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Wednesday, June 2, 2010


June is here, and down in New Zealand, where a wintry blast of rain has predominated for the last eleven days, it feels like a mid-year Christmas -- which makes finding a New York Times discussion of Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol feel particularly apt.

Apparently, there is only one surviving version of the manuscript of the classic, held now at the Morgan Library and Museum in Manhattan.  As you can see, it is a bewildering chaos of alterations, corrections, and after-thoughts.  One wonders how it ever metamorphosed into a printed book.

Dickens wrote it because he needed the money, but was not rewarded particularly well.  The print run was 6,000, all with hand-tinted illustrations -- a disastrously expensive decision.  The project was a financial fiasco.  Even a man with the feverishly fertile imagination of Dickens himself could not picture the future of film, pantomime, and drama that lay in the future of this messy little masterpiece.

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