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.
time, just like that. Poor boy! And Valentine," said Scrooge, "and his wild brother, Orson—there they go! And what's his name who was put down in his drawers, asleep, at the Gate of Damascus—don't you see him! And the Sultan's Groom, turned upside-down by the Genie—there he is upon his head! Serve him right. I'm glad of it. What business had he to be married to the Princess, d—n him!"
To hear Scrooge expending all the earnestness of his nature on such subjects, in a most extraordinary voice between laughing and crying; and to see his heightened and excited face; would have been a surprise to his business-friends in the city, indeed!
"There's the Parrot!" cried Scrooge. "Green body and yellow tail, with a thing like a lettuce growing out of the top of his head—there he is! Poor Robin Crusoe, he called him, when he came home again after sailing round the Island. "Poor Robin Crusoe. Where have you been, Robin Crusoe?' The man thought he was dreaming, but he wasn't. It was the Parrot, you know. There goes Friday—running for his life to the little creek! Halloa! Hoop! Halloa!"
Then, with a rapidity of transition very foreign to his usual character, he said, in pity for his former self, "Poor boy!" and cried again.
"I wish," Scrooge muttered, putting his hand in his pocket, and looking about him, after drying his eyes with his cuff, "but it's too late now."
"What is the matter?" asked the Spirit.
"Nothing," said Scrooge. "Nothing. There was a boy singing a Christmas Carol at my door last night. I should like to have given him something; that's all."
The Ghost smiled thoughtfully, and waved its hand: saying as it did so, "Let us see another Christmas!"
His former self grew larger at the words, and the room became a little darker and more dirty. The pannels shrunk, the windows cracked; fragments of plaster fell out of the ceiling, and the naked laths were shewn instead; but how all this was brought about, Scrooge knew no more than you do. He only knew that it was quite correct; that everything had happened so; that there he was, alone again, when all the other boys had gone home for the jolly holidays.
He was not reading now, but walking up and down despairingly. Scrooge looked at the Ghost, and with a mournful shaking of his head, glanced anxiously towards the door.
It opened; and a little girl, much younger than the boy, came darting in, and putting her arms about his neck, and often kissing him, addressed him as her "Dear Dear brother."
Recording of A Christmas Carol courtesy of Naxos AudioBooks