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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: 

26

to her, she was worthy to be his partner in every sense of the term. If that's not high praise, tell me higher, and I'll use it. A positive light appeared to issue from Fezziwig's calves. They shone in every part of the dance like moons. You couldn't have predicted, at any given time, what would become of 'em next. And when old Fezziwig and Mrs. Fezziwig had gone all through the dance—advance and retire, hold hands with your partner; bow and curtsey; corkscrew; thread the needle; and back again to your place—Fezziwig "cut"—cut so deftly, that he appeared to wink with his legs—and came upon his feet again without a stagger.

When the clock struck eleven, this domestic ball broke up. Mr. and Mrs. Fezziwig took their stations, one on either side the door, and shaking hands with every person individually as he or she went out, wished him or her a Merry Christmas. When everybody had retired but the two "Prentices, they did the same to them; and thus the cheerful voices died away, and the lads were left to their beds: which were under a counter in the back shop.

During the whole of this time, Scrooge had acted like a man out of his wits. His heart and soul were in the scene, and with his former self. He corroborated everything, remembered everything, enjoyed everything, and underwent the strangest agitation. It was not until now, when the bright faces of his former self and Dick were turned from them, that he remembered the Ghost, and became conscious that it was looking full upon him, while the light upon its head burnt very clear.

"A small matter," said the Ghost, "to make these silly folks so full of gratitude."

"Small!" echoed Scrooge.

The Spirit signed to him to listen to the two apprentices who were pouring out their hearts in praise of Fezziwig; and when he had done so, said,

"Why! Is it not? He has spent but a few pounds of your mortal money—three or four, perhaps. Is that so much that he deserves this praise?"

"It isn't that," said Scrooge; heated by the remark and speaking unconsciously like his former—not his latter—self. "It isn't that, Spirit. He has the power to render us happy or unhappy; to make our service light or burdensome: a pleasure or a toil. Say that his power lies in words and looks; in things so slight and insignificant that it is impossible to add and count 'em up—what then? The happiness he gives, is quite as great, as if it cost a fortune."

He felt the Spirit's glance, and stopped.

"What is the matter?" asked the Ghost.

"Nothing particular," said Scrooge.

"Something, I think?" the Ghost insisted.

"No," said Scrooge, "No. I should like to be able to say a word or two to my clerk just now! That's all."

Credits: 

Recording of A Christmas Carol courtesy of Naxos AudioBooks