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Dear Reader

Jolly Old St. Nick

Editor Rebecca Rego BarryA wonderful little coincidence occurred during the writing of Fine Books’ December issue. One of our writers, Jonathan Shipley, was working on a feature about Charles Dickens and The Christmas Carol (that story being quite popular this season). At the same time, I was working on a digest piece about Washington Irving and the 200th anniversary of The History of New York, a subject that had been on my mind all year (due, in small part, to living in New York during this quadricentennial year).

To me, Washington Irving has always been more of a Halloween author—with his headless horseman and all. But during an interview with Irving expert Elizabeth L. Bradley, I was intrigued to hear how instrumental Irving had been in creating our modern Christmas traditions. The St. Nick he created in the first edition of his History grew ever larger in later editions. He also published a handful of other festive stories. “Dickens,” Bradley said, “was a huge fan.” He may even have borrowed from Irving for A Christmas Carol. As Jonathan Shipley reports in his feature, Dickens had thoroughly enjoyed Irving’s nostalgic descriptions of Christmas holidays in Bracebridge Hall before writing his own Christmas novella.

So between these two authors—one American, one British, born 29 years apart–Christmas was saved.

This type of creative collaboration calls to mind Concord, Massachusetts, where, for a few brief decades, a group of American authors produced some of America’s finest works of literature. Henry D. Thoreau was one of them. In this month’s issue, we profile the author of a hot new novel about Thoreau, Woodsburner. Ralph Waldo Emerson—Thoreau’s mentor and fellow Concord resident—brought in a surprise at Skinners, which you can read about in Ian McKay’s last auction report of the year.

Happy holidays to all. See you in the New Year.

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