Charles Dickens’s (1812–1870) A Christmas Carol was first published on 19 December 1843. The story of the old miser who, following visits by three ghosts, reforms into a generous and popular benefactor, was an immediate critical and popular success.
Stagings of the work immediately followed, continuing throughout the Victorian period – as shown by this posters from over 30 years later, promises the latest in entertainment technology.
In July 1877 at the Royal Assembly Rooms at Weston-super-Mare – a popular playground for working-class trippers – summer audiences could enjoy the story with more projectional wonders, Pepper’s ‘Proteus’ and ‘Strange and Wilson’s Ætherscope’. Prices ranged from sixpence to three shillings, at a time when a pint of beer cost about twopence.
Many notions of a ‘traditional Christmas’ such as greetings cards, trees (a German custom popularised by Prince Albert, 1819–1861) and carol singing date from the early 1840s, and A Christmas Carol helped establish today’s image of the season – for instance, the idealisation of fireside social gatherings with unlimited food and drink – as well as popularising the very expression ‘Merry Christmas’.