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A Christmas carol in prose, being a ghost story of Christmas online

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With an Introduction


and a Preface


tiia • Berkeley




A Ghost Story of Christmas


fie JtUAUw j 44* l t**J


Facsimile reproduction of Title Page from Dickens's Manuscript.

A Christmas Carol





With four Illustrations in Colour and four Woodcuts by
John Leech

A facsimile of the Original Edition

With an Introduction by G. K. Chesterton
and a Preface by B. W. Matz





This Edition of "A Christmas Carol"

ts published in aid of the funds of the

National Book Trade Provident Society.




By G. K. Chesterton

HpHE popular paradox of " A Christmas Carol " is
very well symbolised in its title. Everybody has
heard Christmas carols ; and certainly everybody has
heard of Christmas. Yet these things are only popular
because they are traditional ; and the tradition has
often been in need of defence, as Dickens here
defended it. If a little more success had crowned
the Puritan movement of the seventeenth century,
or the Utilitarian movement of the nineteenth cen-
tury, these things would, humanly speaking, have
become merely details of the neglected past, a part of
history or even of archology. The very word Christ-
mas would now sound like the word Candlemas.
Perhaps the very word carol would sound like the
word vilanelle. In this sense a Christmas carol was
only one historical type of poem, and Christmas one
historical type of festival. Dickens might seem a
strange champion for so historical and poetical a
tradition. He wrote no poetry ; he knew no history.
For the historical book which he wrote for children
has not half so much right to be called history as
Sam Weller's cheerful song beginning " Bold Turpin
vunce" has to be called poetry. He saved Christ-
mas not because it was historic, but because it was
human ; but his own adventure serves to show how
many things equally human had been suffered to
become merely historic.


Dickens struck in time ; and saved a popular in-
stitution while it was still popular. A hundred
aesthetes are always ready to revive it as soon as it
has become unpopular. The modern intellectuals
show great eagerness in reviving an old custom when
once it is destroyed. They show particular eager-
ness in reviving it when they have themselves des-
troyed it. The educated classes are everlastingly
sweeping things away as vulgar errors, and then
trying to recall them as cultured eccentricities. The
intellectuals of the twentieth century are now crying
out for the folk-songs and morrice dances which the
intellectuals of the nineteenth century condemned as
superstition, and the intellectuals of the seventeenth
century as sin. It would be an exaggeration perhaps
to say that the advanced intelligence is always wrong.
But it would be safe to say at least that it is always too

But Dickens was not too late. It was precisely
because he was a man of the people that he was able
to perpetuate the popular hold upon one of the cus-
toms that had only begun to slip from the popular
grasp. If he had appeared twenty years later, when
the new Puritanism of the industrial age had run its
course, the popular enjoyments of Christmas might
have become refined merely by becoming rare. Art
critics might be talking about the exquisite propor-
tions of a plum-pudding as of an Etruscan pot ; and
cultured persons might be hanging stockings on their
bed-posts as gravely as they hung Morris curtains
on their walls. But coming when he did, Dickens
could appeal to a living tradition and not to a lost
art. He was able to save the thing from dying, in-
stead of trying to raise it from the dead.

In this one work of Dickens, therefore, the historical
and moral importance is really even greater than the


literary importance. In this respect it bears some
resemblance to another of his works, which might
seem superficially its very contrary. " A Christmas
Carol" is perhaps the most genial and fanciful of
all his stories. " Hard Times " is perhaps the most
grim and realistic. But in both cases the moral
beauty is perhaps greater than the artistic beauty;
and both stand higher in any study of the man than
of the writer. And although one represents the first
skirmish in defence of the old traditions, and the
second the final pitched battle against the new the-
ories, in both cases the author is fighting for the same
cause. He is fighting an old miser named Scrooge,
and a new miser named Gradgrind ; but it is not only
true that the new miser has the old avarice, it is also
true that the old miser has the new arguments.
Scrooge is a utilitarian and an individualist ; that is,
he is a miser in theory as well as in practise. He
utters all the sophistries by which the age of machin-
ery has tried to turn the virtue of charity into a vice.
Indeed this is something of an understatement.
Scrooge is not only as modern as Gradgrind but more
modern than Gradgrind. He belongs not only to
the hard times oa the middle of the nineteenth cen-
tury, but to the harder times of the beginning of the
twentieth century ; the yet harder times in which we
live. Many amiable sociologists will say, as he said,
" Let them die and decrease the surplus popula-
tion." The improved proposal is that they should
die before they are born.

