One-hundred and eighty years since the name ‘Jacob Marley’ was immortalised by Charles Dickens in his story ‘A Christmas Carol’, a descendant of the original muse has met with the great author’s family.

At the beginning of 2022, the Post spoke to Christopher Marley, a relative of the late Dr Miles Marley who is said to be the original inspiration for one of Dickens’ most well-known characters.

We put Christopher, of Kent, in touch with local historian Barry West who had conducted much research into the Cornish connection the world-famous play and its writer has. 

Through his research Barry was able to pinpoint St Endellion as the resting place of Christopher’s famous ancestor, later hosting a visit to the site.

Barry had been only too happy to help and soon established the connection between Mr Marley’s great, great grandfather and the great Mr Dickens which helped make his a household name.

In an article written to ‘The Daily Telegraph’ Miss M Lloyd gives an account of the name Marley. Her grandfather was Dr Marley, who had a practice at 11 Cork Street in London. He was an Irishman and on one St Patrick’s Day he gave a dinner, at which Dickens was a guest. During the dinner, the subject of strange surnames came up and Dickens said he thought the name Marley to be a most uncommon one, where upon he said: “Your name will be a household word before the year is out.”

And indeed, it was. 

Looking further into this connection, Barry ascertained that this was Dr Miles Marley, who later moved to Cornwall when his health deteriorated, to be near his son Dr Henry Frederick Marley. 

Barry said: “The name Marley has been immortalised by his writings of A Christmas Carol. It captured the imagination of those that read it in 1843 and it still does today. 

“I was fortunate enough to meet Christopher Marley at St Endellion Church, high on the hill above Port Isaac where Dr Miles Marley the man who was to become Jacob Marley in Charles Dickens’ novel A Christmas Carol spent his final days. 

“His health had taken a turn for the worse and he, it seems, came to be closer to his son who was the doctor at nearby Padstow.”

Dr Miles, who practiced in London, died in Port Isaac on November 15, 1854.

More than a year on from that emotional visit Christopher was delighted to be able to meet with Mark Dickens and Lucinda Hawksley from the Dickens family to mark a special anniversary.

To make the meeting even more momentous, the descendants met 180 years after that original meeting of the two great names at 11 Cork Street in London, the original practice of Dr Marley, where it all began.

Talking about the event, Christopher said: “Thanks to Waddington Custo for facilitating this St Patrick’s Day celebration. 180th anniversary of an event on this site hosted by Miles Marley during which the country’s much loved and admired luminary Charles Dickens it is believed chose to use his host’s name in the celebrated novella “Christmas Carol”.

“I am but one of the Marley progeny and would never have known of my connection with this Doctor/Surgeon without the assiduous tenacity of Barry West a West Country Historian and his total dedication to identifying famous and infamous visitors to his beloved Cornwall. 

Thanking Barry for his support, Christopher added: “If Barry was a stick of rock, broken in two, the name Charles Dickens would indelibly appear upon his torso. Amongst characters researched and to have lived in his treasured county, Miles and his son Frederick Marley were two that stirred his curiosity. He kindly shared his findings and led me to my great great grandfather’s last resting place. For this and more I am more than greatly indebted to him.”

Dickens’ descendants were only too happy to meet with Christopher and discuss their shared heritage.

Mark said: “My Great Great Grandfather was constantly on the lookout for interesting names to use for the important characters in his novels.  He took a long time to settle on the right ones and because of this so many of them are household names today.  Jacob Marley, the partner of Ebenezer Scrooge and the first ghost to visit him in A Christmas Carol is of course one.  Reconnecting with the descendants of Dr Miles Marley who was acquainted with Charles Dickens will be a wonderful moment, especially on St Patrick’s Day.”

Lucinda added: “My great great great grandfather was a wonderful magpie of a writer, always collecting names and personality traits to use in his novels. That he was such a keen observer of human nature and the world, helped him to write relatable characters who remain relevant even today. Opportunities such as meeting the descendants of the original ‘Marley’ (in name, not in personality!) are a really lovely benefit of having a famous ancestor.”

Joining the celebration Barry said: “Celebrating the anniversary of when Dickens and Marley are said to have had the conversation about Marley being an unusual surname and that by the end of the year it would be a household word by the end of the year was indeed a very important historical moment and it is important the moment was marked by the families of Dickens and Marley at the very same address 11 Cork Street in London. Perhaps one day we will see a blue plaque to commemorate the location the conversation and the wonderful novella A Christmas Carol.”

To conclude the celebration all raised a glass of ‘Smoking Bishop’, a mulled wine punch mentioned in the classic tale.