Carlo DeVito owns the highly acclaimed Hudson-Chatham Winery in Ghent, NY. He is a publisher, editor, winemaker, and author of over a dozen books, including A Mark Twain Christmas and Inventing Scrooge, out now from Cider Mill Press. Both are available now wherever books are sold.
Go behind the scenes and discover the real life characters and settings that inspired of Charles Dickens’ beloved Christmas classic in Inventing Scrooge: The Incredible True Story Behind Dickens’ Legendary “A Christmas Carol.”
Charles Dickens was perplexed as to how to convince his fellow Londoners to give to the less fortunate during the holiday season. He planned to write a pamphlet on the subject, but it was over the course of one fateful train ride that Dickens came up with a better way to communicate his Christmas message…and save his flagging literary career.
Dickens wrote A Christmas Carol within six short weeks following his trip, and he began writing immediately upon his return. He walked the streets of London by night, turning the story and its characters over and over in his head. These walks were a metaphor—
Dickens’ figurative journey was a trip into his own past, both pleasant and powerful, and intensely personal.
Here are five of the many real-life inspirations behind the beloved story:
The Real Ebenezer Scrooge
The real Ebenezer Scrooge was Ebenezer Scroggie. Dickens has misread Scroggie’s tombstone in a Scottish cemetery to read “mean man,” and wrote it down in his notebook for later use. The irony is that the tombstone really read “meal man.” Scroggie was a wealthy grain merchant and a distiller. He was a popular, lecherous old man, given to parties and cavorting with numerous women.
Who Was Tiny Tim?
Scrooge’s sister, Fanny, was based on Dickens sister Fanny whom he adored. Many of young Scrooge’s memories are those of Dickens and his sister. Fanny had convinced Dickens to come to Manchester to give his speech on the benefits of public education and charity. Dickens stayed with Fanny, her husband, and their severely hampered young son, Henry Burnett Jr. Dickens placed his nephew of his favorite sibling at the center of his new Christmas tale.
Where Did The Cratchits Live?
The Cratchits lived at 18 Bayham Street, in Camden Town. How do we know this exact address? Dickens describes the stroll Bob Cratchit took everyday to work. It is the same route Charles took as a boy into the city. The Cratchits were based on John and Elizabeth Dickens and their family (Charles’ parents). The eight Dickens lived in a four room house, exactly like the Cratchits on John Dickens paltry clerk’s salary.
Why That Weird Scene In The Pawnbroker’s Shop?
As the Ghost of Christmas Future and Scrooge standby, a charwoman, a chambermaid, and an undertaker go through Scrooge’s things with a pawnshop owner. What few people realize is that “A Christmas Carol” was an intensely personal story for Dickens. When Dickens father was sent to debtor’s prison, as the oldest boy, Dickens was sent to the pawnbrokers each day to sell the family’s belongings to keep them from starving, until they had nothing, and slept in their clothes on the floor. He had actually watched the pawnbrokers go through their shirts, and sheets, and ice tongs. This was one of the painful memories Dickens relived as he wrote “A Christmas Carol.” He said later in his life that he alternately laughed and cried for the six weeks he wrote the work
What’s A Turkey Doing In “A Christmas Carol?”
Many consider the addition of a turkey a complete anachronistic addition to the ending of “a Christmas Carol.” Why not a goose? Goose was the traditional English holiday meal. Turkey was American. However, Turkeys had been brought to Europe from the new word two centuries previously. The turkey was very much in vogue. In fact, while goose was the traditional English dish served for Christmas, back then, the purchasing of a turkey, which was harder to find, and more expensive, was a showing of wealth and prosperity. Scrooge is trying to treat the Cratchits to a feast unlike any other.