The Real Ebenezer Scrooge
Updated: Aug 9, 2018
It's Christmas time! You know what that means...
Most people have heard the story of St. Nicholas as the real Santa, but have you ever heard the story of the real #EbenezerScrooge?
1843- England... Charles Dickens' book A Christmas Carol is published. We all know the story. A grumpy old man who is super cheap and heartless gets visited one Christmas Eve by three ghosts. He takes a journey of discovery, and realizes that the path he is on is very lonely, joyless, and morbidly selfish. He wakes up on Christmas day a changed man promising to live embracing this new found joy, compassion, and generosity.
Although Dickens' does not come right out and say that this fictional character is based on a real man, it is believed that Ebenezer Scrooge was inspired by an eccentric British Parliament Member & miser [someone who hoards wealth] named John Meggot A.K.A. John Elwes.
John Meggot was born in 1714 to a respectable family. His father died when he was just 4 years old, and his mother died shortly after. John received his family's sizable inheritance and estate. In today's terms he would have been a multi-millionaire. He went on to receive a good education at Westminster School, a boarding school in London. After graduating, he traveled, dressed fashionably, ate fine foods, and in general hobnobbed in respectable circles spending money freely.
The greatest influence on his life moving forward would be his Uncle Harvey Elwes. Uncle Harvey was messed up. But Uncle Harvey was super wealthy - (in our terms, $34 million). So John wanted to make sure that he received Uncle Harvey's inheritance. He changed his last name from Meggot to Elwes, and started imitating his uncle's eccentric behaviors so that he would be more liked and trusted. It worked, and just like that he was left the large fortune.
Unfortunately for John, the pretend game became real. He became obsessed with hoarding money.
Here are just a few examples:
- He dressed in rags and never cleaned his shoes because it might wear out his shoes faster. Even as a Member of Parliament his appearance was so rough, people would try to give him coins thinking he was a beggar.
- He refused to buy a carriage and only rode a horse because it was cheaper. When he would go on trips, he would stuff his pockets with hard boiled eggs. This was so that he wouldn't have to pay for meals at taverns, and could just sleep on the side of the road instead of in an inn.
- He rode his horse on the ground beside the road instead of on the actual road so that he would not have to buy his horses shoes.
- He refused to get married; because, it cost money, and had two sons out of wedlock. Despite his massive wealth and his education, he refused to pay for their education claiming that "Putting things in people's heads was the sure way to take money out of their pockets."
- When the sun went down, he went to bed because it saved the cost of lighting a candle. When it was cold out, he refused to light a fire to warm himself and insisted that chewing food or wandering the halls would be enough to keep him warm.
- When he had guests stay at his home he would sneak out in the middle of the night and steal back the hay he gave their horses.
- In his later years, he rented out houses. At one point, he owned 100 rental houses. Instead of living in one of his large estates he inherited, he simply moved house to house when one of his small rentals was empty.
Needless to say - despite his massive wealth, John Elwes did not have a happy life.
Charles Dickens, however, gave his character- Ebenezer Scrooge - a second chance. A chance to realize the path he was on, and a chance to see the true joy he was missing. And really isn't that what Christmas is truly all about? A time to reflect on what we have been given. A time to fully embrace the love of others. A time of joy. True joy.
So for this Christmas season, let's be reminded again of the lesson Ebenezer Scrooge learned. A lesson John Elwes never did. Life is about something bigger than ourselves and our accumulating of fill in the blank . Examine the path of our hearts. Let's look beyond the chaos of the shopping mall- beyond the sparkle of the L.E.D. lights - beyond the lines of waiting for pictures with Santa...Let's find true joy!