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Did Charles Dickens invent Christmas? Bah, humbug, no he didn’t

As ‘A Christmas Carol’ reaches its 175th anniversary, the author’s great-great-great granddaughter tells Adam Lusher that the story was a call for compassion in the depths of near-unbridled capitalism – one that remains painfully relevant to this day

Wednesday 19 December 2018 01:50
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John Leech's illustration of Scrooge being visited by the Ghost of Christmas Present – from the original 1843 edition
John Leech's illustration of Scrooge being visited by the Ghost of Christmas Present – from the original 1843 edition

It was a land that had forgotten the season of good will. In 1843, in Britain, the iron hearts of the Industrial Revolution had no time for such fripperies as Christmas. This was an age of near-unbridled capitalism, where, officially, it was acceptable for nine-year-olds to work nine-hour days, and, unofficially, inspection was so lax you could get away with making them labour for much longer. Government departments had cut their Christmas “holiday” from a week in 1797 to a single day in the 1840s.

In St James’s, members of the Carlton Club, then a key component of the Tory Party’s organisational machinery, had a few years earlier thought nothing of arranging a committee meeting on December 25 itself.

If he knew how little had changed in terms of poverty, Charles Dickens would be spinning in his grave

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