Publication of A Christmas Carol

The first edition of 6,000 copies was published on 19 December 1843.

‘Come in and know me better, man!’ Scrooge's third visitor, from Charles Dickens: A Christmas Carol. In Prose. Being a Ghost Story of Christmas. With Illustrations by John Leech. London: Chapman & Hall, 1843. First edition. Wiki Commons.

‘Marley was dead: to begin with.’ It is perhaps the finest opening to a ghost story. But where did A Christmas Carol begin for Charles Dickens?

The answer seems to be a report from the Children’s Employment Commission, published in February 1843. On 6 March Dickens offered to write a pamphlet before year’s end ‘on behalf of the Poor Man’s Child’. Four days later, his thinking had changed. ‘You will certainly feel that a Sledge hammer has come down with … twenty thousand times the force I could exert by following out my first idea,’ he said.

Then, in September, Dickens visited the Ragged School for destitute children near Saffron Hill. ‘I have very seldom seen, in all the strange and dreadful things I have seen … anything so shocking,’ he wrote.

Once started, A Christmas Carol took him over. ‘Charles Dickens wept, and laughed, and wept again … in the composition’, Dickens wrote of himself, ‘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.’ All this while ‘pegging away, tooth and nail’ at the monthly serialisation of Martin Chuzzlewit.

It was published on 19 December 1843. The first edition of 6,000 copies had sold out by Christmas Eve. By 2 January, a second edition of 3,000 had been issued. ‘Hurrah, say I,’ Dickens wrote.