It is notable also that Dickens gives the right reply ;
and that with a deadly directness worthy of a much
older and more subtle controversionalist. The an-
swer to anyone who talks about the surplus popula-
tion is to ask him whether he is the surplus popula-
tion ; or if he is not, how he knows he is not. That


is the answer which the Spirit of Christmas gives to
Scrooge ; and there is more than one fine element of
irony involved in it. There is this very mordant
moral truth, among others ; that Scrooge is exactly
the sort of man who would really talk of the super-
fluous poor as of something dim and distant ; and
yet he is also exactly the kind of man whom others
might regard as sufficiently dim, not to say dingy,
to be himself superfluous. There is something of a
higher sarcasm, even than that to be read on the sur-
face, in the image of that wretched little rag of a
man so confident that the rags and refuse of humanity
can safely be swept away and burned ; in the miser
who himself looks so like a pauper, confidently order-
ing a massacre of paupers. This is true enough even
to more modern life ; and we have all met mental
defectives in the comfortable classes who are hu-
moured, as with a kind of hobby, by being allowed to
go about lecturing on the mental deficiency of poor
people. We have all met professors, of stunted
figure and the most startling ugliness, who explain
that all save the strong and beautiful should be pain-
lessly extinquished in the interests of the race. We
have all seen the most sedentary of scholars proving
on paper that none should survive save the victors
of aggressive war and the physical struggle for life ;
we have all heard the idle rich explaining why the
idle poor deserve to be left to die of hunger. In all
this the spirit of Scrooge survives ; especially in that
central irony of his unconsciousness of the applica-
tion of his own argument to his own case. But in
justice to Scrooge, we must admit that in some re-
spects the later developments of his heathen philo-
sophy have gone beyond him. If Scrooge was an
individualist, he had something of the good as well as
the evil of individualism. He believed at least in


the negative liberty of the Utilitarians. He was
ready to live and let live, even if the standard of liv-
ing was very near to that of dying and letting die.
He partook of gruel while his nephew partook of
punch ; but it never occurred to him that he could
forcibly forbid a grown man like his nephew to con-
sume punch, or coerce him into consuming gruel.
In that he was far behind the ferocity and tyranny
of the social reformers of our own day. If he re-
fused to subscribe to a scheme for giving people
Christmas dinners, at least he did not subscribe (as
the reformers do) to a scheme for taking away the
Christmas dinners they have already got. He had
no part in the blasphemy of abolishing in work-houses
the Christmas ale that had been the charity of Chris-
tian people. Doubtless he would have regarded the
charity as folly, but he would also have regarded the
forcible reversal of it as theft. He would not have
thought it natural to pursue Bob Cratchit to his own
home, to spy on him, to steal his turkey, to run away
with his punch-bow), to kidnap his crippled child,
and put him in prison as a defective. To do these
things he would need to be the more enlightened
employer of a more progressive age than that in
which " A Christmas Carol " was written. These
antics were far beyond the activities of poor Scrooge,
whose figure shines by comparison with something
of humour and humanity.


By B. W. Matz

TN the preparation of this edition of Dickens's
wonderful story every effort has been made
to present an exact replica of the original edition
published a few weeks before the Christmas of 1843.
As far as is possible in these days all points as regards
paper, type, illustrations and binding have been
faithfully adhered to. In the original edition there
were four engraved plates coloured by hand and four
woodcuts all by John Leech. In the present edition
it has not been practicable to colour the engravings
by hand, and so in order to get a result as near to the
original as possible the four full page pictures have
been reproduced by the Sprague- Haycock litho-
graphic process, entailing in some cases as many as
eight printings to obtain a perfectly satisfactory
result. The four black and white pictures presented
no difficulty, for through the courtesy of Messrs. Chap-
man & Hall Ltd., electros were obtained from the
original woodblocks in their possession.

