Published on 19 December, the first edition sold out by Christmas Eve ; by the end of thirteen editions had been released. Most critics reviewed the novella favourably. The story was illicitly copied in January ; Dickens took legal action against the publishers, who went bankrupt, further reducing Dickens's small profits from the publication. He went on to write four other Christmas stories in subsequent years. In he began public readings of the story which proved so successful he undertook further performances until , the year of his death.
A Christmas Carol has never been out of print and has been translated into several languages; the story has been adapted many times for film, stage, opera and other media. A Christmas Carol captured the zeitgeist of the mid-Victorian revival of the Christmas holiday. Dickens had acknowledged the influence of the modern Western observance of Christmas and later inspired several aspects of Christmas, including family gatherings, seasonal food and drink, dancing, games and a festive generosity of spirit.
The book is divided into five chapters, which Dickens titled " staves ". Scrooge, an ageing miser , dislikes Christmas and refuses a dinner invitation from his nephew Fred—the son of Fan, Scrooge's dead sister. He turns away two men who seek a donation from him to provide food and heating for the poor and only grudgingly allows his overworked, underpaid clerk , Bob Cratchit , Christmas Day off with pay to conform to the social custom.
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That night Scrooge is visited at home by Marley's ghost, who wanders the Earth entwined by heavy chains and money boxes forged during a lifetime of greed and selfishness. Marley tells Scrooge that he has a single chance to avoid the same fate: he will be visited by three spirits and must listen or be cursed to carry much heavier chains of his own.
The first spirit, the Ghost of Christmas Past , takes Scrooge to Christmas scenes of Scrooge's boyhood, reminding him of a time when he was more innocent. The scenes reveal Scrooge's lonely childhood at boarding school , his relationship with his beloved sister Fan, and a Christmas party hosted by his first employer, Mr Fezziwig , who treated him like a son. Finally, they visit a now-married Belle with her large, happy family on the Christmas Eve that Marley died.
Scrooge, upset by hearing Belle's description of the man that he has become, demands that the ghost remove him from the house. The second spirit, the Ghost of Christmas Present , takes Scrooge to a joyous market with people buying the makings of Christmas dinner and to celebrations of Christmas in a miner's cottage and in a lighthouse. Scrooge and the ghost also visit Fred's Christmas party. A major part of this stave is taken up with Bob Cratchit's family feast and introduces his youngest son, Tiny Tim , a happy boy who is seriously ill.
The spirit informs Scrooge that Tiny Tim will die unless the course of events changes.
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Before disappearing, the spirit shows Scrooge two hideous, emaciated children named Ignorance and Want. He tells Scrooge to beware the former above all and mocks Scrooge's concern for their welfare. The silent ghost reveals scenes involving the death of a disliked man whose funeral is attended by local businessmen only on condition that lunch is provided. His charwoman , laundress and the local undertaker steal his possessions to sell to a fence. When he asks the spirit to show a single person who feels emotion over his death, he is only given the pleasure of a poor couple who rejoice that his death gives them more time to put their finances in order.
When Scrooge asks to see tenderness connected with any death, the ghost shows him Bob Cratchit and his family mourning the death of Tiny Tim.
The ghost then allows Scrooge to see a neglected grave, with a tombstone bearing Scrooge's name. Sobbing, Scrooge pledges to change his ways.
Scrooge awakens on Christmas morning a changed man. He makes a large donation to the charity he rejected the day before, anonymously sends a large turkey to the Cratchit home for Christmas dinner and spends the afternoon with Fred's family. The following day he gives Cratchit an increase in pay and begins to become a father figure to Tiny Tim. From then on Scrooge treats everyone with kindness, generosity and compassion, embodying the spirit of Christmas.
The writer Charles Dickens was born to a middle-class family which got into financial difficulties as a result of the spendthrift nature of his father John. In John was committed to the Marshalsea , a debtors' prison in Southwark , London. Dickens, aged 12, was forced to pawn his collection of books, leave school and work at a dirty and rat-infested shoe-blacking factory.
The change in circumstances gave him what his biographer, Michael Slater, describes as a "deep personal and social outrage", which heavily influenced his writing and outlook. By the end of Dickens was a well-established author, having written six major works, [n 1] as well as several short stories, novellas and other pieces. Celebrating the Christmas season had been growing in popularity through the Victorian era.
Their practice was copied in many homes across the country.
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Dickens had an interest in Christmas, and his first story on the subject was "Christmas Festivities", published in Bell's Weekly Messenger in ; the story was then published as "A Christmas Dinner" in Sketches by Boz In the episode, a Mr Wardle relates the tale of Gabriel Grub, a lonely and mean-spirited sexton , who undergoes a Christmas conversion after being visited by goblins who show him the past and future. Dickens was not the first author to celebrate the Christmas season in literature.
