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Victorian Book of the Month: Christmas Readings!

What was the hot-ticket reading material for the holiday season in Britain 150 years ago? The Christmas number of All the Year Round, entitled “Doctor Marigold’s Prescriptions.” It first appeared on Dec. 7, 1865.

doctor marigold

All the Year Round was a weekly literary journal started by Charles Dickens in 1859. It featured the writing of many prominent Victorian authors, including novels like Dickens’ Great Expectations and Wilkie Collins’ The Woman in White and short stories by Charles Lever, Sheridan Le Fanu, and Elizabeth Gaskell.

During Dickens’ first year as proprietor of the magazine he introduced a special Christmas number – double the size of a normal issue – which presented a number of short stories by different authors gathered together by a framing story. The first Christmas number in December 1859 was entitled “The Haunted House” and brought together eight ghost stories describing various ghosts inhabiting a single residence. Other Christmas numbers included “Mugby Junction,” “Mrs. Lirriper’s Lodgings,” and “No Thoroughfare,” all of which are still anthologized today.

The Christmas numbers proved very popular; extra copies were sold outside of normal subscriptions. Special Collections owns several original copies of various Christmas numbers issued in wrappers, as well as bound copies of all of the Christmas numbers issued before Dickens discontinued them in 1867. Incidentally, the Special Collections copy of “Doctor Marigold’s Prescriptions” was sold at a bookshop at 97 Westbourne Grove road in Notting Hill, just a few blocks north of the present-day location of the BYU London Centre!

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