This edition therefore is identical in form with that
which was first launched on an enthusiastic world
eighty years ago ; but unlike the owner of an actual
first edition, the possessor of a copy will be free to
read it, There will be no need carefully to pack it
in a specially- made case, scarcely to be looked at
and never handled ; for, if by usage it becomes torn,
thumbed and utterly dishevelled, as is hoped will be
the case, another copy may be easily acquired.

For the purpose of this edition it is assumed that a
first edition had the title-page printed in red and blue,
that the end-papers were green, that the colour of the




cloth in which it was bound was a reddy-brown, and
the edges gilt. The typographical inconsistency is
repeated as on the first page of a first edition where
" Stave I " appears instead of " Stave One " to match
the other chapter headings, a mistake which, on dis-
covery, was corrected in subsequent reprints.

" A Christmas Carol " was the first of a series of
rive little Christmas Annuals which now comprise
the volume known as "Christmas Books" in all
collected editions of the novelist's writings, the other
four being " The Chimes," " The Cricket on the
Hearth," " The Battle of Life," and " The Haunted

The first idea for it came to Dickens whilst on a
visit to Manchester early in October, 1843, where he
had gone to preside at the opening of the Manchester
Athenaeum, at which ceremony both Richard Cobden
and Disraeli assisted. Not only did it occur to
him whilst walking through the streets of that city,
but the whole scheme of the story too, and it became
so absorbing that he hurried back to London, and set
to work on it immediately. Before the end of Novem-
ber it was finished, and within a few weeks of Christ-
mas Day, 1843, it was published with everybody in
ecstasies over it.

It is Dickens's most spontaneous piece of work, and
the most inspired of all his writings. Once the idea
had evolved itself in his mind, the actual writing
was done at a very rapid rate in odd and spare moments
between the composition of two numbers of " Martin
Chuzzlewit," which was then being issued in monthly
parts. It kept him so occupied, he told his friend,
Sir Edward Lytton Bulwer, that he " never left
home before the owls went out, and led quite a soli-
tary life."

It was an instantaneous success, and if a keystone


to his genius had been needed, the M Carol " would
have supplied it. Its effect upon his many thousands
of readers was no more tremendous or electrifying
than on the author himself.

Two or three weeks after its publication he wrote
to his friend Professor Felton in America, telling him
that a copy of the book was on its way to him, and
added, " Over which * Christmas Carol ' Charles
Dickens wept and laughed and wept again, and ex-
cited himself in a most extraordinary manner in the
composition ; and thinking whereof he walked about
the black streets of London, fifteen and twenty
miles many a night when all the sober folks had gone
to bed. ... Its success is most prodigious, and by
every post all manner of strangers write all manner
of letters to him about their homes and hearths, and
how the same ' Carol ' is read aloud there, and kept
on a little shelf by itself. Indeed, it is the greatest
success, as I am told, that this ruffian and rascal has
ever achieved."

It was in this letter to Professor Felton that Dickens
spoke of the high pressure he had been put to in
order to accomplish the task he set himself. " To
keep the ' Chuzzlewit ' going, and do this little book,
the ' Carol ■ in the odd times between the two parts
of it, was, as you may suppose, pretty tight work.
But when it was done I broke out like a madman.
And if you could have seen me at a children's party at
Macready's the other night, going down a country
dance with Mrs. M., you would have thought I was
a country gentleman of independent property, resid-
ing on a tip-top farm, with the wind blowing straight
in my face every day."

In a word, Dickens was as happy at having written
the "Carol" as he has made hundreds of thousands
who have read it since ; and that same power and


influence the little story had over the man who wrote
it, has been exercised over multitudes of grateful
readers during the years that have intervened. The
little book burst upon the world, appealed to all,
rich and poor, and was immediately hailed a master-
piece ; and a masterpiece it will remain.

