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Justin Fox

Charles Dickens Wrote Some Other Christmas Books

They’re not nearly as good as “A Christmas Carol,” but if you’re hankering for more “glowing, hearty, generous, mirthful, beaming” prose, they’ll do in a pinch.

Whatever pays the bills.

Whatever pays the bills.

Photographer: Suzanne Plunkett/Bloomberg

Charles Dickens wrote “A Christmas Carol” in 1843 in part because he was appalled at the living conditions of England’s urban poor, especially after a visit that September to a so-called Ragged School for London slum children. But he also wrote it because he needed money. His sixth novel, “Martin Chuzzlewit,” was not selling well, relatives were hitting him up for loans, and he was having trouble making the rent payments on the big London house he had moved his family into a few years earlier.

The book took Dickens only six weeks to finish, and the money flowed soon after. “A Christmas Carol in Prose: Being a Ghost Story of Christmas” was published Dec. 17, and its first print run of 6,000 copies had sold out by Christmas Eve. Within weeks there were eight different stage adaptations playing in London. Seven were unauthorized, though, and pirated editions of the book circulated widely as well. “A Christmas Carol” was a hit, and it enabled Dickens to pay his bills, but it wasn’t quite the cash cow it would be in an age of strictly enforced copyright laws.