Cynthia Haven at The Book Haven:
Dickens-lover John Hennessy (also known as Stanford University’s president) told us some time ago that he reread A Christmas Carol at this time of year. Perhaps we’ll join him – certainly it’s short enough. My little facsimile of the first edition is a double-spaced 166 pages long (at right).
It was the first book Charles Dickens took to the road for his famous readings, which made a killing in the U.S. His second American tour raked in the equivalent of $2.3 million in today’s dollars. People camped out in the snow the night before to hear it – it was the 19th-century version of Black Friday sales at Walmart.
During that 1867 tour, the 32-year-old Mark Twain was in the audience, and was distinctly unimpressed. Here’s how he described the “old” (55 years old) writer’s entrance:
Promptly at 8 P.M., unannounced, and without waiting for any stamping or clapping of hands to call him out, a tall, “spry,” (if I may say it,) thin-legged old gentleman, gotten up regardless of expense, especially as to shirt-front and diamonds, with a bright red flower in his button-hole, gray beard and moustache, bald head, and with side hair brushed fiercely and tempestuously forward, as if its owner were sweeping down before a gale of wind, the very Dickens came!