Several works may have had an influence on the writing of A Christmas Carol , including two Douglas Jerrold essays: one from an issue of Punch , "How Mr. Dickens was touched by the lot of poor children in the middle decades of the 19th century. It was a parliamentary report exposing the effects of the Industrial Revolution upon working class children. Horrified by what he read, Dickens planned to publish an inexpensive political pamphlet tentatively titled, An Appeal to the People of England, on behalf of the Poor Man's Child , but changed his mind, deferring the pamphlet's production until the end of the year.
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In a fundraising speech on 5 October at the Manchester Athenaeum , Dickens urged workers and employers to join together to combat ignorance with educational reform,  and realised in the days following that the most effective way to reach the broadest segment of the population with his social concerns about poverty and injustice was to write a deeply felt Christmas narrative rather than polemical pamphlets and essays. By mid Dickens began to suffer from financial problems.
Sales of Martin Chuzzlewit were falling off, and his wife, Catherine , was pregnant with their fifth child. George Cruikshank , the illustrator who had earlier worked with Dickens on Sketches by Boz and Oliver Twist , introduced him to the caricaturist John Leech. By 24 October Dickens invited Leech to work on A Christmas Carol , and four hand-coloured etchings and four black-and-white wood engravings by the artist accompanied the text.
The central character of A Christmas Carol is Ebenezer Scrooge, a miserly London-based moneylender,  described in the story as "a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous old sinner!
This psychological conflict may be responsible for the two radically different Scrooges in the tale—one a cold, stingy and greedy semi-recluse, the other a benevolent, sociable man. Elwell, Scrooge's views on the poor are a reflection of those of the demographer and political economist Thomas Malthus ,  while the miser's questions "Are there no prisons? And the Union workhouses? The treadmill and the Poor Law are in full vigour, then?
There are literary precursors for Scrooge in Dickens's own works. Peter Ackroyd , Dickens's biographer, sees similarities between the character and the elder Martin Chuzzlewit character, although the miser is "a more fantastic image" than the Chuzzlewit patriarch; Ackroyd observes that Chuzzlewit's transformation to a charitable figure is a parallel to that of the miser.
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The grave was for Ebenezer Lennox Scroggie, whose job was given as a meal man—a corn merchant; Dickens misread the inscription as "mean man". When Dickens was young he lived near a tradesman's premises with the sign "Goodge and Marney", which may have provided the name for Scrooge's former business partner. The transformation of Scrooge is central to the story.
Other writers, including Kelly, consider that Dickens put forward a "secular vision of this sacred holiday". Jordan argues that A Christmas Carol shows what Dickens referred to in a letter to his friend John Forster as his " Carol philosophy, cheerful views, sharp anatomisation of humbug, jolly good temper Dickens wrote A Christmas Carol in response to British social attitudes towards poverty, particularly child poverty, and wished to use the novella as a means to put forward his arguments against it.
As the result of the disagreements with Chapman and Hall over the commercial failures of Martin Chuzzlewit ,  Dickens arranged to pay for the publishing himself, in exchange for a percentage of the profits. The first printing contained drab olive endpapers that Dickens felt were unacceptable, and the publisher Chapman and Hall quickly replaced them with yellow endpapers, but, once replaced, those clashed with the title page, which was then redone.
Chapman and Hall issued second and third editions before the new year, and the book continued to sell well into According to Douglas-Fairhurst, contemporary reviews of A Christmas Carol "were almost uniformly kind". The last two people I heard speak of it were women; neither knew the other, or the author, and both said, by way of criticism, 'God bless him! The poet Thomas Hood , in his own journal , wrote that "If Christmas, with its ancient and hospitable customs, its social and charitable observances, were ever in danger of decay, this is the book that would give them a new lease.
There were critics of the book. The New Monthly Magazine praised the story, but thought the book's physical excesses—the gilt edges and expensive binding—kept the price high, making it unavailable to the poor. The review recommended that the tale should be printed on cheap paper and priced accordingly. Following criticism of the US in American Notes and Martin Chuzzlewit , American readers were less enthusiastic at first, but by the end of the American Civil War , copies of the book were in wide circulation.
In January Parley's Illuminated Library published an unauthorised version of the story in a condensed form which they sold for twopence.
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I have not the least doubt that if these Vagabonds can be stopped they must. Let us be the sledge-hammer in this, or I shall be beset by hundreds of the same crew when I come out with a long story.