Friday, December 21, 2007

Dickens Did It . . .

One hundred and fifty years ago, in October 1843, Charles Dickens began the writing of one of his most popular and best- loved books, A Christmas Carol. It was written in six weeks and finished by the end of November, being fitted in the intervals of writing the monthly parts of Martin Chuzzrlewit, a work which was causing him some financial anxiety because the public did not seem to have taken to it as readily as to his earlier serials. A Christmas Carol would, he hoped, bring a better financial return.

John Forster, Dicken's biographer, noted how the story, once conceived, gripped Dickens. 'He wept over it, and laughed, and wept again, and excited himself to an extraordinary degree'. 'He walked thinking of it fifteen and twenty miles about the black streets of London', often at very late hours of the night. He kept Christmas that year with an extraordinary zest; 'such dinings, such dancings, such conjurings, such blind-man's buffings, such theatre-goings, such kissing-out of old years and kissing-in of new ones, never took place in these parts before'. Savouring the atmosphere of Christmas in London became part of Dickens' annuai routine. Every Christmas Eve he went to visit the Christmas markets in the East End between Aldgate and Bow, and he liked to wander in poor neighbourhoods on Christmas Day, 'past the areas of shabby genteel houses in Somers or Kentish Towns. "A Christmas Carol" made us all sing, laugh and cry.

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