Hear Neil Gaiman Read A Christmas Carol Just as Dickens Read It

gaiman dickens

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.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

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.

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Comments (3)
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  • Robert Cox says:

    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!

    Kind regards,

    Robert Cox
    Bough Beech, Eden­bridge,
    Kent, TN8 7PA
    Tel: 01732 700623

  • Tami Parker says:

    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 …

  • Catherine Rogan says:

    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!

    Best wish­es,

    Cather­ine Rogan, Glas­gow

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