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Unwrapping 'A Christmas Carol'

Dickens’s novella, A Christmas Carol, is one of his best known and best loved works. The circumstances that drove Dickens to write on Christian charity however are little known by the public. This exhibition will reveal how a campaigning article about the injustices of child labour turned into a story that continues to inspire more than 170 years after its publication.

Written in six weeks in the winter of 1843 to ensure publication before Christmas, A Christmas Carolsold 6,000 copies in the six days between its release and Christmas Eve that same year and has never been out of print since. Inspired by a damning parliamentary report and growing awareness of child poverty, the book follows Ebenezer Scrooge over the course of a tortuous night. At the time of publication, one critic declared it ‘a national benefit to every man and woman who reads it.’

The exhibition explores the inspiration behind the novella through artefacts such as the earliest hand-tinted etchings by John Leech for the first edition of A Christmas Carol in 1843, first editions of the story, playbills and presentation copies given by Dickens to his friends.

Unwrapping A Christmas Carol aims not only to examine the novella’s creation but its success, legacy, and continued enormous popularity. The exhibition will partner with the new film The Man Who Invented Christmas, which opens in the UK on 1st December and stars Dan Stevens as Charles Dickens.

To mark the UK release of the film, which focuses on Dickens’s motivations for writing A Christmas Carol, the Museum will devote a section of the exhibition to original costumes and props from the film. Among the highlights will be the costumes worn by Dan Stevens, Ger Ryan as Elizabeth Dickens, and Dickens aficionado Simon Callow as John Leech.


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