Narrator: Jonathan Davis
Published by Audible Studios on April 25, 2017
Genres: Biography, Christmas
Length: 5 hrs 50 mins
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Just before Christmas in 1843, a debt-ridden and dispirited Charles Dickens wrote a small book he hoped would keep his creditors at bay. His publisher turned it down, so Dickens used what little money he had to put out A Christmas Carol himself. He worried it might be the end of his career as a novelist. The book immediately caused a sensation. And it breathed new life into a holiday that had fallen into disfavor, undermined by lingering Puritanism and the cold modernity of the Industrial Revolution. It was a harsh and dreary age, in desperate need of spiritual renewal, ready to embrace a book that ended with blessings for one and all.
With warmth, wit, and an infusion of Christmas cheer, Les Standiford whisks us back to Victorian England, its most beloved storyteller, and the birth of the Christmas we know best. The Man Who Invented Christmas is a rich and satisfying read for Scrooges and sentimentalists alike.
I was looking for one last non-fiction book for the year to make it an even 12—a lot for me, and I’ve been in the mood for Christmas reading, if you haven’t noticed from my last few posts. Which led me to The Man Who Invented Christmas. No, Charles Dickens didn’t invent Christmas, but he did help re-popularize it and shape it as a holiday about family and charity and giving.
Dickens wrote A Christmas Carol at a point where he was almost flat-broke. He self-published the book, supervising everything from the illustrations to the printing. The story provides a lot of information about how books were published and marketed during the Victorian Era, along with how many were pirated and resold under various guises or made into plays without the author/publisher’s consent.
While A Christmas Carol didn’t make him the money he had hoped, it did become a perennial favorite. It helped shape how we celebrate Christmas and the values we think most important that time of year. Standiford gives us some background on the Christmas traditions and version of Santa Claus/Father Christmas and talks about other authors writing about the holiday, including Washington Irving. We also get a synopsis of the Carol, along with a look at some of Dickens’ possible inspirations.
The Man Who Invented Christmas is a biography that doesn’t just look at the time Dickens wrote A Christmas Carol. It starts with his rather depressing childhood working in a shoe-blacking warehouse, through his marriage and eventual separation, his writings and public readings, to his death. It gives a good overall look at his life with a special emphasis on A Christmas Carol.
I love A Christmas Carol, but I’m not much of a Dickens fan. To be honest, I think it’s the only one of his I’ve read, and I’m pretty much fine with that. I did enjoy this biography though. I like how Standiford pulls in bits of publishing, Christmas history, and the culture of the time. I wonder if the movie based on it is any good.
Reading this book contributed to these challenges: