Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Literary Genius


I was very interested to find out this week, the man who inspired Charles Dicken's, Ebeneezer Scrooge, is set to be honoured in Edinburgh for his place in literary history.

His 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, now lies unmarked just off the city's Royal Mile. Edinburgh authorities plan to erect a memorial statue in his memory, which will be part of a guided tour.

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 Dicken's 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, Dicken's 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, Dicken's 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...'?

To read the original newspaper report, check out: The Scotsman.

2 comments:

Julie P said...

Fascinating, Anita. I love finding out what inspires other writers. And I love A Christmas Carol. I have to watch the version with Patrick Stewart in it every Christmas. Mind you I haven't read the book for years so might just have to now in honour of Ebeneezer Scroggie!

Merry Christmas (Bah humbug!)

Anita Marion Loughrey said...

Thanks Julie
I like the Patrick Stewart version too. You can really see the character of Scrooge develop and change throughout the film. Although, I am always a little disappointed he never says, 'Make it so!'
But, I have never seen the stage version of A Christmas Carol so, I have put it on my list of things I want to do.