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.
pulpy, or that the French plums blushed in modest tartness from their highly decorated boxes, or that everything was good to eat and in its Christmas dress; but the customers were all so hurried and so eager in the hopeful promise of the Day, that they tumbled up against each other at the door, clashing their wicker baskets wildly; and left their purchases upon the counter, and came running back to fetch them, and committed hundreds of the like mistakes in the best humour possible: while the Grocer and his people were so frank and fresh, that the polished hearts with which they fastened their aprons behind, might have been their own: worn outside for general inspection and for Christmas Daws to peck at if they chose.
But soon the steeples called good people all, to church and chapel, and away they came, flocking through the streets in their best clothes, and with their gayest faces. And at the same time there emerged from scores of bye streets, lanes, and nameless turnings, innumerable people, carrying their dinners to the bakers' shops. The sight of these poor revellers appeared to interest the Spirit very much, for he stood with Scrooge beside him in a baker's doorway, and taking off the covers as their bearers passed, sprinkled fire upon their dinners from his torch. And it was a very uncommon kind of Torch, for once or twice when there were angry words between some dinner-carriers who had jostled with each other, he shed a few drops of water on them from it, and their good humour was restored directly. For they said, it was a shame to quarrel upon Christmas Day. And so it was! God love it, so it was!
In time the bells ceased, and the bakers' were shut up; and yet there was a genial shadowing forth of all these dinners and the progress of their cooking, in the thawed blotch of wet above each bakers' oven: where the pavement smoked, as if its stones were cooking too.
"Is there a peculiar flavor in the fire you sprinkle from your Torch?" asked Scrooge.
"There is. My own."
"Would it apply to any kind of dinner on this day?" asked Scrooge.
"To any kindly given. To a poor one most."
"Why to a poor one most?" asked Scrooge.
"Because it needs it most."
"Spirit," said Scrooge, after a moment's thought; "I wonder you, of all the Beings in the many Worlds about us, should desire to cramp these people's opportunities of innocent enjoyment."
"I!" cried the Spirit, proudly.
"Why, you would deprive them of their means of dining every seventh day— often the only day on which they can be said to dine at all." said Scrooge. "Wouldn't you?"
"I!" cried the Spirit.
Recording of A Christmas Carol courtesy of Naxos AudioBooks