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The Deacon's Bench

Incredible, but true.

The New York Times dispatched a team of readers to pore over the original, hand-scribbled manuscript of Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.”

A key finding:

0001.jpg(Declan) Kiely (curator at the Morgan Library) said he was impressed that (reader Hilary Johnson) noticed that the author appeared to have renamed Tiny Tim, even if she could not make out the original name.

“It’s one of the most famous characters in literature, and he starts out life as Little Fred,” said Mr. Kiely.

According to Mr. Kiely, the name “Fred” might be an amalgam of Dickens’ younger brother named Frederick, another brother named Alfred who died young, and the sickly son of his sister Fannie.

Unwilling to excise a name he liked from his story, Dickens appears to have decided to bestow the name “Fred” upon Scrooge’s previously unnamed nephew on Page 43.

Mr. Kiely is aware of one other writer named Frank S. Johnson, who made a similar discovery of “Little Fred” back in the early 1930s. But he said the name change is little known today.

“This is the only reader that actually spotted that Tiny Tim originally had another name,” said Mr. Kiely. “She identified what, in my view, is a very important moment in the composition process, where Dickens quickly realized that the name, Fred, won’t do. Little Fred becomes Tiny Tim. So it’s the birth of Tiny Tim on that page as a character.”

You can read more intriguing discoveries at the link. And take a look at the complete original, too.

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