Reflections on aspects of the Christmas spirit | Letters

Christopher Goulding on Marley’s Cornish origins; John Hunter remembers John Masefield; Nik Wood reveals a not-so-charitable Christmas message

Barry West’s theory about the Cornish origins of Jacob Marley’s surname is an interesting one, but it forges a rather too tenuous connection between his beloved home county and Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol (Ghost of Cornish past, 20 December). Dickens’ childhood in Kent would have given him ample opportunity to see lighthouses, miners and sailors long before his visits to Cornwall.

Moreover, the well-known folk song “Elsie Marley ... the wife who sells the barley” would have meant that surname was far from being “unusual”. A verse and chorus of the song are quoted in the novel The Fortunes of Nigel (1822) by Sir Walter Scott, with whose works Dickens was very familiar. Originating in the north of England in the 18th century, the song could well have ...