15/20 miles long.


Dickens's sister-in-law wrote how he "wept, and laughed, and wept again, and excited himself in a most extraordinary manner, in composition.” The story was originally published on December 19th, with the title; A Christmas Carol in Prose, Being a Ghost Story of Christmas. Despite a somewhat expensive price of 5 shillings each, the 6,000 original first edition copies sold quickly.


More editions were printed and sold over the next year. And legal battles over copyright issues sprang up, but Dickens won them. He was 31 years old at the time of publication.


These illustrations are all by John Leech, dating back to 1843. Listen to our podcast episode on the connection between Christmas and horror for more dark holiday history.

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