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INTRODUCTION

and fairly exudes Christmas cheer. Who would not love to dance a Sir Roger de Coverly with Mrs. Fezziwig, her face one vast substantial smile?

We hear much of the world being shaken from centre to circumference by this or that evil influence; influences for good are not so dramatic in their operation, but they are of greater duration, and among them Dickens's "Christmas Carol" ranks high. It is the best book of its kind in the world. I am confirmed in this opinion by Dickens's friend, Lord Jeffrey, who said that it had done more good than all the pulpits in Christendom. Thackeray referred to it as a national benefit, and with the passage of time the English-speaking world has grown to look upon it as an international blessing.

The first edition of this famous book appeared a few days before Christmas, 1843, and six thousand copies were sold the first day. It appeared when the vogue for "colored plate" books was at its height; but from the figures given by Forster, Dickens's biographer, it would seem that no care had been taken by the publishers to discover what the cost of manufacture would be before the selling price was fixed. No expense was spared to make it a beautiful little book. It was daintily printed, and tastefully bound in cloth, with gilt edges, and Leech had supplied drawings for four full-page engraved illustrations which were subsequently exquisitely colored by hand, and in addition there were four small