The Man Who Invented Christmas: How Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol Rescued His Career and Revived Our Holiday Spirits

The Man Who Invented Christmas: How Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol Rescued His Career and Revived Our Holiday Spirits

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by Les Standiford
     
 

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As uplifting as the tale of Scrooge itself, this is the story of how one writer and one book revived the signal holiday of the Western world.

Just before Christmas in 1843, a debt-ridden and dispirited Charles Dickens wrote a small book he hoped would keep his creditors at bay. His publisher turned it down, so Dickens used what little money he had to put out A

Overview

As uplifting as the tale of Scrooge itself, this is the story of how one writer and one book revived the signal holiday of the Western world.

Just before Christmas in 1843, a debt-ridden and dispirited Charles Dickens wrote a small book he hoped would keep his creditors at bay. His publisher turned it down, so Dickens used what little money he had to put out A Christmas Carol himself. He worried it might be the end of his career as a novelist.

The book immediately caused a sensation. And it breathed new life into a holiday that had fallen into disfavor, undermined by lingering Puritanism and the cold modernity of the Industrial Revolution. It was a harsh and dreary age, in desperate need of spiritual renewal, ready to embrace a book that ended with blessings for one and all.

With warmth, wit, and an infusion of Christmas cheer, Les Standiford whisks us back to Victorian England, its most beloved storyteller, and the birth of the Christmas we know best. The Man Who Invented Christmas is a rich and satisfying read for Scrooges and sentimentalists alike.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“In this small but remarkable book, Les Standiford offers readers a gift for all seasons. Carefully researched and written in a stately, lucid prose, this book will be cherished by those who love Dickens, enjoy Christmas, or ponder the endless mysteries of human behavior.”
—Roland Merullo, author of American Savior

“A wonderfully absorbing and revealing account, full of things I did not realize about A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens, and the world of publishing. Once I started reading this book, truly, I could not put it down.”
—Dan Wakefield, author of New York in the Fifties

The Man Who Invented Christmas is destined to be a classic about a classic. As Tiny Tim might say, ‘God Bless Everyone,’ in this case Standiford, for creating such a delightful and engaging gem—part history, part literary analysis, and all heart, just like the book that inspired it.”
—Madeleine Blais, winner of the Pulitzer Prize and author of Uphill Walkers

Some facts about Charles Dickens (1812-1870) are well-known: His first novel, The Pickwick Papers (1836-1837) won him international fame; he was the most popular author of his time and his works have never been out of print. Few of us, however, know that the author of Great Expectations and A Tale of Two Cities suffered a near-devastating crisis early in his career. In 1841, a weekly periodical that he edited and wrote alone collapsed just a year after its founding after showcasing two of the Victorian writer's least successful novels. His 1842 travel book American Notes further dampened stateside enthusiasm for his work. As public interest in him flagged, Dickens struggled to find a winning formula. With A Christmas Carol, he not only rescued his career; he added new bells of meaning to a year-end festivity. A new edition of a proven seasonal winner.

Kathryn Harrison
The Man Who Invented Christmas may not be necessary…not with regard to the juggernaut of Dickens scholarship, but it's a sweet and sincere addition. A stocking stuffer for the bookish on your holiday list.
—The New York Times
Jonathan Yardley
Standiford's account of A Christmas Carol relies almost entirely on secondary sources and probably will be dismissed by Dickensians as adding nothing new to our understanding of the writer, but it is a nice addition to the literature of Christmas. A small addition, to be sure, but then so was A Christmas Carol.
—The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly

Charles Dickens was almost 32 in late 1843, and his career trajectory was downward. Since the megasuccess of The Old Curiosity Shop, dwindling sales of his work and problems with his publisher left little doubt in his mind: he would support his growing household as a travel writer on the Continent. As the disappointing Martin Chuzzlewit continued its serialization, A Christmas Carol appeared in a richly illustrated edition. Although initial sales were brisk, high production costs coupled with spotty advertising and a low retail price made the book unprofitable. But, says Standiford, this modern fable had a profound impact on Anglo-American culture and its author's career. If Dickens did not precisely invent Christmas, his ghost story created a new framework for celebrating it. Standiford (The Last Train to Paradise) covers an impressive amount of ground, from the theological underpinnings of Christmas to Dickens's rocky relations with America, evolving copyright laws and an explanation of how A Christmas Carol became responsible for the slaughter of more turkeys than geese in the months of November and December. (Nov.)

