Sun. Jan 19th, 2020

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John Elwes the Real Ebenezer Scrooge Fought a Rat for Food

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john elwes scrooge

All my life I thought that the story of Ebenezer Scrooge, from Charles Dickens “A Night Before Christmas,” was nothing more than a fictional character. the result of a creative imagination. But to my surprise, he was based on a real person. That’s right, the real Ebenezer Scrooge was based on a real person, a man called John Elwes. But if you thought that Scrooge was a real penny pincher, he barely cast a shadow when compared to John Elwes, the real Ebenezer Scrooge.

Most of us are familiar with the story of Ebenezer Scrooge. He was the main character of Dickens ever popular Christmas tale, “A Night Before Christmas.” He was about as nasty and mean hearted a man that you could find, always concerned about money. He would put money and the pursuit of it, before everything else. Money was the reason for his entire existence, and he would do anything to earn more or prevent it from leaving his clutches. It wasn’t until he was paid a visit by the three Christmas ghosts that he changed his mean and frugal ways. The story had a classic Disney fairytale ending, and it has even inspired a Disney knockoffs, and the richest fictional character. However, even at his most mean-spirited, penny-pinching worst, Ebenezer Scrooge doesn’t compare to the real Ebenezer Scrooge, John Elwes.

John Elwes was a wealthy Member of Parliament in Great Britain during the latter half of the 18th century. Although he served for over a decade in Parliament, he is remembered today as being one of the biggest misers to have ever lived. This trait, it would appear, may have been an inherited one, like much of his initial wealth.

Elwes came into his first inheritance from his father when he was only four years old. His mother was left with an inheritance of £100,000 (about £8,000,000 today). Although she was left with a large sum of money, legend has it that she died from starvation because she was too mean to spend any of it. This seemed to be a family trait. With her death, Elwes inherited the entire family estate. But as frugal as his mother may have been, something that her mother may have passed on as she was regarded as a great miser, it was his uncle that had the biggest impact on his money habits.

Elwes uncle, Sir Harvey Elwes, 2nd Baronet, of Stoke College and MP for Sudbury, was a huge miser in his own right. The pair, when together, gained a reputation for being overly frugal with their wealth. The pair would even share a single glass of wine to save buying two. When Sir Harry died in 1763, he left his fortune of £250,000 (about £18,000,000 today) to Elwes. But even this vast wealth, which would continue to grow, didn’t change him from his stingy ways. If anything, he became worse.

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