I have endeavoured in this Ghostly little book, to raise the Ghost of an Idea, which shall not put my readers out of humour with themselves, with each other, with the season, or with me. May it haunt their houses pleasantly….So Charles Dickens introduces A Christmas Carol, his “Ghost Story of Christmas,” which found its first readers on this day in 1843 when Dickens proudly sent out gift copies to his friends, two days prior to the book’s official publication. Les Standiford’s The Man Who Invented Christmas is a combined personal and cultural biography, one that aims to make true on the subtitle, How Charles Dickens’s “A Christmas Carol” Rescued His Career and Revived Our Holiday Spirits:
Perhaps the most surprising thing about the story behind this well-known story, however, is the pivotal role it played both in Dickens’s career and in cultural history itself. At the time he sat down to write his “slender volume,” Dickens’s once unequaled popularity was at a nadir, his critical reputation in a shambles, his bank account overdrawn. Faced with bankruptcy, he was contemplating giving up on writing fiction altogether. Instead, he pulled himself together and, in six short weeks, wrote a book that not only restored him in the eyes of the public but began the transformation of what was then a second-tier holiday into the most significant celebration of the Christian calendar.
Daybook is contributed by Steve King, who teaches in the English Department of Memorial University in St. John’s, Newfoundland. His literary daybook began as a radio series syndicated nationally in Canada. He can be found online at todayinliterature.com.