We have just finished Christmas and I have been watching Christmas movies since early November. I love all the old favourites, especially the different renditions of A Christmas Carol.
The man who inspired Charles Dickens’, Ebeneezer Scrooge, real name was Ebeneezer Scroggie, a Scottish merchant who died in 1836. Scroggie’s tombstone was moved during redevelopment work and his real identity was temporarily lost and forgotten. His grave, lay unmarked just off the city’s Royal Mile for many years until Edinburgh authorities put up a memorial statue in his memory.
Dickens stumbled upon Scroggie’s tombstone in Canongate Cemetery in 1842, whilst visiting Edinburgh for a lecture. It was the inscription on this tombstone that gave birth to the mean, miserly Scrooge in Dickens’ brilliant novel, A Christmas Carol.
But, in reality, the tombstone read ‘meal man’ rather than ‘mean man’, which referred to Scroggie’s job as a successful corn merchant. The real Ebeneezer was well-known for his generous nature and often enjoyed a good party.
So why was the name and personality of the now most famous Christmas character in history, changed in this way? Maybe, Dickens wanted to protect himself from possible litigation by purposely changing his antagonist’s name, or maybe he simply misread the name on the tomb. We will never know. What we do know is, Dickens wrote in his notebook:
“To be remembered through eternity only for being mean seemed the greatest testament to a life wasted.”
So, was Ebeneezer a victim of Dicken’s poor research? Or were the changes more to do with the wild imaginations of a great writer who thought, ‘What if…’?