A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens Continues to Inspire Compassion and Forgiveness
On December 17, 1843, Charles Dickens published a little novella titled A Christmas Carol. It was written during a time when Dickens was struggling financially and hoping to rebound with sales from a new book. His previous book, Martin Chuzzelwit, was considered a flop, and his publishers were about to start deducting from his monthly pay—a move that would have been catastrophic for Dickens and his family.
At the time of writing A Christmas Carol, Dickens was 31 years old and had four children and a fifth on the way. He began writing in October of 1843 and finished the story in six weeks. Dickens was so immersed in his writing that he would often take 15- to 20-mile walks through the streets of London in the middle of the night, writing down everything he witnessed and smelled as inspiration for his book. Dickens described this unique writing experience admitting that he “wept and laughed and wept again.”
Dickens knew he needed the money from the sales, but he also cared so deeply about the final product that he made the pages with gold edges, hand-colored illustrations, and the finest materials and etchings. He even used his own money to publish it.
A Christmas Carol was an instant success—the first printing of 6,000 copies were all sold by Christmas Eve. The irony is that because of the money he spent on materials and publishing, there was only a small profit made from book sales. To add insult to injury, copyright laws were nonexistent at the time, which allowed for the book to be published and sold by other companies.
A Christmas Carol, title page from the 1843 first edition.
Eventually, A Christmas Carol did make money, and Dickens embarked on sold-out book-reading tours, which enabled him to provide for his family and for the less fortunate. The book continues to inspire and has resulted in numerous adaptations, including over 20 films such as A Christmas Carol (multiple versions), Mickey’s Christmas Carol, The Muppet Christmas Carol, and Scrooged to name a handful. The Man Who Invented Christmas, which was released on November 22, 2017, tells the story of Dickens’s desperate journey to create A Christmas Carol.
The influence that A Christmas Carol has had on generations of people is still going strong today. The message of compassion and forgiveness is at the core of the story and has no doubt inspired generations of people to change their lives for the better. In the end, Ebenezer Scrooge changed his heart and exclaimed, “I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach!”
The Mormon Tabernacle Choir is certainly keeping the spirit of the book alive. In 2013, guest narrator John Rhys-Davies (Indiana Jones, Lord of the Rings) took on the mantle of the Ghost of Christmas Present in A Dickens Christmas. The production, which told the story of Charles Dickens struggling to write A Christmas Carol, thrilled audiences. Watch the captivating story of how A Christmas Carol came to be, which includes John Rhys-Davies flying over the Conference Center audience (video above).
Watch the Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square perform “Sing a Christmas Carol,” which is the opening number to 1992’s Scrooge: The Musical. The Choir has also performed “I’ll Begin Again” during a New Year's special.