Front Page Titles (by Subject) Early Nineteenth Century: Birmingham—Something Direful in the Sound GEOFFREY CARNALL University of Edinburgh - The Representation of Business in English Literature
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Early Nineteenth Century: Birmingham—“Something Direful in the Sound” GEOFFREY CARNALL University of Edinburgh - Arthur Pollard, The Representation of Business in English Literature 
The Representation of Business in English Literature, edited and with an Introduction by Arthur Pollard. Foreword by John Blundell (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2009).
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Early Nineteenth Century: Birmingham—“Something Direful in the Sound”
The striking expansion of the British economy in the latter half of the eighteenth century and after is to some extent a matter of technology—a matter, too, of the industrial organisation needed to exploit that technology. But the technology was only one element in a large social process much more difficult to analyse. What else was going on in the development of a society where commerce was becoming ever more influential? Industrial expansion, and its relation to the economy as a whole, remains a matter of continuing research and debate. One area of inquiry is essentially psychological: How did this phenomenon affect the mental and emotional condition of the people who lived through it? How did they perceive it?
After the lapse of two centuries we have become so inured to an accelerating process of technological development, with all the consequences that flow from it, that the notion of an “industrial revolution” takes on an air of threadbare commonplace. The raw experience of living in an economy whose productivity has begun to multiply itself many times over must have been profoundly disorienting—the more so when among its side-effects were substantial movements of population, large-scale working-class political activity demanding radical social change, and, just to keep everyone insecure, a recurrent tendency for banks to fail and for the currency they issued to become worthless.
The disorientation is indeed apparent in the poetry and fiction of this period. Gothic horrors, the excitements of power and a morbid fascination with powerlessness, manifest themselves in a bewildering variety of ways, converging in such characteristic texts as Coleridge’s Ancient Mariner and Shelley’s Ode to the West Wind. A whole range of solitary figures, from Wordsworth’s deserted women to Byron’s Childe Harold, testify to a deeply-felt insecurity, a sense of irremediable homelessness.
On the other hand, the sense of power could be a source of reassurance. Wordsworth in The Prelude expressed the conviction that a benignant spirit was abroad that might not be withstood. In Prometheus Unbound, Shelley prophesied that a subversive Demogorgon would rise up irresistibly and overthrow a tyrannical Jupiter, symbol of the oppressive old regime of aristocrats and churchmen. But neither poet was particularly willing to register the extent to which their millennial hopes were based upon social conditions generated by technological innovation on an unprecedented scale. Indeed, Wordsworth famously deplored in the preface to Lyrical Ballads the effects of “the increasing accumulation of men in cities,” and saw society’s salvation in the rediscovery of the virtues of humble and rustic life.
WALTER SCOTT’S NOSTALGIA FOR THE OLD ORDER
A more balanced response may be found in the novels of Walter Scott. He repeatedly articulates the passing of an old order to a new in a way which evidently appealed to his contemporaries and gained him an unprecedentedly large readership. No previous novelist had ever been as commercially successful as the Great Unknown, “the Author of Waverley.” But his success is linked to his preoccupation with issues that no longer aroused strong passions, the question of the Jacobite claim to the British crown and, to some extent, the relations between England and Scotland. He is aware—how should he not be?—of the contemporary transformation of the economy. In an appendix to The Monastery (1820), he refers to James Watt as
the man whose genius discovered the means of multiplying our national resources to a degree perhaps even beyond his own stupendous powers of calculation and combination; bringing the treasures of the abyss to the summit of the earth, . . . commanding manufactures to arise, as the rod of the prophet produced water in the desert.
But what appeals to Scott is Watt’s wide culture and manifold interests, and, above all, his addiction to fiction, “shameless and obstinate peruser of novels” that he was. Similarly with the poet George Crabbe. He was a friend of the inventor of a power loom, Edmund Cartwright, and remarked to Cartwright’s son how much he admired the father’s “unwearied and active mind.”