Some six thousand copies were sold on the first
day, and its success continued until, by the end of the
year, 1844, fifteen thousand copies had been disposed
of, whilst, in all, twenty-four editions were called
for in its original form.

These figures may not seem extraordinary in com-
parison with the so-called " best- sellers" of to-day.
But whereas the "best-seller" of to-day remains
only so for a limited period of about twelve or eighteen
months, Dickens's books continue " best- sellers "
from generation to generation, and probably there
are more copies of the "Carol" sold and read each
year, than there is of the "best-seller" during its
complete yet protracted run of eighteen months or
thereabouts, whatever it may be.

Since its publication eighty years ago, its pheno-
menal popularity has outshone any work of fiction,
and the good it has done and the pleasure it has
given is immeasurable. It would be equally difficult
to state the number of editions that have been issued,
or to estimate the millions of copies sold. Every
Christmas brings a new edition, often with new illus-
trations, which finds new readers. The present
writer has a score or more of them, from a waistcoat-
pocket edition to an elaborate 8vo. one. Editions
exist in almost every language, including Gaelic,
Russian, Chinese, and Japanese, and if it ever hap-
pens that Esperanto becomes the universal language,
an edition in that language is already made for the
terrible contingency.




One remarkable thing about the "Carol" is that
it is far better appreciated when read aloud than
when read calmly to oneself in a comfortable chair —
really a selfish thing to do. Little wonder, then, that
it is such a favourite at Christmas time, when hun-
dreds make a practice, almost a religious rite, of
reading it on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day to an
assembled company ; and that elocutionists find it
the sure and favourite choice if a packed audience is
to be ensured.

On Dickens's reading tours throughout this country
and America, the "Carol" was not only his special
favourite, but his audiences' as well. The favour
it found everywhere was stupendous. His first
public reading of it was on 27th December, 1853,
in the Birmingham Town Hall, in aid of the funds
for establishing the Birmingham and Midland Insti-
tute, and when, in 1858, its author determined to
become a professional reader, the " Carol " was added
to his repertoire and was the greatest in demand
wherever he went.

Immediately after the publication of the "Carol"
Dickens presented the manuscript to his old school-
fellow and solicitor, Mr. Thomas Mitton. In 1875
it was sold to a London bookseller for /50, and then
passed on to Mr. G. Churchill. In 1882 it was ac-
quired by a Birmingham bookseller, who in turn sold
it to Mr. (afterwards Sir) Stuart M. Samuel, who ulti-
mately disposed of it to Mr. J. P. Morgan, of New
York, in which city it now reposes. It would be
venturesome to suggest how many thousand pounds
it would fetch if sold at auction to-day.

Before, however, the manuscript left this country, a
facsimile reproduction of it was made and published.
It is from this edition of the book that the Holograph
reproductions appearing in these pages are made.


Facsimile Reproduction of the Title Page

from Dickens's MS. . iv

Facsimile Reproduction of the Preface

from Dickens's MS. .... xiii

Facsimile Reproduction of the Top half

of the First Page of Dickens's MS. . xvii

Mr. Fezziwig's Ball, by John Leech Frontispiece

Marley's Ghost . . . . „ . . 25

Ghosts of Departed Usurers „ . . 37

Scrooge Extinguishes the first of the

Three Spirits . by John Leech 73

Scrooge's Third Visitor . ,, . 7 8

Ignorance and Want . . ,, . 119

The Last of the Spirits . „ . 15°

Scrooge and Bob Cratchit . „ . 164



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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, and no one wish
to lay it.

Their faithful Friend and Servant,

C. D.

December, 184J5.












Marley was dead : to begin with. There is no
donbt whatever abont that. The register of his
bnrial was signed by the clergyman, the clerk, the
undertaker, and the chief mourner. Scrooge signed
it : and Scrooge's name was good upon 'Change, for
anything he chose to put his hand to. Old Marley
was as dead as a door- nail.

