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Real Life Inspiration for A Christmas Carol

This week The Huffington Post recounted the true, but little known, story of the inspiration behind Charles Dickens’ iconic holiday tale A Christmas Carol. Though the British author had already published several novels, he was struggling to make ends meet in the fall of 1843. During an evening constitutional through a seedy London neighborhood, Dickens was reminded of his own hardscrabble childhood, and was struck with the inspiration to write a cheerful, uplifting Christmas story for all those who had felt the harsh sting of poverty.

With the holidays quickly approaching, he decided on a short story format, and gave the publisher very detailed instructions on the book design, specifying a gold stamped cover, a green and red title page and several etched illustrations. Despite the high production values, the book was reasonably priced at five shillings, so that it would be affordable to a large segment of the population.

The book was an instant hit with readers and sold 6,000 copies by Christmas Eve. Along with his audience, Dickens was deeply touched by the heartfelt story. “I was very much affected by that little book,” he admitted to a journalist, “and quite reluctant to lay it aside even for a moment.”

This classic tale was truly a gift to the public as the novelist made little profit from it. But, it did mark a turning point for Dickens as the popularity he gained for A Christmas Carol, translated into lucrative sales of his later works including Great Expectations and A Tale of Two Cities.

Happy Holidays Everyone!

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