Autograph manuscript signed, December 1843
Purchased by Pierpont Morgan before 1900
Compelled by personal financial difficulties, Dickens wrote A Christmas Carol in only six weeks, during a period of intense creativity in fall 1843. The original manuscript of A Christmas Carol reveals Dickens's method of composition, allowing us to see the author at work. The pace of writing and revision, apparently contiguous, is urgent, rapid, and boldly confident. Deleted text is struck out with a cursive and continuous looping movement of the pen and replaced with more active verbs—to achieve greater vividness or immediacy of effect— and fewer words for concision. This heavily revised sixty-six-page draft—the only manuscript of the story—was sent to the printer in order for the book to be published on 19 December, just in time for the Christmas market.
"If quite convenient Sir."
"It's not convenient," said Scrooge, "and it's not fair. If I was to stop half a crown for it, you'd think yourself ill-used, I'll be bound?"
The clerk smiled faintly.
"And yet," said Scrooge, "you don't think me ill-used, when I pay a day's wages for no work."
The clerk observed that "it was only once a year."
"A poor excuse for picking a man's pocket every twenty fifth of December!" said Scrooge, buttoning his great coat to the chin. "But I suppose you must have the whole day. Be here all the earlier next morning!"
The clerk promised that he would; and Scrooge walked out, with a growl. The office was closed in a twinkling, and the clerk with the long ends of his white comforter dangling below his waist (for he boasted no great coat), went down a slide on Cornhill at the end of a lane of boys, twenty times in honor of its being Christmas Eve, and then ran home to Camden Town as hard as he could pelt, to play at blindman's buff.
Scrooge took his melancholy dinner in his usual melancholy tavern; and having read all the newspapers, and beguiled the rest of the evening with his banker's-book, went home to bed. He lived in chambers which had once belonged to his deceased partner. They were a gloomy suite of rooms in a lowering pile of building up a yard where it had so little business to be, that one could scarcely help fancying it must have run there, when it was a young house, playing at hide and seek with other houses; and have forgotten the way out again. It was old enough now, and dreary enough, for nobody lived in it but Scrooge: the other rooms being all let out as offices. The yard was so dark that even Scrooge, who knew its every stone, was fain to grope with his hands. The fog and frost so hung about the black old gateway of the house, that it seemed as if the Genius of the Weather sat in mournful meditation on the threshold.
Now, it is a fact that there was nothing at all particular about the knocker on the door—except that it was very large. It is also a fact that Scrooge had seen it, night and morning during his whole residence in that place; also that Scrooge had as little of what is called Fancy about him, as any man in the City of London; even including—which is a bold word—the corporation, aldermen, and livery. Let it also be borne in mind that Scrooge had not bestowed one thought on Marley since his last mention of his seven-years dead partner that afternoon. And then let any man explain to me if he can, how it happened that Scrooge, having his key in the lock of the door, saw in the knocker, without its undergoing any intermediate process of change—not a knocker, but
Recording of A Christmas Carol courtesy of Naxos AudioBooks.