Friday, December 25, 2009

More on the Dickens Manuscript

The NYTimes has another story about the recently unearthed "A Christmas Carol" manuscript:
She also noticed that the story's lone mention of the "United States" was inserted on Page 17 in an apparent dig at the United States. The narrator suggests that time had little meaning for Scrooge beyond the ability it gave him to collect interest on his bonds. If the normal rules of time had somehow lapsed, the financial instruments that made Scrooge rich might instead revert to "mere United States’ securities" – in another words, paper of little worth.

Mr. Kiely said United States securities were viewed dimly by the English in Dickens' time after several American borrowers ran afoul of the financial crisis of 1837. Mr. Kiely said he thought the word in the text that "United States" replaced was "questionable." Dickens' custom, Mr. Kiely said, was to omit that sentence when he read the story aloud to audiences in the United States.

Ms. Johnson’s most stunning find, however, was on Page 37, where Dickens introduces the little boy forever known as Tiny Tim.

"Do my eyes deceive me or was Tiny Tim actually a 'Mick' or a 'Dick' before Dickens thought better of it?" Ms. Johnson wrote.

Mr. Kiely said he was impressed that she noticed that the author appeared to have renamed Tiny Tim, even if she could not make out the original name.

"It's one of the most famous characters in literature, and he starts out life as Little Fred," said Mr. Kiely.

According to Mr. Kiely, the name "Fred" might be an amalgam of Dickens' younger brother named Frederick, another brother named Alfred who died young, and the sickly son of his sister Fannie.

Unwilling to excise a name he liked from his story, Dickens appears to have decided to bestow the name "Fred" upon Scrooge's previously unnamed nephew on Page 43.