December 19th 1843: A Christmas Carol published

On this day in 1843, Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol first went on sale, published by Chapman & Hall. Dickens began writing the novella in September 1843, and finished it remarkably quickly, with the book ready for publication by December. A Christmas Carol centres around the cantankerous Ebenezer Scrooge, who is visited by the ghosts of his former business partner Jacob Marley and the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Yet to Come. These spectral visits reform Scrooge, convincing him to cease his cruelty towards his workers, and to embrace the spirit of Christmas. A Christmas Carol is indicative of general themes of Dickens’s work, namely his sincere sympathy for the poor and destitute. This Christmas story is a much-loved book, standing alongside Dickens’s other works like Bleak House, Oliver Twist, Great Expectations, and A Tale of Two Cities as some of the most celebrated pieces of British literature. A Christmas Carol has since become a quintessential Christmas story, and its message of kindness and compassion remains poignant.

Obit of the Day (Fictional): Jacob Marley (1836)

Jacob Marley, partner in the counting house Marley & Scrooge, passed away on  Christmas Eve, 176 years ago. Little is known about Mr. Marley’s childhood and upbringing. The first written record shows him working as a clerk for Mr. Fezziwig in London, where he met his future business partner, Ebenezer Scrooge.

The counting house that Marley and Scrooge established would eventually earn them to a seat on the London Stock Exchange. Their reputation within the business community was unparalleled, if not always positive. They worked endlessly and with little regard to their customers or competitors; more worried about earning the next shilling than the welfare of those around them.

After Marley’s death in 1836, Scrooge took over sole proprietorship of the counting house. (In an acknowledgement of Scrooge’s tight-fisted ways, he did not commission a new sign but simply crossed off Marley’s name to save a few pounds.) Although hardly to be believed, Scrooge’s behavior was even worse following the death of his partner. Known throughout Londontown as a stingy miser, he treated others with utter disdain and cared nothing but for the money he earned.

It was long rumored (and furthered by the author Charles Dickens) that the ghost of Mr. Marley appeared to Ebenezer Scrooge on Christmas Eve, 1843. On that night he warned Scrooge that the life they led would only bring about eternal pain. Their success at businessmen at the expense of people had forced Marley to wander the earth draped in chains, money boxes, and keys atoning for his sins. The story, as recounted by Mr. Dickens, then tells that three additional ghosts visited Mr. Scrooge: The Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future.

As ludicrous as the story appears, on Christmas Day Mr. Scrooge was a new man. Kind to all, generous, and always seen with a smile. He even paid for a new sign and promoted his clerk, Mr. Robert “Bob” Cratchit, to partner. Mr. Scrooge would never confirm Mr. Dickens’ tale but if you asked him about it he would give a knowing smirk.

You can find a free copy of Mr. Dickens’ account that fateful Christmas Eve here.

Merry Christmas from Obit of the Day!

(Image Marley’s ghost, from Charles Dickens: A Christmas Carol. In Prose. Being a Ghost Story of Christmas. With Illustrations by John Leech. London: Chapman & Hall, 1843. First edition. Courtesy of Wikipedia.org)