There will be no escaping Charles Dickens in the coming weeks. Adaptations of his novel A Christmas Carol are already saturating the TV airwaves, old black-and-white dramas, cartoons, even musicals. You know the story of Ebenezer Scrooge, the three spirits, Bob Cratchit and Tiny Tim. But do you know the story of when the man behind these beloved characters came to Boston? Dickens made his American stage debut with a reading of his beloved holiday classic, "A Christmas Carol," right here in Boston, 149 years ago this week.

Bostonians packed into a theater on Tremont Street, where a maroon backdrop and carpet framed a small desk, lit softly by gaslight. Here, for the first time, Americans heard Dickens' beloved words, read by the man who wrote them.

Here's an account from The Boston Journal of Dickens debut American performance, a triumphant reading of "A Christmas Carol."

"He was so powerful in the way that he conveyed his characters and he did the voices and the expressions so Dickens was great," said University of Massachusetts Lowell English professor and Dickens scholar Diana Archibald. "He was definitely meant for the theater."

While it was Dickens first appearance on an American stage, it was not his first trip here. A quarter of a century earlier, a 29-year-old Dickens arrived in Boston—already a celebrated author—and as Archibald argues, the world’s first true modern celebrity.

"He’d been here for hours, and already he was getting mail, people saying, 'Come to dinner, write a poem for my dead baby,'" Archibald said. "They would ask him for locks of hair, they would try to get into his hotel room and mobbed him in the streets."

At the time, Dickens had yet to develop his unique stage show. Instead he came here with a great curiosity about a nation on the rise.

"The first trip, he came as a tourist and secretly had a deal with his publisher to write a book 'American Notes,'" Archibald said.

That book proved somewhat controversial. While Dickens was charmed by Massachusetts—including Boston, and especially Lowell—he found much of the country dirty and violent. He was critical of everything from the extreme individualism of America’s people to its scandal-seeking press.

"Certainly it caused a kerfuffle, people were quite upset," Archibald said. "But he was Dickens, you see. He was Dickens–so he was forgiven."

So when word reached Boston that the great Charles Dickens would return, this time to read, and that he’d chosen Boston for his debut, the City on a Hill opened its arms and rolled out the red carpet.

"The streets were all swept from one end of the city to the other for the second time in 24 hours," Archibald said. "The statehouse and old south church were painted, offhand, a delicate rose pink. A new statue of Edward Everett was put up in the public garden in the attitude of throwing up his hat and shouting, 'Hurrah!’ So the people were quite excited about Dickens coming."

Dickens did not disappoint. And Archibald says the chance to personify his words on stage—for an audience—meant as much to Dickens as it did to his adoring public.

"As a writer Dickens excelled at creating characters and those characters live on today," Archibald said. "And the man, Dickens, I think, was proud of that—and loved that.

Dickens would spend the next five months reading across America, from New York to Washington, Niagara Falls to Portland, Maine—but returned once more to Boston in April, shortly before his departure. Here, he took one final curtain call, concluding, "Ladies and gentlemen, I beg most earnestly, most gratefully, and most affectionately to bid you each and all farewell."

If you find yourself reminded this time each year of the special place that "A Christmas Carol" has in your heart, Archibald says Bay Staters should know that the man behind the enduring tale had a special place in his heart for the place they call home.

"Dickens is famous for having said about America that it was not the republic of his imagination," Archibald said. "He had thought it was going to be some great land and he was disappointed. But in fact Massachusetts was the republic of his imagination. It was all and more than he had hoped for."