God Bless Us Every One

Here’s today’s Trivia Question of the Day:

QUESTION: Literature: What is the name of the sickly character in Charles Dickens’ book, “A Christmas Carol?”

ANSWER: Tiny Tim

Evidently, this question was far too easy for my social media followers. I expect, however, that you will find some of the details I uncovered while researching this blog to be fascinating.

First a little background. A Christmas Carol is a novella by prolific English author Charles Dickens (Great Expectations Pickwick Papers, David Copperfield, Oliver Twist). The little book was first published on December 19, 1943 and has become one of the best-loved books of all time.

Charles Dickens

Charles Dickens

Charles John Huffman Dickens was born on February 7, 1812 in Portsmouth, Hampshire, England.  When Dickens’ father, a naval pay clerk, was transferred to Chatham in Kent County, the family settled into more genteel surroundings and employed two full-time servants. His father was a poor money manager, however, and wound up in Marshalsea Prison due to his debts. Charles was forced to sell his collection of books, leave school, and accept employment at Warren’s Shoe Blacking (shoe polish) Factory to help support the family. The factory was a dilapidated old wreck of a building overrun with rot, filth, and rats. For hours each day he pasted labels on boxes and then went home alone to a boarding house. He was only twelve years old. He also worked as a clerk in a law office before becoming a full-time novelist.

Dickens married Catherine Hogarth, the daughter of the editor of the Evening Chronicle, in 1836. The couple had ten children. In 1857, he met and fell in love with actress Ellen Ternan; he was 45 and she was only 18. A year later he separated from his wife. When she left, Catherine took only one of their children with her. Dickens’ sister, Georgina, cared for the rest.

A Christmas Carol

He began to write A Christmas Carol in September 1843, finishing it in just six weeks. After the dismal sales of his previous book, Martin Chuzzlewit, he opted to fund the book himself and take royalties rather than receiving a lump sum. The first run of 6,000 copies sold out by Christmas Eve. By May 1844, a seventh edition had sold out. The novella was adapted for the stage almost immediately. In all there have been at least 28 film versions of the tale. Although the book was a great success amongst critics, it was financially disappointing for Dickens.

Two months after the publication of A Christmas Carol, it was pirated. Dickens sued and won his case, but the pirates declared bankruptcy and the author was forced to pay a significant sum in fees.

Most scholars agree that A Christmas Carol was heavily influenced by Dickens’ factory work and his transition from an idyllic country life to one in the slums of the city. One of the work’s most beloved characters is Tiny Tim, a handicapped and sickly little boy best known for the declaration, “God bless us every one.”

There has been much speculation on the illness Tim suffered (how people could make such claims about a fictional character I have no idea.) One theory is that the boy had renal tubular acidosis (RTA), a kidney disease that makes blood too acidic. Others believe he had rickets (caused by a vitamin D insufficiency), a common malady in his industrial surroundings because the city’s thick smog blocked the sunlight

His last public reading of the novella took place in London at St James’s Hall, on March 15, 1870. At the end of the performance, he told his audience: “From these garish lights, I vanish now for evermore, with a heartfelt, grateful, respectful, and affectionate farewell.” He died three months later from a cerebral hemorrhage. He was 58.

Dickens’ obituary in The New York Times said, “He was incomparably the greatest novelist of his time.” He was laid to rest in Poet’s corner of Westminster Abby in London. He wrote in his will that he wanted his name be inscribed in plain English letters on his tomb:

Burial Marker

Burial Marker

Incidentally, here’s a bit of barely-related trivia I bet you haven’t heard. The 1960s ukulele-playing musician know for his hit, “Tiptoe Through the Tulips” started using the stage name when his manager booked him at a club that favored acts by performers short in stature. That tidbit doesn’t really make sense to me because the musician was reportedly over six feet tall. Go figure.

On November 30, 1996 Tiny Tim suffered a heart attack while playing a benefit at The Woman’s Club of Minneapolis. He died an hour later at Hennepin County Medical Center and is entombed at Lakewood Cemetery in Minneapolis.

Tiny Tim


See you tomorrow!






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