Have a Dickens of a Christmas
We hope everyone is having a great week preparing for a joyful, fun, Christmas weekend with family and friends.
Here's a thought as you put the last trim on the tree (we went with an Astro's theme) - we have a commercial transaction gone wrong, a collection action, solid estate planning, and copyright/intellectual property infringement to thank for the way we celebrate Christmas.
We're talking, of course, about Charles Dickens and A Christmas Carol.
Let's back up for a second: before A Christmas Carol, Christmas was not a holiday in the United States - not in any way we'd recognize today. The Puritans, not exactly renowned for levity, had banned the celebration of Christmas in the 1650s. Then they outlawed it..
Christmas didn't get any cheerier for the next 180 years in the U.S. It was considerably more fun and festive in the British Isles (they got rid of the Puritans, remember) and Europe.
The immense popularity of A Christmas Carol changed all that.
It couldn't have been written, never mind become an international bestseller, without the unique set of circumstances that led to its creation.
Dickens grew up in a comfortably middle-class family. When he was twelve, his father suffered a series of business losses, creditors called the loans, he couldn't pay and was tossed into debtor’s prison. Charles’ mother and younger siblings went with him. Charles pawned his school books and went to a workshop to help pay off his father’s debts.
An inheritance saved the family. Dickens went on to a regular education, then a job as a court reporter, and, of course, became a successful novelist.
By 1843, Dickens’ was experiencing financial hardship - his publisher reneged on his contract and stopped paying royalties. His response was to write A Christmas Carol in six weeks and publish it himself in mid-December. If there was such a thing as 'going viral' in 1843, his ghost story would have done so. It was an enormous hit. It ran through eleven editions in its first two years. Dickens raked in the cash.
Cheap publishers in the United Kingdom and the States soon began to produce illicit copies - universally cheap, full of errors, and missing parts. Dickens sued, repeatedly, and won. More publicity for the book. He began to do stage readings, selling out large theaters. He turned the book into an event. He adapted it as a play and earned royalties for the rest of his life..
A Christmas Carol was (and still) is Dickens' best selling book in the U.S.. Americans heard, read, and saw how great celebrating Christmas could be. Trees, decorations, and gifts were close behind.
A little bit of a lot of the areas Hopkins Centrich practices in somehow combined to shape how we celebrate Christmas. Amazing.
To quote Ebenezer, " A merry Christmas to everybody! Happy New Year to all the world!”