It is a part of the Character of a Poet that he is a kind of Creator, a Maker of new Things. Mr. Cartwright therefore is a poet still, only differing from his more visionary Brethren, in giving his works not the mere Forms and Images that verses do, but the substantial realities of tangible Machinery.1
Those “substantial realities” could be distinctly alarming. Crabbe and his wife once visited Cartwright’s factory in Doncaster, and she at least was much distressed.
When she entered the vast building, full of engines thundering with resistless power, yet under the apparent management of children, the bare idea of the inevitable hazard attendant on such stupendous undertakings, quite overcame her feelings, and she burst into tears.2
Such “stupendous undertakings” evidently overcame the feelings of many of Mrs. Crabbe’s contemporaries. Some poets of no importance may have celebrated technological progress. There was a certain James Jennings—a life-long earnest believer in the March of Intellect towards the Reign of Mind—who marvelled at the “Spirit of Improvement” that
But, understandably, Jennings does not figure in the received canon of romantic poetry. Erasmus Darwin is a writer of more consequence, but when he attempts to describe mechanical processes in The Botanic Garden, notoriously the effect is ludicrous rather than sublime:
Again, Robert Southey can rise to the occasion when contemplating his friend Thomas Telford’s great engineering work in the construction of the Caledonian Canal:
But it is significant that the poet’s imagination is fired by a setting sublimely picturesque, where human power acts in concert with the powers of nature. As we shall see, Southey found the inside of a factory as disagreeable as did Mrs. Crabbe.
The fact is that the literature of the period pays surprisingly little direct attention to Britain’s economic transformation, and although, as we shall see, the world of trading and business is not completely ignored, it commonly appears in an unfavourable light.
WORDSWORTH’S DENIGRATION OF INDUSTRIAL DEVELOPMENT
We have remarked that Wordsworth looks to rustic life to heal the disorders of an over-urbanised society. If he looks at the developments of his time at all, he does so to lament them. Once in The Excursion (1814) he mentions the expansion of industrial towns:
And this leads towards a passage deploring the effects of factory work on the children thus employed: “Can hope look forward to a manhood raised / On such foundations?”7 As the years went on, the poet found more and more things to deplore about “the Thirst of Gold / That rules o’er Britain like a baleful star.” These words occur in a sonnet devoted to a project he found particularly distasteful, the building of a railway between Kendal and Windermere. “Hear YE that Whistle?” he asks the mountains of Westmorland:
Still, such laments form only a small part of Wordsworth’s huge output. Generally he averts his gaze from the depressing prospect. He has more elevating visions to record.
The “Thirst of Gold” recurs in a variety of forms and in the work of many writers as a symptom of the sickness inherent in the new order of things. When Wordsworth creates a meritorious tradesman, it is one utterly untouched by that sickness—the Wanderer in The Excursion,
He is now retired, but had once serviced rural communities, and acquired a profound wisdom which Wordsworth’s poem endeavours to communicate. Significantly, the first readers found this attribution of intellectual dignity to a pedlar peculiarly difficult to accept. A man, said Francis Jeffrey in the Edinburgh Review,
who went about selling flannel and pocket-handkerchiefs in this lofty diction, would soon frighten away all his customers; and would infallibly pass either for a madman, or for some learned and affected gentleman, who, in a frolic, had taken up a character which he was peculiarly ill qualified for supporting.
There is nothing in the poem that relates to the pedlar’s “low occupation.” Higgling about tape, or brass sleeve-buttons, is unlikely to engender philosophical profundity, so that there is a “revolting incongruity” in Wordsworth’s idea, which can only arouse ridicule and disgust in many of his readers.10
“Low occupation” is the crucial expression, for it suggests not only the conviction that trade is incompatible with human dignity, but also that it may well exclude common honesty. And this was a common assumption. When Jane Austen tells her sister Cassandra that she has heard from John Murray, who is publishing Emma, she adds, as one speaking of a truth universally acknowledged, that “he is a rogue of course, but a civil one” (17 October 1815). And take the heroine of Fanny Burney’s last novel, The Wanderer, which appeared in 1814. At one point Juliet helps her friend Gabriella in a haberdasher’s shop. She is well aware of the petty frauds and over-reaching tricks of retailers, “but the difficulties of honest trade she had neither seen nor imagined.”
