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Charles Dickens

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.



The Phantom moved away as it had come towards him. Scrooge followed in the shadow of its dress, which bore him up, he thought, and carried him along.

They scarcely seemed to enter the city; for the city rather seemed to spring up about them, and encompass them, of its own act. But there they were, in the heart of it; on 'change amongst the merchants: who hurried up and down, and clinked the money in their pockets, and conversed in groupes, and looked at their watches, and trifled thoughtfully with their great gold seals; and so forth; as Scrooge had seen them often.

The Spirit stopped beside one little knot of business men. Observing that the hand was pointed to them, Scrooge advanced to listen to their talk.

"No," said a great fat man with a monstrous chin. "I don't know much about it, either way. I only know he's dead."

"When did he die?" enquired another.

"Last night, I believe."

"Why, what was the matter with him?" asked a third, taking a vast quantity of snuff out of a very large snuff-box. "I thought he'd never die."

"God knows," said the first, with a yawn.

"What has he done with his money?" asked a red-faced gentleman with a pendulous excrescence on the end of his nose, that shook like the gills of a Turkey-cock.

"I haven't heard," said the man with the large chin, yawning again. "Left it to his Company, perhaps. He hasn't left it to me. That's all I know."

This pleasantry was received with a general laugh.

"It's likely to be a very cheap funeral," said the same speaker, "for upon my life I don't know of anybody to go to it. Suppose we make up a party and volunteer."

"I don't mind going if a Lunch is provided," observed the gentleman with the excrescence on his nose. "But I must be fed, if I make one."

Another laugh.

"Well! I am the most disinterested among you, after all," said the first speaker, "for I never wear black gloves, and I never eat lunch. But I'll offer to go, if anybody else will. When I come to think of it, I'm not at all sure that I wasn't his most particular friend: for we used to stop and speak whenever we met. Bye, bye!"

Speakers and listeners strolled away, and mixed with the other group. Scrooge looked towards the Spirit for an explanation. He knew the men, and saw nothing very strange in this.

The phantom glided on into a street. Its finger pointed to two persons meeting. Scrooge listened again: thinking that the explanation might lie here.

He knew these men, also, perfectly. They were men


Recording of A Christmas Carol courtesy of Naxos AudioBooks