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Library Journal

What would Christmas be without the yearly viewing or reading of A Christmas Carol? It is a classic of the season-perhaps the most memorable Christmas tale of all time-that captures the spirit of the holiday. Thriller and nonfiction writer Standiford (Bone Key: A John Deal Novel; Meet You in Hell: Andrew Carnegie, Henry Clay Frick, and the Bitter Partnership That Changed America) attempts to address what prompted Dickens to write this much-loved tale in this affectionate portrait of a once-successful writer trying desperately to revive his career. After a triumphant beginning, Dickens struggled as his later works failed to gain any critical or monetary success. Verging on bankruptcy and looking for inspiration, Dickens agreed to speak at a fund-raiser for the Manchester Athenaeum. Dickens left the event inspired and walked around Manchester until he had the fully formed Carol in his head. Standiford deftly traces the many influences in Dickens's life that lead to and followed that momentous event, weaving an entertaining tale that will delight Dickens and Christmas lovers alike. Recommended for public libraries.
—Deborah Hicks

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780307405791
Publisher:
Crown/Archetype
Publication date:
10/25/2011
Pages:
256
Sales rank:
1,161,059
Product dimensions:
5.30(w) x 7.60(h) x 0.60(d)

Meet the Author

LES STANDIFORD is the author of the critically acclaimed Last Train to Paradise, Meet You in Hell, and Washington Burning, as well as ten novels. Recipient of the Frank O’Connor Award for Short Fiction, he is director of the Creative Writing Program at Florida International University in Miami, where he lives with his wife and three children.

Brief Biography

Hometown:
Miami, Florida
Date of Birth:
October 31, 1945
Place of Birth:
Cambridge, Ohio
Education:
B.A., Muskingum College; M.A. and Ph.D., University of Utah

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Man Who Invented Christmas: How Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol Rescued His Career and Revived Our Holiday Spirits 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 15 reviews.
Hoosierlv More than 1 year ago
This book satisfied the story behind the story of A CHRISTMAS CAROL and the man who fought some personal demons to get it done within his deadline. He elevated the poor without making them look utterly helpless and hapless. He chastened the hard-hearted rich who could not see beyond their unfathomable greed and utter selfishness. And he gave his readers a sense of just how to pull out the stops and REALLY celebrate a holiday outside of the religious institutions of the time. His three ghosts help a dowdy old man to repurpose his life and his goals and found that richness is only measured in how it is used to improve the lives around you, rather than in a bank vault. His protagonist is an unlovable person because he is incapable of loving anything that has no monetary value-- even his beloved family and his neighbors and employees. What is fascinating about this book is the back drop of Victorian England and the English speaking world's dismissal of a holiday and how it was revived from the ashes of feudal England and the Institutional Christendom and was reset as a social event without becoming preachy or overbearing. Dickens, a known socialist, was tempted by Marxist theory but rejected it and embraced instead a higher meaning of how society, church, and government can co-exist through the social networks of people as England evolved into the Industrial Revolution without losing or punishing any of those past institutions. He puts magic and sparkle and joy back into the gray skies of London England and the rest of the world. I would heartily recommend this book to the lover of history and for book club discussions, especially during the holiday season.
JL_Garner More than 1 year ago
Who among us hasn't read Charles Dickens' classic novel "A Christmas Carol" at least once, or seen one of the many film or TV adaptations over the years? Probably most of us, and we could debate for hours over whose Scrooge is the best.

It wasn't until I read Les Standiford's new volume "The Man Who Invented Christmas" that I realized just what a powerful impact Dickens' novel had on how the Anglo-American world regards and celebrates Christmas.

While Standiford's new book is hardly a groundbreaking study of Dickensian literature, it is a great read for casual Dickens fans, lovers of "A Christmas Carol," and those who are interested in the holiday itself.
LydiainJoliet More than 1 year ago
I was expecting this to be such a good book, instead all I can say is it is okay. I don't think that I learned much from it any more so than I would have read in wikipedia, I felt that the author was quite detached from Charles Dickens and it was like reading a bland rendition of something that the author looked up in various books about Dickens and simply put in order and had printed into a book. Maybe reading it in the beginning of December might give it a bit more interest, but I wanted to get a more personal look into the man than this gives. To be honest I was so relieved when it was over...
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Easy to read and holds your interest all the way. Dickenson has always been one of my favorite writers. This was an excellent peek into his life and also gave insight into the evelopment of one of our biggest holidays. If you have children...they need to read this
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Hehe
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Dr.Angel More than 1 year ago
My joy in reading comes when I come across books such as these. I grew up reading books by Charles Dickens and of course CHRISTMAS CAROL is one of my favorite. When I picked up the treasure Mr. Standiford had written, I was ecstatic to say the least that I would now be able to read a history of the classic itself. Loved the book!
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