Published 165 years ago today, Cricket on the Hearth: A Fairy Tale of Home was the third of Charles Dickens' Christmas books. It was immediately successful, quickly running through two editions and outselling his Christmas books from the previous two years (Christmas Carol, 1843 and The Chimes, 1844). The story is about John and Dot Peerybingle, a carrier and his wife, who are having marriage difficulties. John suspects Dot of having an affair, and consults the ever-chirping cricket on the hearth. The cricket reassures John that his fears are unfounded, and the story ends happily.
Dickens first conceived of a domestic story centered around a cricket as early as the summer of 1845, but he re-framed it as a Christmas story and wrote it in about six weeks, beginning in mid-October. The best selling story was illustrated by John Leech, Richard Doyle, Edwin Landseer, Daniel Maclise and Clarkson Stanfield, and no fewer than 17 productions were staged during the 1845 Christmas season.
Shown here is the first page from Dickens' manuscript draft of the story:
The extensive revisions and corrections you see are typical of Dickens' literary manuscripts. He has characteristically looped heavily over words and phrases he intends to cancel and inserted his revisions interlinearlly, in a small and sometimes difficult to read hand.
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The Leon Levy Foundation is generously underwriting a major project to upgrade catalog records for the Morgan's collection of literary and historical manuscripts. The project is the most substantive effort to date to improve primary research information on a portion of this large and highly important collection.