The Man Who Invented Christmas

November 17, 2017 | Mary Rae

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In 1843, Charles Dickens published A Christmas Carol: In Prose, Being a Ghost Story of Christmas, the story of the miserly Ebeneezer Scrooge, and the visitation by the three ghosts of Christmas, forever changing how we approach the Christmas season.


Mr. Fezziwigs Ball
Mr. Fezziwig's Ball, frontispiece of "A Christmas Carol", 1843


At this point, Dickens was already a household name in Britain and America. Under increasing pressure from his publishers following the lukewarm reception of Martin Chuzzlewit, A Christmas Carol was written, printed, published and distributed in just six weeks. The novella was published on December 19, 1843, and was sold out by Christmas Eve. An astounding success, it has become a holiday tradition, with many different films and adaptations – from Alastair Sim’s classic, to Doctor Who, to my personal favourite – A Muppet Christmas Carol.

"A Christmas Carol" l was the first and most famous of five Christmas books penned by Charles Dickens.

a christmas carol, by charles dickens

followed by "The Chimes" (1845),

The Chimes (1846)

 "The Cricket on the Hearth" (1846),

The Cricket on the Hearth (1846)

 "The Battle of Life" (1846),

The Battle of Life (1846) 

and lastly,  "The Haunted Man and the Ghost’s Bargain" (1848).


The Haunted Man and the Ghost's Bargain (1848)

On November 28, join us in the Founders' Room at the Toronto Reference Library at 7 p.m. for a presentation about the five Christmas books and their significance to the Christmas literary genre.

Later this month, the feature film The Man Who Invented Christmas opens in theatres across Canada, introducing new audiences to Dickens' own story.


The story follows the thread of how he conjured up the iconic characters of Ebeneezer Scrooge, Bob Cratchit and Tiny Tim.

In association with the film, Toronto Public Library is hosting an exhibit of original artifacts relating to Charles Dickens in the Arthur Conan Doyle Room, in the Marilyn & Charles Baillie Special Collections Centre, on the 5th floor of the Toronto Reference Library. The artifacts, from a private collection, will be on display November 18-December 3. The exhibit includes first editions of each of the Christmas stories, Charles Dickens’ ink stand, calling cards and photographs, and many more fascinating items.

Charles dickens
Cabinet photograph of Charles Dickens, Jeremiah Gurney and Son, New York



Charles Dickens' travelling silver ink stand

Charles Dicken's travelling silver ink stand

Dan Calinescu, the Vice President of the Toronto branch of the Dickens Fellowship, will be on hand November 23 at 2 p.m. for a brief talk about Dickens’ life and work, providing context for the artifacts on display.

Why the Arthur Conan Doyle Room you ask? Arthur Conan Doyle was highly influenced by Dickens, and there is a strong link as well between Doyle and Christmas. For example, the first appearance of Sherlock Holmes was in the Beeton’s Christmas Annual.

   Beetons Christmas Annual

To find out more about the connection between Doyle, Dickens and Christmas, drop  in Saturday, December 2 at 2 p.m. for a Christmas-themed curator’s talk featuring artifacts from the Library’s Arthur Conan Doyle Collection.

All humbug aside, be sure to visit the Arthur Conan Doyle Room in the Marilyn & Charles Baillie Special Collections Centre, on the 5th floor of the Toronto Reference Library. Step back into time and enjoy Christmas in the age of Dickens and Doyle.