1) Dickens wrote the book in just six weeks, completing it in early December 1843. It was published shorty afterwards, on 19 December. Instead of excepting a one-off lump sum payment for the book, the wily author opted for a percentage of the profits made from each sale instead, believing that this would prove far more profitable. However, production costs far outweighed any kind of profit, and so for a period of time Dickens was bitterly disappointed by the low-income his story was producing. More financial grief hit Dickens when he discovered that a bunch of literary pirates had copied the story. He sued them successfully but, as they pronounced themselves bankrupt, he was hit with thousands of pounds worth of legal costs.
2) The initial print-run of 6,000 sold out by Christmas Eve, with each copy priced at five shillings. Each of the subsequent print-runs were sell-outs, and so despite the disappointing financial profits, the book was a massive success.
3) The book received RAVE reviews from London’s most-respected literary critics. The Athaeneum described it as “A tale to make the reader laugh and cry – to open his hands, and open his heart to charity even toward the uncharitable … a dainty dish to set before a King…”, whilst William Makepeace Thackeray called it “a national benefit and to every man or woman who reads it, a personal kindness”.
4) The book touches upon several important social issues that were of particular importance in 19th century England. The novella’s assessment of the treatment of the poor, the impact of various welfare changes and the importance of industrial capitalism are all juxtaposed with the more human elements of the tale: empathy, disdain, redemption…
5) A Christmas Carol brought various popular phrases into the world’s vocabulary: most notably, ‘bah, humbug!’ and the (nick)name ‘Scrooge’.
6) The book wasn’t Dickens’ first festive story. His short story, The Story of the Goblins Who Stole a Sexton, features a curmudgeonly figure who is determined to not embrace Christmas. However, after goblins kidnap him and persuade him to change his ways (yes, really…), the sexton hasa radical change of heart.
7) The story has been re-imagined relentlessly throughout the years, and has been brought to stage, cinema and TV set. It’s also a pop-culture reference, with appearances in the likes of The Simpsons, The Flintstones and Doctor Who.
8) Ten years after the story was first published, Dickens gave his first reading of it to an audience of 2,000 in Birmingham. The reading lasted just under three hours, and was met with delighted applause from the listeners.
9) Less than six weeks after the book was printed, it took to the stage in a production written by Edward Stirling (in collaboration with Dickens). You can read the full script of the play here.
10) Finally: after reading the book in 1874, writer Robert Louis Stevenson observed: 874, Robert Louis Stevenson read the book and wrote to a friend, “I want to go out and comfort someone; I shall never listen to the nonsense they tell one about not giving money – I shall give money; not that I haven’t done so always, but I shall do it with a high hand now.” Just lovely.