Charles Dickens and the Spirit of Christmas

November 3, 2017 through January 14, 2018

During his life, Charles Dickens (1812–1870) acquired the kind of celebrity accorded only to international film stars today. That status was secured with the publication of A Christmas Carol, one of the most beloved holiday stories of all time—and one of the Morgan’s greatest literary manuscripts. Its immediate success in 1843 led to four equally popular Christmas novellas in as many years. Catapulting the author out of his study and onto the reading circuit in 1853, its universal popularity also had major consequences for Dickens.

Charles Dickens and the Spirit of Christmas assembles, for the first time, all five manuscripts of Dickens’s Christmas books—A Christmas Carol (1843), The Chimes (1844), The Cricket on the Hearth (1845), The Battle of Life (1846), and The Haunted Man (1848)—to explore the genesis, composition, publication, and reception of A Christmas Carol, and its impact on Dickens’s life. This exhibition explores the personal and socio-political sources of inspiration for A Christmas Carol, Dickens’s method of composition, and the motivations behind writing one of the most famous, enduring, and widely adapted stories in all of literature. 

This exhibition marks the 150th anniversary of Dickens’s famous reading tour of the United States in 1867, and will thus examine his later career as a performer. His public readings of A Christmas Carol, which he began in the 1850s, played a pioneering role in what is now commonplace in the marketing of fiction:  the reading tour. Among the unexpected and unintended consequences of the success of A Christmas Carol was Dickens’s decision to devote enormous energies to his public readings.

Explore Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol online and view other related highlights from the collection.

Share in the festivities with your own copy of A Christmas Carol available from the Morgan Shop. This is the first-ever trade edition of Charles Dickens's "own and only" manuscript of his classic and beloved story. It contains a facsimile of the original manuscript of A Christmas Carol, published in full-color, with a foreword by Colm Tóibín and introduction by Morgan curator Declan Kiely.

Charles Dickens and the Spirit of Christmas is made possible with generous support from Fay and Geoffrey Elliott, the Parker Gilbert Memorial Fund, Ronay and Richard Menschel, and an anonymous donor, and assistance from Joshua W. Sommer, Susan Jaffe Tane, Susanna Borghese, and Mr. and Mrs. Clement C. Moore II.

Robert Hindry Mason, Charles Dickens,1863, albumen print. The Morgan Library & Museum; Purchased for the The Dannie and Hettie Heineman Collection as the gift of the Heineman Foundation, 2011, MA 7794.


Selected images