A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
'Bah, Humbug!' might be the first phrase you think of when you remember the novel A Christmas Carol. The grouchy Ebenezer Scrooge mutters it all the time. What you might not realize is that the novel is also responsible for popularising the phrase 'Merry Christmas'! First published on 17 December 1843, Charles Dickens paid for its printing himself - he had it bound in red cloth with gilt-edged pages and complete with four expensive, hand-coloured etchings and four black-and-white wood engravings by John Leech to accompany the text. Be it for reasons of artistic merit or its modest price, or a little bit of both, the first run of 6,000 copies sold out before Christmas Eve.
A testimony to the huge success of this timeless winter tale is the abundance of adaptations in film, opera, ballet, musical theatre, and even mime. One paticularly interesting composition inspired by the novella comes in the form of Benjamin Britten's Men of Goodwill: Variations on 'A Christmas Carol'. This 1947 chamber orchestra composition is both literally based on a carol (God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen) and allegorically on the book, evoking its spirit and ultimate sense of giving. Enjoy this recording of the work in front of a warm fireplace and pick up a copy of Dickens' wonderful story.