Dickens visited Lowell in 1842, touring the mills and taking notes for a travelogue he planned to write on American institutions. The next year, he published “A Christmas Carol.” The story was an immediate hit, selling out in a week, inspiring theater versions within months, and shaping how we think of Christmas to this day. Now, new research is suggesting that the book may have borrowed—quite liberally—from the amateur writings of the millworkers he visited.
After reading an obscure literary journal published by Lowell textile workers and comparing it to Dickens’s novella, a Boston University professor and student are arguing that some of the most memorable elements of Dickens’s story—the ghosts, the tour through the past, Scrooge’s sudden reconsideration of his life—closely resemble plot points in stories by the city’s “mill girls” that Dickens read after his visit.
The research was conducted by Natalie McKnight, professor of English and a dean at Boston University, and Chelsea Bray, an undergraduate at the time of the project who is now in graduate school at Boston College. Their argument—not yet their actual paper—has circulated only online so far, prompting some preliminary objections; they plan to publish it in an upcoming book about Dickens in Massachusetts. Once their paper is published, they’ll begin the work of defending their theory to a potentially skeptical scholarly community.
Read More | “Was Dickens’s Christmas Carol borrowed from Lowell’s mill girls?” | Kevin Hartnett | Boston Globe