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Charles Dickens
(1812–1870)

Autograph manuscript signed, December 1843

Purchased by Pierpont Morgan before 1900

MA 97
Item description: 

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.

Transcription: 

18

warned him of a visitation when the bell tolled one. He resolved to lie awake until the hour was past: and considering that he could no more go to sleep than go to Heaven, this was perhaps the wisest resolution in his power.

The quarter was so long, that he was more than once convinced he must have sunk into a doze unconsciously, and missed the clock. At length it broke upon his listening ear:

"Ding Dong!"

"A quarter past," said Scrooge, counting.

"Ding Dong!"

"Half past," said Scrooge,

"Ding Dong!"

"A quarter to it," said Scrooge.

" Ding Dong!"

"The hour itself," said Scrooge, triumphantly, "and nothing else!"

He spoke before the hour bell sounded, which it now did with a deep, dull, hollow, melancholy ONE. Light flashed up in the room upon the instant, and the curtains of his bed were drawn.

The curtains of his bed were drawn aside, I tell you, by a hand. Not the curtains at his feet, nor the curtains at his back, but those to which his face was addressed. The curtains of his bed were drawn aside; and Scrooge, starting up into a half-recumbent attitude, found himself face to face with the unearthly visitor who drew them—as close to it as I am now to you, and I am standing in the Spirit at your elbow!

It was a strange figure—like a child: yet not so like a child, as like an old man viewed through some supernatural medium which gave him the appearance of having receded from the view, and being diminished to a child's proportions. Its hair, which hung about its neck and down its back, was white as if with age; and yet the face had not a wrinkle on it, and the tenderest bloom was on the skin. The arms were very long and muscular; the hands the same; as if its hold were of uncommon strength. Its legs and feet, most delicately formed, were like those upper members, bare. It wore a tunic of the purest white; and round its waist, was bound a lustrous belt, the sheen of which was beautiful. It held a branch of fresh green holly in its hand; and in singular contradiction of that wintry emblem, had its dress trimmed with summer flowers. But the strangest thing about it, was, that from the crown of its head there sprung a bright clear jet of light, by which all this was visible; and which was doubtless the occasion of its using, in its duller moments, a great extinguisher for

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Recording of A Christmas Carol courtesy of Naxos AudioBooks