Dickens and “A Christmas Carol”

In the autumn of 1843, Charles Dickens was at something of a crossroads in his writing career. At the age of 31, he enjoyed literary fame due to the success of The Pickwick Papers and Oliver Twist, but his latest novel, Martin Chuzzlewit, was not selling well in serialized form, and Dickens feared that his popularity was sinking.

He also had money problems. Dickens had a wife and four children to support; in late 1843 his wife, Catherine, was pregnant with their fifth. Dickens had just returned from a year-long trip to the United States that had been quite costly. His idea…