It is the last week of term before Christmas and so to see us on our way, here are some rather interesting literary facts with a Christmassy theme!
Harper Lee’s Christmas Present
Harper Lee met Truman Capote when they were five years old and living next door to each other in Monroeville, Alabama. They became very close. When Lee moved to New York Capote asked his friends, Michael and Joy Williams Brown, to look after her. By 1956 Harper Lee had been working as an airline reservation agent for seven years whilst writing long stories in her spare time and in November of that year she had managed to find herself an agent.
The following month the Browns gave her a very special Christmas present: one year’s worth of wages along with a note that read: “You have one year off from your job to write whatever you please. Merry Christmas.” Lee used this year to write the manuscript “Go Set a Watchmen”, which was later retitled to the classic novel we know today as To Kill a Mockingbird.
Who Really Wrote Twas the Night Before Christmas?
Most people are familiar with A Visit from St. Nicholas, which, interesting in itself, is the actual title of the more famously known Twas the Night Before Christmas. It was originally published anonymously in 1823 but most people credit Clement Clarke Moore as the author after it was included in a collection of his works in 1837. However since then, some scholars have argued that it was in fact written by another poet Henry Livingstone Jr., who was related to Moore’s wife.
After discovering that Moore asserted he was the author, Livingstone’s children claimed that they remember their father reading them the poem as his own work as early as 1807. Various scholars have said how the poem is more in the style of Livingstone’s work but others have countered these analyses. Ultimately there is still no proof that the work belongs to anyone other than Moore.
Various versions of The Night Before Christmas can be found in School Resources Collection at shelfmark 821.91/MOO
A Very Spooky Christmas
Telling spooky tales at Christmas might not seem very festive but it is actually quite a long held tradition at this time of year. Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol was first published on 19th December, and had sold out by Christmas Eve. But even that was not Dickens’ first attempt at a Christmas ghost story. He had previously written The Goblins Who Stole a Sexton which was published as part of The Pickwick Papers in 1836. It essentially told a very similar story to the more famous one of Ebenezer Scrooge except it was a gravedigger who is convinced to change his vile ways by a group of goblins.
A Christmas Carol is possibly the most famous ghost story set at Christmas but it was M.R. James who is considered a master of telling creepy stories at Christmas. They weren’t necessarily set during the festive season but his tradition of writing them and then reading them to his friends and students during a dark yuletide night has helped to cement the tradition of “A Ghost Story for Christmas”. His stories were collected together into two volumes: Ghost Stories of an Antiquary, published in 1904 and, published in 1911, its successor, More Ghost Stories of an Antiquary. This was then taken up by the BBC when they decided to adapt James’ stories for their festive television scheduling every year.
M. R. James’s Collected Ghost Stories can be found at 823.91/JAM
Three adaptations made for the BBC’s A Ghost Story for Christmas can be found in our Reference DVD collection – Charles Dickens’s The Signalman 791.457/SIG, M. R. James’s Whistle and I’ll Come to You 791.457/WHI, and M. R. James’s A Warning to the Curious 791.457/WAR
A Bear-y Merry Christmas
The origin of Paddington Bear is as heart-warming as the stories themselves. Paddington Bear was created by author Michael Bond towards the end of 1956 after Bond had spotted a teddy bear all on its own on a shelf in a store in London on Christmas Eve. Bond decided to buy the bear and take him home as a present for his wife. Inspired by the lonely bear he took home Bond wrote a story, and within ten days had written the first book. A Bear Called Paddington would be published two years later. The touching and amusing tale we know, centred on a bear who journeyed from deepest, darkest Peru to London only to be found by the Brown family at Paddington Station, and adopted by them as one of their own family.
Both Michael Bond’s book A Bear Called Paddington and the film adaptation Paddington can be found in School Resources CF/BON
So there are our literary yuletide facts! We hoped you enjoyed reading about them. Don’t forget you can renew your standard loans and 7 day loans over the Christmas break. We wish all our students a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!