Was Ebenezer Scrooge A Real Person?
Charles Dickens' story of a miserly man who has a pretty rough night has made a legend of the flawed Ebenezer Scrooge. So much so that his name is associated with unpleasant and negative attitudes towards not only the festive season but also in terms of general douche-baggery. So was Ebenezer Scrooge a real person?
Well, in the vein of a lot of Dickens' characters — yes and no. According to BBC Arts, one origin story is that Dickens had the idea for the character while taking a stroll through Edinburgh’s Canongate Kirkyard. The famous cemetery is home to multiple intricately decorated gravestones but one in particular is said to have stood out to the British writer. And it was the grave of Ebenezer Lennox Scroggie. Scroggie's profession, a merchant, was described as a "meal man." Dickens, for whatever reason, is thought to have read this as "mean man". And according to the BBC he was so perturbed by the idea that he took note in his notebook.
"To be remembered through eternity only for being mean seemed the greatest testament to a life wasted."
So much so that he went on to write the story about the most miserable miserly man who, long before the Grinch existed, totally negged everyone out at Christmas time.
Who was this Scroggie then? And did he also experience a load of haunting? Well you guys, this looks like a bit of a miscommunication issue. Seemingly Scroggie led a pretty different life to the character he inspired. As the BBC reports, research by political economist Peter Clark, shows that that Scroggie was a corn and wine trader whose family supplied Captain Cook's ship Endeavour as it charted the Pacific.
He was a hugely successful importer of wine, as well as exporting Scotland's famous whisky across the globe. His success was so great that he even received royal patronage. A patronage that led to him eventually becoming Edinburgh's Lord Provost for two years. Aside from his professional life, he was not a miser in the way Scrooge is depicted, but that's not to say he didn't have his flaws. The BBC notes that Clark's research suggests he was:
"a jovial man and a scallywag who once interrupted the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland by goosing the Countess of Mansfield."
Goosing, according to the Cambridge Dictionary means to grab someone's bottom.
But Scroggie's grave isn't the only potential source of inspiration. According to the Telegraph, another man who's believed to have been shaped the depiction of Scrooge is John Elwes. Elwes, a Victorian gentleman who inherited a fortune, was keen to not only keep it but to encourage his uber rich uncle to leave him even more dough. According to the Telegraph he was ridiculously tight.
"True to type, he set about not spending it by dint of a breathtakingly skinflint lifestyle. Elwes would go to bed in darkness to save using a candle, and sit with his servants in the kitchen to save lighting a fire in another room."
All in all, only Dickens' will have known the real truth behind his basis for the character. But if you fancy seeing how his best-known character has been interpreted for 2019, tune into the BBC and FX's new adaptation airing this Christmas.