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.
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
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
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.)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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.
“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