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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: 

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count; and unlike the celebrated herd in the poem, they were not forty children conducting themselves like one, but every child was conducting itself like forty. The consequences were uproarious beyond belief, but no one seemed to care; on the contrary the mother and her daughter laughed heartily and enjoyed it very much; and the latter, soon beginning to mingle in the sports, got pillaged by the young brigands most ruthlessly. What would I not have given—to be one of them; though I never could have been so rude, no no! I wouldn't for the wealth of all the world have crushed that braided hair and torn it down; and for the dainty little shoe, I wouldn't have plucked it off, God bless my soul!, to save my life. As to measuring her waist in sport, as they did, saucy brood, I couldn't have done it—I should have expected my arm to have grown round it, for a punishment, and never come straight again—And yet—I should have dearly liked, I own, to touch her lips; to question her that she might have opened them; to look upon the lashes of her downcast eyes, and never raise a blush; to let loose waves of hair, an inch of which would be a keepsake beyond price: in short, I should have liked, I do confess, to have had the lightest license of a child, and yet been man enough to know its value.

But now a knocking at the door was heard, and such a rush immediately ensued, that she with laughing face and plundered dress was borne towards it, in the centre of a flushed and boisterous group, just in time to greet the father, who in observance of a custom annually maintained in that family on Christmas Eve, came home attended by a man laden with Christmas toys and presents. Then the shouting and the struggling, and the onslaught that was made on the defenceless porter! The scaling him with chairs, instead of ladders, to dive into his pockets, despoil him of brown paper parcels, hold on tight by his cravat, hug him round the neck, pommel his back, and kick his legs in irrepressible affection! The shouts of wonder and delight with which the developement of every package was received! The terrible announcement that the baby had been taken in the act of putting a doll's frying-pan in his mouth, and was more than suspected of having swallowed a fictitious turkey on a wooden platter! The immense relief of finding this a false alarm! The joy and gratitude and ecstasy! They are all indescribably alike. It is enough that by degrees the children and their emotions got out of the parlor and, by one stair at a time, up to the top of the house; where they went to bed, and so subsided.

And now Scrooge looked on more attentively than ever, when the master of the house, having his daughter leaning fondly on him, sat down with her and her mother at his own fireside; and when he thought that such another

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Recording of A Christmas Carol courtesy of Naxos AudioBooks