Complete, Free Etexts for All of Dickens’s Christmas Books

As another year draws to a close, it’s time for me to engage in one of the few traditions I adhere to: an annual reading of one of Charles Dickens’s Christmas books.

Every year about this time for the past five years, I’ve gone to my library and pulled out one of the Christmas books Dickens wrote (to much popular acclaim) in the 1840s: A Christmas Carol (1843), The Chimes (1844), The Cricket on the Hearth (1845), The Battle of Life (1846), and The Haunted Man and the Ghost’s Bargain (1848).

But this year is different. It’s been five years, and I’ve worked my way through all five of those short Christmas novels. So what’s a traditionalist to do?

Luckily, Dickens knew a good thing when he saw one. Even though he tired of writing Christmas books himself, he saw the commercial upside to publishing special Dickens-branded Christmas material at the end of the year. To that end, he oversaw sixteen Christmas editions of his two magazines — seven special editions of Household Words, and nine special editions of All the Year Round.

Some of these special editions were like miniature anthologies, containing half a dozen or more short stories by a range of contributors (including Wilkie Collins, Elizabeth Gaskell, Amelia B. Edwards, and many other less famous writers). Others were more like short novels — for these, Dickens typically collaborated with his friend Wilkie Collins.

The quality of the stories (or at least the ones I’ve read so far) can be extremely uneven, and it’s questionable that there’s much literary merit in a lot of the works. But for folks like me who are interested in the popular tastes of bygone eras, they help paint a picture of what the middle-class readers of London were reading in the 19th century. Plus, as I said, this has become a tradition for me — and traditions aren’t necessarily supposed to be fun.

Since these “books” are really issues of Victorian magazines, there can be a bit of a challenge in locating them. Many of the stories were collected and reprinted in the years following their original publications, but they were often separated. To do this day, many etexts of these works are incomplete and omit great swaths of material.

In particular, many etexts I’ve found include only Dickens’s contributions and strip out the rest. And the fact that they’re incomplete isn’t always well documented or obvious, since often Dickens’s contributions stand just fine on their own. In addition, even when all the material is preserved, often it’s not properly attributed to the contributors.

So I’ve spent some time researching each of the sixteen Christmas editions, attempting to locate the most complete etexts possible. I’ve been able to find what I believe are complete (and free!) etexts for all of the numbers, and have linked to them in my order of preference (Project Gutenberg first, Archive.org second, and Google Books third). I’ve also attempted to list all the contributors when I could find their names, but in some cases I wasn’t able to locate that information.

Note: Alternate etexts do exist for many of these numbers. In some cases, these alternate versions are also complete. In other cases, some of the etexts have the problems described above. (The same is true, I should note, for some dead-tree reprints of the books as well.) You should be able to determine if another text is complete by comparing it to the versions I’ve marked as “complete” below. (Hint: Count the chapters.)

Meanwhile, Hesperus Press has been putting out excellent print editions of many of the issues as well. Where those editions exist, I’ve linked to them. Between the free etexts I was able to locate and these print editions, it looks as though my Dickens Christmas tradition will last for another fifteen years at least!

Hopefully this list will also be useful to others who are interested in Dickens’s Christmas books.

THE FIVE ORIGINAL NOVELS

1843: A Christmas Carol — Charles Dickens
— Full etext at Project Gutenberg: http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/46

1844: The Chimes — Charles Dickens
— Full etext at Project Gutenberg: http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/653

1845: The Cricket on the Hearth — Charles Dickens
— Full etext at Project Gutenberg: http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/678

1846: The Battle of Life — Charles Dickens
— Full etext at Project Gutenberg: http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/40723

1848: The Haunted Man and the Ghost’s Bargain — Charles Dickens
— Full etext at Project Gutenberg: http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/644

TWO SHORT CHRISTMAS PIECES FROM HOUSEHOLD WORDS

1850: “A Christmas Tree” — Charles Dickens
— Full etext at the University of Adelaide: http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/d/dickens/charles/d54ct/

1851: “What Christmas Is, as We Grow Older” — Charles Dickens
— Full etext at the University of Adelaide: http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/d/dickens/charles/d54wc/

SPECIAL CHRISTMAS ISSUES OF HOUSEHOLD WORDS

1852: A Round of Stories by the Christmas Fire — Charles Dickens, William Moy Thomas, Elizabeth Gaskell, Edmund Ollier, Edmund Saul Dixon, Harriet Martineau, Samuel Sidney, Eliza Griffiths
— Hesperus Press: http://www.hesperuspress.com/Web/pages/bookdetails.aspx?bid=379
— Full etext at Google Books: http://books.google.com/books?id=0PYtAAAAYAAJ

