HAPPY HOLIDAYS from Where History Meets Mystery! This week, I will be talking about one of my all-time favorite Christmas tales from the Victorian period, A Christmas Carol written in 1843 by Charles Dickens, and also, how it really played into the politics of what was going on in Victorian England at the time.
By 1841, Dickens was enjoying a great deal of literary success in the United States and England with his serial release of The Old Curiosity Shop, and in 1842, he took a much anticipated trip to the U.S. However, he was a bit disappointed with the lack of manners he saw in the American people, and was so offended by slavery, he refused to venture into the Southern part of the country.
While in the northern United States, he paid particular attention to working conditions while visiting mills and factories, and he also visited several slums in New York.
Upon his return to England, he began writing again—but despite his success in the previous year, Dickens found himself owing money to his publisher. His latest novel, Martin Chuzzlewit, was not selling well. In short, his career was in trouble.
In 1843, Dickens and fellow novelist Benjamin Disraeli, who would later become Prime Minister of England, both gave speeches at a benefit for Manchester Athenaeum discussing the plight of the poor of Victorian England. Following the speech, and disturbed by his concerns with the enormous gap between the rich and poor of England, Dickens took a walk late into the night on the streets of Manchester.
While ruminating on the subject of child labor, he came up with the idea for A Christmas Carol. He was so inspired by the idea of a miserly Ebeneezer Scrooge being influenced by his past, present, and what could eventually become his future, he wrote the novel in six weeks, while still writing installments for Martin Chuzzlewit.
A Christmas Carol was released right before Christmas and became an immediate national sensation.
British author William Makepeace Thackaray, best known for the novel Vanity Fair, called the work a national benefit to the people of England, and he also referred to it as a “personal kindness.”
The story of the plight of the Cratchit family, and Ebeneezer Scrooge’s enlightenment and eventual redemption touched readers deeply, and the Christmas holiday soon became seen as a time for charitable giving and family celebration. And, it also helped to establish Christmas as a major holiday in Britain.
Word of this cherished family classic spread, and to this day, A Christmas Carol has never gone out of print.
It is a constant reminder to everyone, in every and any holiday tradition, to be kinder to one another, to help those in need, and to fully embrace the spirit of giving.
What a legacy, right?
Have you finished your holiday shopping? If not, what a better gift to give than a book—perhaps a riveting murder mystery? Do you have a person in your life who might like to read a mystery featuring Annie Oakley and set during the hey-day of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show, or maybe they might enjoy one set in the theater of Broadway show business during the roaring 1920’s, or what about a mystery set in the American Southwest of the 1950’s? The possibilities are endless! If these options sound like good gift ideas to you, you might want to head over to Amazon to check out my Annie Oakley Mystery series, or my 1920’s novel, Grace in the Wings, or my southwestern mystery Bones of the Redeemed. Happy shopping!