The Man Who Inspired Scrooge
“Darkness is cheap, and Scrooge liked it,” wrote Charles Dickens in A Christmas Carol..
Vast inherited wealth did nothing to deter one Georgian gentleman from his mission to be a legendary skinflint. John Elwes was an 18th century MP who was so notorious for scrimping and saving, he made Scrooge look extravagant. Mr. Elwes was a miser in the fullest acceptation of the term, and to obtain gold there was no sacrifice that he thought too great; yet he possessed qualities and traits of amiability, that won for him, in spite of his ruling vice, the respect and friendship of many worthy men.
There can be no better example of money not buying happiness than the fabulously wealthy but unbelievably stingy John Elwes, the man widely credited with inspiring the character of Ebenezer Scrooge in Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol .
Elwes, seems to have learnt his miserable monetary tendencies from his family. His mother inherited about £100,000 when his father died in 1718, equivalent to a couple of hundred million today, but reputedly starved herself to death because she was too mean to fork out on mundane things such as personal well-being.
The greatest influence on young John’s stinginess, however, was his desire to impress his baronet uncle, Sir Harvey Elwes. Though a typically extravagant rich youth, John changed his ways to try to curry favour with Sir Harvey, an eye on his fabulous fortune.
John Elwes (1714-1789) was born John Meggot. He was orphaned at an early age. His father, a wealthy London brewer named Robert Meggot, was a respected Southwark brewer and died when the boy was only four. His grandfather was Sir George Meggot, MP for Southwark, His mother, Amy, was the granddaughter of Sir Gervase Elwes, 1st Baronet and MP for Suffolk.
His mother, Amy Elwes, died not too long after his father. When she died, the family fortune, an estimated £100,000 (about $29 million today), passed to her son. With her death, he inherited the family estate including Marcham Park at Marcham in Berkshire (now Oxfordshire), purchased by his father in 1717.