Charles Dickens took a trip to Manchester to deliver a speech in support of the Athenaem, which provided adult education for manufacturing workers.
Like most entrepreneurs he was in desperate need to make money. He and his wife were expecting their fifth child. His family needed money. He had a large mortgage on his Devonshire Terrace home. Sales from monthly instalments of “Martin Chuzzlewit” were dismal.
On his trip to Manchester he had thoughts about education being a remedy to crime and poverty. He wanted to “strike a sledge hammer blow” for the poor.
He worked furiously on his idea for a new book, walking the streets of London at night swept by the story he was manufacturing in his imagination.
Dickens wrote and produced “A Christmas Carol” himself, included a lavish design with a gold-stamped cover and four hand-coloured etchings. He set the price of the book low so that it was affordable to almost everyone.
“A Christmas Carol” was published the week before Christmas 1843. It was an instant sensation. But because of his high printing costs, profits were disappointing. The book quickly became the victim of pirated editions because of slack copyright laws in England and no international copyright laws.
It’s strange isn’t it that from such a shaky money-making enterprise came the magnificent message of kindness, charitable giving, forgiveness and having an enjoyable time.
“A Christmas Carol” was and still is an impassioned plea and call to open our hearts to the people around us and to give. Of course, it wouldn’t hurt to be given a raise in salary like Ebenezer Scrooge lavished on Bob Cratchit.
Paging through the many “The Household Words” volumes, visiting 48 Doughty Street in Holborn, London, where he completed four novels in two years, I am amazed not only by his creative genius but his huge productivity. In “Household Words” he sometimes had three and four serialized fiction works going at once each month. He still had time for covering topics from the London fire brigade to editorials on America and court judgements.
When you take a deep look at his publishing ventures, you’ll be amazed at his innovative business models, some of which are being copied by young start-ups today for online serialized fiction.
“A Christmas Carol” purported to be a humorous ghost tale but its real intent was to liberate the poor, sick and destitute.
From an idea slipped into his mind on a trip to Manchester Charles Dickens brought a story to life that still reminds us to acknowledge and embrace all the less fortunate members of our community. As Tiny Tim observed, “God Bless Us Every One!”