Charles Dickens’ fable created an imagery of urban poverty that haunts us today, but don’t think Scrooge’s about-turn is a recipe for social justice
From London to Peterborough, Truro to Dundee, A Christmas Carol is everywhere this year, raising the question of why Charles Dickens’ novella should remain so haunting 180 years after it was written. Dickens was just 31 years old when he conjured up the old misanthropist Ebenezer Scrooge and his parade of ghosts as a quick money-spinner between more expansive serialisations.
The book was published on 19 December 1843 – and by Christmas Eve all 6,000 copies had sold out. By February, eight adaptations had been staged, only one sanctioned by the author. Not all his contemporaries were impressed. “There is no heart. No feeling – it is nothing but glittering frostwork,” said Mark Twain when Dickens toured his own staged reading to America two decades later (a tradition that the great latter-day Dickensian Simon Callow has continued on stage and now on screen).