Malton residents raise £27,000 to 'bring home' signed copy of A Christmas Carol

Charles Dickens' festive ghost story is thought to be partially inspired by the North Yorkshire town

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The Independent Culture

A signed copy of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol has been bought for the town thought to have inspired Scrooge’s counting house.

A campaign to buy the book (which contains an inscription to a former resident) was organised in Malton, North Yorkshire by a group who raised the £27,000 needed to secure it at auction in New York.

The book is currently on display at Castle Howard and will go on show at the Talbot Hotel, Malton before moving to the University of York and touring schools in the area.

Actor Simon Callow, commented on the acquisition: “It’s great that it’s coming to Malton with its connections with the solicitor who’s office Dickens may well have used as the model for Ebenezer Scrooge’s counting house.”

Charles Smithson’s office is believed to have inspired his friend Charles Dickens’ depiction of the working conditions set by the money-grabbing miser Scrooge.

The book was first published in 1843, but Dickens’ friend Smithson died aged 39 in 1844. The copy obtained for Malton contains an inscription to Smithson’s widow: "Mrs Smithson, from Charles Dickens, 18th April 1844."

Callow, who is currently appearing as Scrooge in a West End production of A Christmas Carol, remarked on “the definite connection between this friend of Dickens’ and the office”.

He said: “Dickens wrote A Christmas Carol in protest against the employment of children in the mines. People tend not to think of that, but it was the actual inspiration behind the novel.”

The famous Christmas story was set in London but the Dickens is known to have visited Smithson in Malton in 1843.

The campaign to acquire the book for Malton aws led by broadcaster and local resident Selina Scott. She told the BBC: "It inspired me when I head that the book was coming up for auction in New York, I knew immediately that it had to come back to Malton.”

"I knew the Smithson story because my grandfather used to be the editor of the Malton Messenger and the Malton Messenger in those days was owned by a Miss Smithson.”

Callow will appear in A Christmas Carol at the Arts Theatre, Leicester Square, London until 6 January 2013.