Charles Dickens, the year before he wrote A Christmas Carol

Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol - its full title was A Christmas Carol. In Prose. Being a Ghost Story of Christmas - was first published in 1843, one hundred and seventy five years ago. 

Published by Chapman and Hall in London, it was illustrated by John Leech (above right) and met immediate success. The first edition sold out by Christmas Eve. Thirteen more editions had been released before the end of the following year.

It came out at a time when there was an enormous revival of interest in Christmas traditions, with many tales of ghosts emerging, combined with a social awareness of the dreadful conditions of poverty that so many Victorians were forced to live in. As such, many academics think of this novella as a Christian allegory. 

The book has never been out of print. It has inspired countless adaptations on stage, and screen, and in opera form, with visual interpretations by artists. And now, a new novella has been released by the publisher Harper Collins. This new book is very much inspired by the original story, but looks more closely at the character of Jacob Marley and his relationship with his sister, Clara - leading to the title of Miss Marley.

Miss Marley was conceived and written (and very almost completed) by Vanessa Lafaye, the writer for whom this Victorian story had become almost an obsession. The resulting novel was acquired by publishing director of Harper Collins, Kate Mills. It is beautifully produced and has been seamlessly completed by the writer Rebecca Mascull. Illustrations have been created by Emily Carew Woodard.

The perfect Christmas gift, available at all good book shops.

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