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Ebeneezer Scrooge was not based on a real person

Ebeneezer Scrooge was based on a real person

Charlies Dickens Scrooge based on a British MP?

There is strong evidence to suggest Charles Dickens character Scrooge, from A Christmas Carol, was based on a real person, which comes a quite a surprise to many people who were sure he'd been totally invented by the Victorian author. Even more confusing is the name, because it turns out the name is from a real - but different - person to the one we're all familiar with.

The story of the name is that Dickens was in Edinburgh, Scotland when he happened upon a cemetery with a grave for Ebeneezer Lennox Scroggie. The writing was worn, but appeared to him to read "He was a mean man", when in fact it said "He was a meal man", describing his work. This stayed in Dickens mind when he came to write A Christmas Carol. It's ironic that in all probability, Mr Scroggie was a kind person because he delivered meals to people.

The character is just as interesting. John Elwes was actually a British MP who inherited two separate fortunes, but refused to spend any of it which was in accordance with the way he had been brought up.

The real miser

Elwes was the MP for Berkshire in 1772, and although worth a fortune, he went to bed when it went dark to save on candles. Modern day MP's should take notice of his expenses of eighteen pence per year - a far cry from those of today.


On one notable occasion Elwes, unsolicited, lent Lord Abingdon £7,000 to enable him to place a bet at Newmarket. On the day of the race, Elwes rode on horseback to the racetrack with nothing to eat for fourteen hours save a piece of pancake which he had put into his pocket two months earlier and which he swore to a startled companion was “as good as new".  Even on the coldest day of winter he was known to sit fireless at his meals, saying that eating was "exercise enough" to keep him warm. If a stableboy put out hay for a visitor's horse, Elwes would sneak out and remove it.

A man of many houses

Elwes had many properties. There is something peculiar about his death, especially bearing in mind his Dickens character was famed for being visited by ghosts. It's said at the end of his life he led alone in his bed, dying and feverish for 3 days before an apothecary administered medicine and he recovered somewhat. He told people he was visited by "an old woman" who stopped coming to him. When the house was searched, her body was found stretched out dead on the floor. It's not known if Dickens took any inspiration from this story.