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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: 

59

the end just now desired, until besought by Scrooge to tarry for a moment.

"This court," said Scrooge, "through which we hurry now, is where my place of occupation is, and has been for a length of time. I see the house. Let me behold what I shall be, in days to come."

The Spirit stopped; the hand was pointed elsewhere.

"The house is yonder," Scrooge exclaimed. "Why do you point away?"

The inexorable finger underwent no change.

Scrooge hastened to the window of his office, and looked in. It was an office still, but not his. The furniture was not the same, and the figure in the chair was not himself. The phantom pointed as before.

He joined it once again, and wondering why and whither he had gone, accompanied it, until they reached an iron gate. He paused to look round, before entering.

A churchyard! Here, then, the wretched man whose name he had now to learn, lay underneath the ground. It was a worthy place. Walled in by houses. Over-run by grass and weeds, the growth of vegetation's death: not life. Choked up with too much burying. Fat with repleted appetite. A worthy place indeed!

The Spirit stood among the graves, and pointed down to One. He advanced towards it trembling. The phantom was exactly as it had been, but he dreaded that he saw new meaning in its solemn shape.

"Before I draw nearer to that stone to which you point," said Scrooge, "answer me one question. Are these the shadows of the things that Will be, or are they shadows of the things that May be, only."

Still the Ghost pointed downward to the grave by which it stood.

"Mens' courses will foreshadow certain ends to which, if persevered in, they must lead," said Scrooge. "But if the courses be departed from, the ends will change. Say it is thus, with what you shew me!"

The Spirit was immovable as ever.

Scrooge crept towards it, trembling as he went; and following the finger, read upon the stone of the neglected grave, his own name EBENEZER SCROOGE.

"Am I that man who lay upon the bed!" he cried, upon his knees.

The finger pointed from the grave to him, and back again.

"No Spirit! Oh no, no!"

The finger still was there.

"Spirit!" he cried, tight clutching at its robe. "Hear me!" I am not the man I was. I will not be the man I must have been, but for this intercourse. Why shew me this, if I am past all hope!"

Credits: 

Recording of A Christmas Carol courtesy of Naxos AudioBooks