Do you know where Dickens got the character Scrooge from? It was a bit of mistake actually…
It is clear from any Dickens’ novel that the great man enjoyed names. His friend and biographer, John Forster, said that Dickens made “characters real existences, not by describing them but by letting them describe themselves.” You can find a comprehensive list of all Dickens’ characters HERE a website devoted to anything that could be described as Dickensian.
But it was at another useful blog, Bookshelf run by Alexander Atkins, that I discovered the origins of Scrooge. Dickens, never without a notebook, collected real names for his novels and short stories. In June 1841 he was walking around Edinburgh when he saw a gravestone in Canongate Kirkyard to Ebenezer Scroggie. Dickens misread the epithet beneath and thought it said mean man. He wrote in his diary: ‘it must have shrivelled Scroggie’s soul to be remembered through eternity only for being mean. It seemed the greatest testament to a life wasted.’ And that’s how probably the most famous fictional character was born.
Oh! But he was a tight-fisted hand at the grind-stone, Scrooge! a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous, old sinner! Hard and sharp as flint, from which no steel had ever struck out generous fire; secret, and self-contained, and solitary as an oyster. The cold within him froze his old features, nipped his pointed nose, shrivelled his cheek, stiffened his gait; made his eyes red, his thin lips blue; and spoke out shrewdly in his grating voice. A frosty rime was on his head, and on his eyebrows, and his wiry chin. He carried his own low temperature always about with him; he iced his office in the dogdays; and didn’t thaw it one degree at Christmas.
But the stonemason hadn’t carved a cruel description. Ebenezer Lennox Scroggie was described as a meal man on his grave – he was a grain merchant and a succesful one too, well known for his generosity. He was also a bit of a…Victorian society probably would have called him a cad. He had a child with a servant and once interrupted the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland by grabbing the buttocks of a titled lady during a debate.
Not much of the Scrooge about him.
photo credit: tnarik via photopin cc
photo credit: jypsygen via photopin cc
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