1853: Another Round of Stories by the Christmas Fire — Charles Dickens, Eliza Lynn Linton, George A. Sala, Adelaide Anne Procter, Elizabeth Gaskell, Edmund Saul Dixon, W.H. Willis, Samuel Sidney, William Gaskell
— Hesperus Press: http://www.hesperuspress.com/Web/pages/bookdetails.aspx?bid=377
— Full etext at Archive.org: http://archive.org/details/anotherroundofst00dickuoft

1854: The Seven Poor Travellers — Charles Dickens, Wilkie Collins, Adelaide Anne Procter, Eliza Lynn Linton, George A. Sala
— Hesperus Press: http://www.hesperuspress.com/Web/pages/bookdetails.aspx?bid=618
— Full etext at Google Books: http://books.google.com/books?id=gcsVAAAAYAAJ

1855: The Holly-Tree Inn — Charles Dickens, Wilkie Collins
— Hesperus Press: http://www.hesperuspress.com/Web/pages/bookdetails.aspx?bid=560
— Full etext at Google Books: http://books.google.com/books?id=wOwtAAAAYAAJ

1856: The Wreck of the “Golden Mary” — Charles Dickens, Wilkie Collins
— Hesperus Press: http://www.hesperuspress.com/Web/pages/bookdetails.aspx?bid=383
— Full etext at Archive.org: http://archive.org/details/achristmascarol01dickgoog

1857: The Perils of Certain English Prisoners — Charles Dickens, Wilkie Collins
— Full etext at Archive.org: http://archive.org/details/lazytouroftwoidl00dickrich

1858: A House to Let — Charles Dickens, Wilkie Collins, Elizabeth Gaskell, Adelaide Ann Procter
— Hesperus Press: http://www.hesperuspress.com/Web/pages/bookdetails.aspx?bid=380
— Full etext at Project Gutenberg: http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/2324

SPECIAL CHRISTMAS ISSUES OF ALL THE YEAR ROUND

1859: The Haunted House — Charles Dickens, Hesba Stretton, George A. Sala, Adelaide Anne Procter, Wilkie Collins, Elizabeth Gaskell
— Hesperus Press: http://www.hesperuspress.com/Web/pages/bookdetails.aspx?bid=376
— Full etext at the University of Adelaide: http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/d/dickens/charles/d54hh/

1860: A Message from the Sea — Charles Dickens, Wilkie Collins
— Full etext at Archive.org: http://archive.org/details/messagefromseaex00dickrich

1861: Tom Tiddler’s Ground — Contributors Unknown
— Full etext at Google Books: http://books.google.com/books?id=W_UtAAAAYAAJ

1862: Somebody’s Luggage — Charles Dickens, John Oxenford, Charles Collins, Arthur Locker, Julia Cecilia Stretton
— Hesperus Press: http://www.hesperuspress.com/Web/pages/bookdetails.aspx?bid=385
— Full etext at Google Books: http://books.google.com/books?id=06Y9AQAAIAAJ

1863: Mrs Lirriper’s Lodgings — Charles Dickens, Elizabeth Gaskell, Andrew Halliday, Edmund Yates, Amelia B. Edwards, Charles Collins
— Hesperus Press: http://www.hesperuspress.com/Web/pages/bookdetails.aspx?bid=384
— Full etext at Archive.org: http://archive.org/details/mrslirriperslodg63dickrich

1864: Mrs Lirriper’s Legacy — Charles Dickens, Charles Collins, Rosa Mulholland, Henry Spicer, Amelia B. Edwards, Hesba Stretton
— Hesperus Press: http://www.hesperuspress.com/Web/pages/bookdetails.aspx?bid=384
— Full etext at Archive.org: http://archive.org/details/mrslirriperslega64dickrich

1865: Doctor Marigold’s Prescriptions — Charles Dickens, Rosa Mulholland, Charles Collins, Hesba Stretton, Walter Thornbury, Mrs Gascoyne
— Full etext at Archive.org: http://archive.org/details/doctormarigoldsp00dickrich

1866: Mugby Junction — Charles Dickens, Andrew Halliday, Charles Collins, Hesba Stretton, Amelia B. Edwards
— Hesperus Press: http://www.hesperuspress.com/Web/pages/bookdetails.aspx?bid=381
— Full etext at Project Gutenberg: http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/27924

1867: No Thoroughfare — Charles Dickens, Wilkie Collins
— Full etext at Project Gutenberg: http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/1423


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