An iconic character from Charles Dickens’ classic novella A Christmas Carol was based on a real doctor from Cornwall, a historian has claimed.
Barry West, 56, says tormented ghost Jacob Marley – Scrooge’s former business partner in the book – was inspired by Dickens’ time spent in the duchy in the 1800s.
He claims Dickens socialised with London physician Dr Miles Marley, who died on November 15, 1854, in fishing village Port Isaac – the set of ITV comedy Doc Martin.
Historian Barry West, 56, claims Charles Dickens’ novella A Christmas Carol was inspired by his encounters in Cornwall during the 1800s, in particular with a Dr Miles Marley
The celebrated author was known to have visited Cornwall on numerous occasions and a few times before he wrote A Christmas Carol, visiting Land’s End, Rock and Tintagel.
And Mr West, who lives in St Austell, has spent the last four years meticulously researching the connection to prove that large parts of the iconic festive tale were set in the county.
“There’s definitely an old forgotten story about Dickens and Marley and Cornwall, but I wanted to find out the real facts,” he said.
“If you read A Christmas Carol, some of the passages and descriptions he writes – it’s undoubtedly based on the time he spent in Cornwall.”
Miles Marley’s burial certificate (third entry) shows he was laid to rest at the St Endellion Church near Port Isaac, Cornwall
Mr West managed to track down the physician’s grave in the fishing village where BBC comedy Doc Martin is filmed
Mr West contacted the Dickens Society and an expert to enquire about the origins of the name Marley in the novel after being inspired by a visit to the Pickwick Inn pub near Padstow.
Samuel Pickwick is a fictional character and the main protagonist in The Pickwick Papers – Dickens’ first novel.
The historian discovered that Miles Marley was buried St Endellion Church and tracked down his headstone.
He then received a newspaper clipping from the expert which said that the author had celebrated St Patrick’s Day with Dr Marley at 11 Cork Street in Westminster, London.
“It was said that Dickens told Marley, ‘by the end of the year your name will be a household word’,” said Mr West, who works as a union official and studies Cornish history as a hobby.
“I have no doubt that this is the same Dr Miles Marley that Charles Dickens dined with in London and the same Marley that the writer got the name for his character Jacob Marley.”
Dr Miles Marley (left) was allegedly painted by count Paul Wonjersky, who is believed to be from the Polish Royal family, in return for medical treatment. Mr West found a old copy of the iconic novel in a pub in Kent while researching the author (right)
The historian also believes A Christmas Carol goes into detail about the county’s rugged coastline, raging sea and even possibly one of Cornwall’s most famous lighthouses.
“There has been a lot of speculation on what lighthouse Dickens speaks about in the novel,” said Mr West.
“Many people thought that the lighthouse could be Trevose Head, but because we know where Dickens went when he visited Cornwall, the distance out to sea the lighthouse was and the year the story was written, in my mind, there is no doubt that it was the original Longships Lighthouse.”