This year, on account of the show David and staged at the British Library, I have already bored you with my thoughts on the tale of Ebenezer Scrooge, "a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous, old sinner" who – through the intervention of a series of ghostly interviews – turns away from his miserly past towards a present and a future filled with the joyful happiness symbolised by Christmas.
A Christmas Carol was first published on this day in 1843, and was an instantaneous triumph. It became – and has remained for the past 168 years – a national (and international) treasure!
A contemporary reviewer said of it that it was "a tale to make the reader laugh and cry – to open his hands, and open his heart to charity even toward the uncharitable..."
On the book's publication, Thomas Hood wrote: "If Christmas, with its ancient and hospitable customs, its social and charitable observances, were ever in danger of decay, this is the book that would give them a new lease. The very name of the author predisposes one to the kindlier feelings; and a peep at the Frontispiece sets the animal spirits capering..."
Some years ago, now, I wrote A Christmas Carol: The Unsung Story, an entire book about Dickens' "ghost story of Christmas", partly inspired by decades of collecting various editions and versions of the story in all types of media and partly by Humbug!, a programme that I wrote and presented on BBC Radio 4 (according to my fellow Caroller, Mr Boll Weavil) on 22 December 1987.
On Christmas Day, 1993 – to mark the 150th anniversary of the original publication – a revised version of Humbug! was broadcast and – as I did at this time last year –I'm posting a recording of it on today's blog.
So, pour yourself a seasonal glass of something, heat up some mince pies, take a break from the pre-Christmas rush-and-tear and get into the spirit of the season with what, I hope, is still a mildly interesting account of how and why Charles Dickens was inspired to write what is, surely, his most famous book.
Along the way, you can enjoy some of the many interpretations – good, bad and downright ugly – that have been perpetrated over the years. And, after you have listened to some of these well-known, lesser-known and, sometimes, downright unlikely Scrooges, I defy all but the flintiest-hearted of you to say...
Images: Caricature of Charles Dickens by David Levine; Bob Cratchit & Tiny Tim by Fred Barnard, c. 1870; Scrooge and Marley's Ghost by John Leech, 1843.