NY1's Frank DiLella takes a look at one of the most beloved holiday stories of all time, set in London on December 24.
"The poulterers' shops were still half open, and the fruiterers' were radiant in their glory."
Charles Dickens penned these exact words back in the autumn of 1843, inspired by the people and streets of London, in his popular holiday tale "A Christmas Carol."
The story wasn’t written for pleasure, but rather, out of desperation. Dickens wrote "A Christmas Carol" with the hope of making money to support his lifestyle and growing family.
I went back to the London neighborhood that inspired this classic Christmas tale with tour guide Richard Roques, who pointed out exact locations where Dickens set his beloved story, from Ebenezer Scrooge's counting house - which is now a pub, aptly titled, of course - to even the cold-hearted character’s residence.
"This is where Scrooge lives. Today, this is a bombed-out church," Roques said.
But "A Christmas Carol" is much more than just a holiday tale. In fact, Dickens' writing helped popularize Christmas traditions to how we know them today.
The author resided at 48 Doughty Street between the years 1837 and 1839. This is the only remaining Dickens family home in London.
"This is where the Dickens’ would have spent their Christmas," said Louisa Price, who oversees the home, which is now a museum.
"I think the Carol has a lot of timeless themes in it and does respond to our ideas of Christmas of being a time to think about others and a time to remember charitable acts and to be better people," Price said.
Dickens' personal letters, novels and short stories, all on display throughout the house, show the author's genuine love for the Christmas season.
"In 1850, Dickens wrote a special piece in one of his journals called 'A Christmas Tree,' where he wrote memories of early Christmases, the sorts of decorations that would be laid under the tree, the decorations that would be hanging from the branches. We would like to think this is the sort of tree that he would have in his room," Price said.
While the spirt of Charles Dickens and "A Christmas Carol" undoubtedly live on in London, you'll have to cross the pond back to New York City and make your way to The Morgan Library and Museum to find the author's original manuscript. Dickens gave his bound notes to his family solicitor Thomas Mitton as a gift shortly after it was written. Years later, it ended up in the hands of Pierpont Morgan. It's rumored that Morgan paid upwards of $10,000 for the writing for his personal library back in the 1890s. That would be more than $250,000 for today.
Declan Kiely is a curator and department head for the Library's literary and historical manuscripts.
"We change each year the opening, so you can see a different page each time you come," Kiely said. "This year, it's a much darker passage. It's the end of the first stave, when Scrooge looks out the window and sees all these spirits floating around in the night air."
And while "A Christmas Carol" will continue to sing for years to come, you can view the Dickens source material - the pages that started it all – not in London, but here in New York at the Morgan Library through January 8. And there's no saying "Bah! Humbug!" to that.