Image by New York Public Library
Last Christmas, we featured Charles Dickens’ hand-edited copy of his beloved 1843 novella A Christmas Carol. He did that hand editing for the purposes of giving public readings, a practice that, in his time, “was considered a desecration of one’s art and a lowering of one’s dignity.” That time, however, has gone, and many of the most prestigious writers alive today take the reading aloud of their own work to the level of art, or at least high entertainment, that Dickens must have suspected one could. Some writers even do a bang-up job of reading other writers’ work: modern master storyteller Neil Gaiman gave us a dose of that on Monday when we featured his recitation of Lewis Carroll’s “Jabberwocky” from memory. Today, however, comes the full meal: Gaiman’s telling of A Christmas Carol straight from that very Dickens-edited reading copy.
Gaiman read to a full house at the New York Public Library, an institution known for its stimulating events, holiday-themed or otherwise. But he didn’t have to hold up the afternoon himself; taking the stage before him, BBC researcher and The Secret Museum author Molly Oldfield talked about her two years spent seeking out fascinating cultural artifacts the world over, including but not limited to the NYPL’s own collection of things Dickensian. You can hear both Oldfield and Gaiman in the recording above. But perhaps the greatest gift of all came in the form of the latter’s attire for his reading: not only did he go fully Victorian, he even went to the length of replicating the 19th-century literary superstar’s own severe hair part and long goatee. And School Library Journal has pictures.
The story really gets started around the 11:25 mark. Gaiman’s reading will be added to our list of Free Audio Books. You can find the text of Dickens’ classic in our collection, 800 Free eBooks for iPad, Kindle & Other Devices.
Note: An earlier version of this post appeared on our site in December 2014.
Neil Gaiman Teaches the Art of Storytelling in His New Online Course
Hear Neil Gaiman Read Aloud 15 of His Own Works, and Works by 6 Other Great Writers: From The Graveyard Book & Coraline, to Edgar Allan Poe’s The Raven & Dickens’ A Christmas Carol
A Christmas Carol Presented in a Thomas Edison Film (1910)
O Frabjous Day! Neil Gaiman Recites Lewis Carroll’s “Jabberwocky” from Memory
Colin Marshall hosts and produces Notebook on Cities and Culture and writes essays on cities, language, Asia, and men’s style. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.
Hello. As a lifelong Dickens devotee and close friend of his last surviving great-grandson, Cedric Charles Dickens (1916-2006), I’m afraid I found the reading pretty uninspiring and have a feeling Cedric would agree. Wrong voice, wrong intonation, but I’m sure others will differ. I have recorded the beginning of ‘Hard Times’ which nobody but a few studios and friends have heard – but now feel I should finish and make it public!
I have also just posted on Facebook my disgust at the BBC’s disgraceful, wholly inaccurate ‘adaptation’ of the book. Damn the ‘trendy’ BBC executives who, due to this programme, are seriously tempting me to cancel my TV licence direct debit, about to leave my account next week. Utter tripe. Give me Alistair Sims’ masterful original, or The Muppet’s Christmas Carol’, which I love and am pretty sure Dickens would. The BBC version was everything Dickens was not. Didn’t even get close to evoking the spirit of the man or the book. How dare the BBC waste my money without permission.
If this sounds rather grumpy and resentful, let it be known I am the most cheerful, positive Dickensian until provoked by sub-standard reproductions of his work and degeneration of his genius.
On Christmas Eve I posted a piece on Facebook featuring two letters I had written to Cedric and his great-grandfather regarding an interesting few events that happened to Cedric and I, concerning ‘A Christmas Carol’. All in the true spirit of Charles Huffam Dickens!
Bough Beech, Edenbridge,
Kent, TN8 7PA
Tel: 01732 700623
This most definally a good program ,I will definitely make a promise to donate to the cause..I do think everyone can donate .in one way or another everyone needs help from time to time and if u help help will will come back .maybe not at the time wanted but I. Time needed..I believe …
Dear Robert Cox,
I would love to read your post on the recent ‘adaptation’ of A Christmas Carol’ by the BBC. I was so angry and annoyed after watching it. Tiny Tim dies after going out ice skating? Poverty and deprivation had nothing to do with it it seems!
I was thinking of writing something on this myself but would also be pleased to share your responses also.
You have no idea how relieved I was to see your post!
Catherine Rogan, Glasgow