Passage for Comparison: A Christmas Carol, pp. 45-48 in the Penguin edition: from the manuscript of Edward Stirling's adaptation of the novella for the Adelphi Theatre, London, opening 5 February, 1844 (Lord Chamberlain's manuscript 27/01/44).

Probably in exchange for a gratuity and some measure of control over the Adelphi production, Charles Dickens gave his sanction to long-time theatrical pirate Edward Sterling's adaptation, for which neither the house nor the dramatist would be legally obliged to pay the original author anything. Since the early numbers of The Pickwick Papers Dickens had been well aware that his works could be purloined by writers for the stage, so that his complaint to his business manager and confidant John Forster that he had not anticipated seeing his novella dramatised cannot be taken at face value. Dickens proclaimed Sterling's Carol, a burletta, "heart-breaking." However, he added, "O[bie] Smith [as Scrooge] was drearily better than I expected. It is a great comfort to have that kind of meat underdone" ("To Forster," 21 February 1844).

Stave 1. Scene 1st. 800

Scrooge['s] Chamber.

Scrooge: Looking over a ledger / Losses, losses, this it is to trade, to venture one's gold in merchandise, to risk the gains of a life upon the treacherous deep. Draw as it were the ends of the earth together and for what[--]to feed co[r]morants with luxuries they ne[']er intend to pay for. Old Marley was too lenient, if he had lived much longer this form of Scrooge, Marley and Co[.] would have figured in the gazette.

Enter Frederick

Fred: A Merry Christmas [,] Uncle. Heaven save you [!]

Scrooge: Christmas. Bah! Humbug.

Fred: Christmas a humbug, Uncle. You don't mean that[,] I'm sure.

Scrooge: And what right have you to be merry[?] You[']re poor enough[.]

F[red]: What right have you to be dismal[?] You are rich enough.

Scrooge: Bah[!]

Discussion Questions

1. What has the adaptor chosen to cut from Dickens's original text, and why?

2. What has Stirling added to Dickens's text, and why?

3. Describe the difference between the original and the play in terms of tone and mood.

4. What would Dickens have found to admire in this opening?

5. Which opening is more effective, and why?

Last modified 12 June 2001