From “Bah Humbug” to “God bless us, every one”

For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and in their eagerness to be rich some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains. 1 Timothy 6:10

Ebenezer Scrooge is perhaps the best-known example of a miser who let his love of money destroy his relationships with his fiancé, his nephew, and his life-long business partner Jacob Marley. Charles Dickens’ much-loved A Christmas Carol has been retold in countless film, book, song, and stage versions.

The story stirs up in many of us the hope that those who horde resources and condemn others to grinding poverty in the process will be visited by the three ghosts who will convince them to mend their greedy ways.

mag18 dickens A3Charles John Huffam Dickens was born in England in 1812. He died 58 years later, having authored books that are still required reading for English literature students: The Pickwick Papers, Oliver Twist, Tale of Two Cities and Great Expectations among others. His work was much appreciated in his own time and has been retold in too many forms and places since to count. He married Catherine Dickens in 1836 and divorced her 10 children and 22 years later to be with a young actress.

Dickens had first-hand knowledge of poverty. He had to drop out of school at age 12 to work in a factory when his father was thrown in debtors’ prison. The experience left an indelible mark on young Dickens’ psyche. The plight of the poor – especially poor children – became the topic of several of his books.

Even without a formal education Dickens managed to edit a weekly journal for 20 years, author 15 novels, 5 shorter works, and hundreds of short stories.

He got his big break the year he marred with the serial publication of The Pickwick Papers. It was common back then to publish novels in installments in weekly periodicals. In 1850 he began publication of his own weekly circular of fiction, poetry, and essays, which he titled, Household Words.

A Christmas Carol was first published in December 1843. He wrote it in part as a response to the misery of poverty-stricken children and in part because his writing income was dwindling and he needed a new source of income to avoid being poor again himself. He needed a smash hit. He wrote one that more than met the need. A Christmas Carol has been in continuous publication for 172 years.

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