I’ve lived in New York all my life, but up until about a week ago, I had no idea that the original version of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol was in New York City, in the Morgan Library, which is a brief walk from Grand Central. So I immediately went to see it.
Dickens wrote his beloved novel in only six weeks. He was under a lot of financial pressure at the time, but he was also consumed by anger and grief over the conditions of the poor, especially children. He wrote the book in the fall of 1843 in a fever of energy. When it was done, he sent the hand-written manuscript to a bookbinder., who bound it in crimson morocco. He then presented the manuscript to his friend, Thomas Mitton, possibly as a Christmas gift, or in gratitude for a loan Mitton had given him.
Eventually Dickens died and then Mitton died and the manuscript was owned by various book dealers and then in the 1890s Pierpont Morgan bought it, which is how it comes to be in the New York.
The library displays the volume every December, and each year it’s turned to a different page. This year it’s turned to a page early in the book, when Scrooge refers to the death of his partner, Jacob Marley, who died “seven years ago this very night.” If you want to see the entire book, you can find it at the Morgan Library’s on-line collection.
Seeing the physical book is incredibly moving. You can sense the urgency of Dickens’ handwriting and imagine him working all through the night, scratching out words, replacing them with better ones. I watched a variety of people come streaming through the library, pausing before the book, and looking at it reverently. I suspect it’s touched many of us. So on behalf of the Miss Demeanors (and Tiny Tim) “God bless Us, Every One!”