Mind ! I don't mean to say that I know, of my
own knowledge, what there is particularly dead
about a door-nail. I might have been inclined,
myself, to regard a coffin- nail as the deadest piece
of ironmongery in the trade. But the wisdom of
our ancestors is in the simile ; and my unhallowed


hands shall not disturb it, or the Country 's done for.
You will therefore permit me to repeat, emphati-
cally, that Marley was as dead as a door-nail.

Scrooge knew he was dead ! Of course he did.
How could it be otherwise ? Scrooge and he were
partners for I don't know how many years. Scrooge
was his sole executor, his sole administrator, his
sole assign, his sole residuary legatee, his sole
friend, and sole mourner. And even Scrooge was
not so dreadfully cut up by the sad event, but that
he was an excellent man of business on the very day
of the funeral, and solemnised it with an undoubted

The mention of Marley's funeral brings me back
to the point I started from. There is no doubt
that Marley was dead. This must be distinctly
understood, or nothing wonderful can come of the
story I am going to relate. If we were not per-
fectly convinced that Hamlet's Father died before
the play began, there would be nothing more re-
markable in his taking a stroll at night, in an
easterly wind, upon his own ramparts, than there

marley's ghost. 3

would be in any other middle-aged gentleman rashly
turning out after dark in a breezy spot — say Saint
Paul's Churchyard for instance — literally to astonish
his son's weak mind.

Scrooge never painted out Old Marley's name.
There it stood, years afterwards, above the ware-
house door : Scrooge and Marley. The firm was
known as Scrooge and Marley. Sometimes people
new to the business called Scrooge Scrooge, and
sometimes Marley, but he answered to both names.
It was all the same to him.

Oh ! But he was a tight-fisted hand at the
grindstone, Scrooge ! a squeezing, wrenching, grasp-
ing, scraping, clutching, covetous old sinner ! Hard
and sharp as flint, from which no steel had ever
struck out generous fire ; secret, and self-contained,
and solitary as an oyster. The cold within him
froze his old features, nipped his pointed nose,
shrivelled his cheek, stiffened his gait ; made his
eyes red, his thin lips blue ; and spoke out shrewdly
in his grating voice. A frosty rime was on his
head, and on his eyebrows, and his wiry chin. He


carried his own low temperature always about with
him ; he iced his office in the dog-days ; and didn't
thaw it one degree at Christmas.

External heat and cold had little influence on
Scrooge. No warmth could warm, nor wintry
weather chill him. No wind that blew was bitterer
than he, no falling snow was more intent upon its
purpose, no pelting rain less open to entreaty. Foul
w r eather didn't know where to have him. The
heaviest rain, and snow, and hail, and sleet, could
boast of the advantage over him in only one respect.
They often " came down " handsomely, and Scrooge
never did.

Nobody ever stopped him in the street to say,
with gladsome looks, " My dear Scrooge, how are
you ! when will you come to see me?" No beggars
implored him to bestow a trifle, no children asked
him what it was o'clock, no man or woman ever
once in all his life inquired the way to such and
such a place, of Scrooge. Even the blindmen's dogs
appeared to know him ; and when they saw him
coming on, would tug their owners into doorways

marley's ghost. 5

and up courts ; and then would wag their tails as
though they said, " no eve at all is better than an
evil eye, dark master ! "

But what did Scrooge care ! It was the very
thing he liked. To edge his way along the crowded
paths of life, warning all human sympathy to keep
its distance, was what the knowing ones call
" nuts " to Scrooge.

Once upon a time — of all the good days in the
year, on Christmas Eve — old Scrooge sat busy in
his counting-house. It was cold, bleak, biting
weather : foggy withal : and he could hear the
people in the court outside go wheezing up and
down, beating their hands upon their breasts, and
stamping their feet upon the pavement-stones to
warm them. The city clocks had only just gone
three, but it was quite dark already : it had not
been light all day : and candles were flaring in the
windows of the neighbouring offices, like ruddy
smears upon the palpable brown air. The fog came
pouring in at every chink and keyhole, and was so

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Online LibraryCharles DickensA Christmas carol in prose, being a ghost story of Christmas → online text (page 1 of 8)