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.
warm to wear in-doors, its lower jaw dropped down upon its breast!
Scrooge fell upon his knees, and clasped his hands before his face.
"Mercy!" he said. "Dreadful apparition, why do you trouble me?"
"Man of the worldly mind!" replied the Ghost. "Do you believe in me or not?"
"I do," said Scrooge, "I must. But why do spirits come on earth, and why to me?"
"It is required of every man," the Ghost returned, "that the Spirit within him should walk abroad among his fellow-men, and travel far and wide. And if that spirit goes not forth in life it is condemned to do so, after Death. It is doomed to wander through the world, oh woe is me!—and witness what it can no longer share, but might have shared on earth, and turned to Happiness!"
Again the spectre raised a cry, and shook its chain, and wrung its shadowy hands.
"You are fettered," said Scrooge, trembling. "Tell me why?"
"I wear the chain I forged in Life," replied the Ghost. "I made it link by link, and yard by yard; I girded it on, of my own free will, and of my own free will, I wore it. Is it's pattern strange to you?"
Scrooge trembled more and more.
"Or would you know," pursued the Ghost, "the weight and length of the strong coil you wear yourself? It was full as heavy and as long as this, seven Christmas Eves ago. You have laboured on it, since. It is a ponderous chain!"
Scrooge glanced about him on the floor, in the expectation of finding himself surrounded by some fifty or sixty fathoms of iron cable; but he could see nothing.
"Jacob," he said, imploringly. "Old Jacob Marley, tell me more. Speak comfort to me, Jacob!"
"I have none to give," the Ghost replied. "It comes from other regions, Ebenezer Scrooge, and is conveyed by other ministers to other kinds of men. Nor can I tell you what I would. A very little more, is all permitted to me. I may not rest, I may not stay, I may not linger anywhere. My spirit never walked beyond our counting-house—mark me!—in life my spirit never roved beyond the narrow limits of our money-changing hole; and weary journies lie before me!"
It was a habit with Scrooge whenever he became thoughtful
Recording of A Christmas Carol courtesy of Naxos AudioBooks.