The Personal History
As I have extrapolated from a great deal of evidence, New England authors Mathew and Abby Whittier began work on "A Christmas Carol" soon after their 11-month-old son, Joseph, had died of scarlet fever. As a starting point, they used a short story they had written together several years earlier, entitled "The New Year's Bells," which was later stolen by Francis A. Durivage and published in an 1852 compilation. However, that story would have been written in the early 1830's. Their intention in writing the "Carol" would have been to bring each reader through a vicarious spiritual conversion (being not specifically Christian, although they were esoteric Christians). The story would incorporate the authentic spiritualist and mystical teachings which Abby had deeply studied. They called it "A Christmas Carol" partly as a tip-of-the-hat to "The New Year's Bells," and partly because Abby, herself, was a musician. Her designation of the chapters as "staves" had a double meaning. A "stave" can be a musical phrase; but it can also mean a rung on a ladder. Each chapter of this story was a rung on a ladder to the hoped-for spiritual conversion. The introduction was written by Mathew in his long-accustomed jocular, conversational style (Mathew was publishing in this style years before Dickens wrote his first story). But it was written in the voice of two believers in spiritualism, who were challenging the skeptical reader to also believe. It was not written by a skeptic like Dickens in imagination, pretending, in-character, to be a believer, as most people would assume.
In short, this was never a ghost story. Abby intended all of the paranormal elements to be authentic, very much as one sees in the movie, "Ghost."
How the Manuscript Ended up in Dickens' Hands
Abby died on March 27, 1841 of consumption, and perhaps of a broken heart, two weeks after the death of their second child, eight-month-old Sarah. Ten months later, Dickens arrived in Boston for his American tour, in January of 1842. Mathew, a Dickens fan, and being personal friends with Oliver Wendell Holmes, would almost certainly have attended the 150-guest welcome dinner, and have been given a personal introduction to Dickens by Holmes. That Mathew wrote Dickens a letter is a matter of historical record, inasmuch as Dickens' secretary acknowledged it (in a canned letter bearing Dickens' signature) after Dickens left Boston, while he was still on-tour. Many aspiring authors presented Dickens with their manuscripts, and Mathew must have handed his and Abby's manuscript of "A Christmas Carol" to him with the hopes that Dickens would spread it to the entire world, thus fulfilling Abby's intentions.
How Dickens Came to Re-Work the Manuscript
In 1843, the series which Dickens believed to be his best work ever, "Martin Chuzzlewit," was failing with the critics and with the public--to such an extent, that he was worried about falling into debt. Presumably, he rifled through the stack of manuscripts that had been given to him on his American tour, looking for inspiration. Recognizing the Whittier name (from Mathew's brother, poet John Greenleaf Whittier), he realized that this was the answer to his difficulties. Dickens, being a worldly man, didn't understand and was not receptive to the spirituality embedded in the "Carol." However, being a sensationalist, he loved ghost stories, and in his perception this was a good one. (He subsequently subtitled his published version as "A Ghost Story of Christmas"). He hurriedly and sloppily began re-working the manuscript (after first copying it over and no-doubt burning the original) in mid-October, completing it by early December--in time for publication during the 1843 Christmas season. Dickens attempted to secularize and sensationalize this deeply spiritual novella, for the masses--which is to say, he commercialized it, much as Disney has done with Dickens' version. All he expected from it was enough cash to answer his financial crisis; he simply hoped to titillate the public with a seasonal ghost story. He was mystified when the public began responding as though it was spiritually inspired literature (which indeed it had been, originally, forged in the depth of Mathew and Abby's grief for their son Joseph, and reflecting the depth of their religious devotion). That a worldly man could have dashed off such a powerful, inspired work within six weeks was obviously impausible; therefore, Dickens had to adopt the persona--with the public, and even within his own family, of a religious philanthropist.
Charles' Dickens Personal Character
In my estimation, having a master's in counseling, Charles Dickens was a sociopathic personality. As of this writing, it is called "Antisocial Personality Disorder," and among other traits, it means he was self-centered to the extreme, radically dishonest and hypocritcal, and without a functioning conscience. If my theory is correct, everything one sees of Dickens in his personal and professional life which seems to contradict this assumption, is acting. Dickens was a trained, professional actor, and was certainly capable of playing any role--including to his family, friends, colleagues and the public-- if he was so-inclined. Where he seems otherwise in his published works, I contend that all of these works were, in fact, plagiarized. I am not the only one who has expressed this opinion; Jane Seymour, widow of Dickens' first illustrator Robert Seymour, compared Dickens to Satan and said she had heard rumors of him plagiarizing several of his popular published works; while his own daughter, Kate Pelugrini, remarked to her biographer, Gladys Storey, that her father was a "very wicked man." His own public letters, claiming that his separation from his wife Catherine was mutual, and denying his affair with young actress Ellen Ternan, brand him as a sanctimonious liar.
Too Much Evidence
After some 14 years of intensive research into the life and works of Mathew and Abby Whittier, I found more evidence for my theory concerning the true authorship of "A Christmas Carol" than I can possibly even summarize in a web page introduction. That evidence is given in a lengthy paper, originally published as an article in British e-zine "Real Paranormal Magazine," being extensively revised and extended in October of 2023. This paper, entitled "Evidence That 'A Christmas Carol' Was Originally Written by Mathew Franklin Whittier and Abby Poyen Whittier, Rather Than by Charles Dickens," may be accessed through the permanent link below, or you can search for the title on Researchgate.org or Academia.edu.