Charles Dickens Kept Revising and Revising His “A Christmas Carol”
The author would make changes over years of public readings.
If “no space of regret can make amends for one life’s opportunity misused,” then Charles Dickens wasn’t going to waste any chance to tweak his 1843 novel, A Christmas Carol, after it was published.
Especially, since Dickens would take his story on the road, giving public readings in which he would perform the voices of the characters and rework the text as he workshopped new ideas. His copy of the book, marked up with notes is being exhibited at the New York Public Library.
“Reading from your own work was new, and his degree of literary celebrity took it into the stratosphere,” Carolyn Vega, curator at the Berg Collection at the New York Public Library, told Atlas Obscura.
Dickens used an annotated copy, scrawling notes in the margins and striking whole sentences to make the text leaner. That allowed him to fit more stories in every performance.
“By the end of doing it for 20 years, he knew exactly what hooks the audience, what worked and what didn’t,” said Vega, “but always went up with the book in hand.”
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