New to the mighty difference between buying and selling; to the necessity of having at hand more stores than may probably be wanted, for avoiding the risk of losing customers from having fewer; and to the usage of rating at an imaginary value whatever is in vogue, in order to repair the losses incurred from the failure of obtaining the intrinsic worth of what is old-fashioned or faulty;—new to all this, the wary shop-keeper’s code, she was perpetually mistaken, or duped.11
George Crabbe provides a further variation on the general theme. Francis Jeffrey warmly admired his poems about lower-class life: “He delights us by the truth, and vivid and picturesque beauty of his representations, and by the force and pathos of the sensations with which we feel that they are connected.” All this is in striking contrast to Wordsworth and his “school,” who introduce us to “beings whose existence was not previously suspected by the acutest observers of nature.”12 One may infer, accordingly, that whatever Crabbe presents in his poetry would have been accepted as authentic by most of Jeffrey’s contemporaries. Although his concern is mainly with rural life, and he has little to say directly about trade and industry, there is one section of The Borough entitled, emphatically, “Trades.” In many ways this reinforces a common stereotype. He begins with epigraphs from Latin poets about the folly of avarice. The text itself confirms that tradesmen do not appreciate scholarly pursuits; they are dogged by insecurity; the most successful are those who forget their common humanity. But Crabbe makes one interesting exception. He notes that some tradespeople—not, it seems, the most affluent ones—are devoted to studies like botany and entomology. His friend the weaver is well-informed about moths and butterflies:
Crabbe presents this as pre-eminently a love of beauty, but references to the microscope and technical terms of botany suggest a more strictly scientific concern, which is fully borne out by the evident interest in “natural history” in the burgeoning periodical publications of the time. The insignificant James Jennings was a grocer and druggist by trade, and although his poetry was altogether undistinguished, he was a competent ornithologist, and a pioneer in the systematic study of the Somersetshire dialect. But such modest contributions to the scientific culture established earlier by manufacturers like the Wedgwood family and their colleagues in the Lunar Society of Birmingham are barely visible in the received canon of English literature.
BLAKE’S REVOLT AGAINST ECONOMIC EXPANSION
Because pessimism about the impact of economic expansion was so widespread, there was evidently great reluctance to allow the literary imagination to contemplate it in any form. One exception is that most proletarian of romantic poets, William Blake. He deplored with prophetic vigour, indeed, the elaboration of machines: “the sons of Urizen” despised the hour-glass
But then the poet goes on to create a nightmare vision of industrial servitude:
His poetry is a massive attempt to articulate a revolt against the ethos of a machine-dominated society. Paradoxically, though, Blake’s concerns as an engraver reveal him as a characteristic entrepreneur. In his Prospectus (1793) he points out that artists, poets and musicians have been “proverbially attended by poverty and obscurity.” This was because they had no way of publishing their own works. But Blake has discovered a way of cutting out the middle-man. He has
invented a method of printing both Letter-press and Engraving in a style more ornamental, uniform, and grand, than any before discovered, while it produces works at less than one fourth of the expense.15
His illuminated texts may not have made Blake’s fortune, financially speaking, but of course a commercial speculation can never be guaranteed success.
JANE AUSTEN’S APPROACH TO COMMERCE
As a working engraver, Blake was unavoidably caught up in the stresses of a trading life. But people placed in a more favourable financial and social position found it easier to evade what was going on around them. It is a commonplace of criticism to remark the extent to which Jane Austen excludes the great events of her time from her fiction. Nonetheless, in this respect she is rather typical. She is certainly not exceptional in taking for granted the values of country gentlefolk, whose incomes came either from rents or from government securities. Her own family, indeed, fostered clergymen and naval officers, professions which gave scope for some measure of upward social mobility. And her favourite brother, Henry, was certainly involved in the world of commerce, as he was a banker. She paid a number of visits to him in London, and benefited from his business and social contacts. In temperament he seems to have exemplified the entrepreneurial spirit to excess. There is a story of his impatience with the postillion of a postchaise in which he was travelling, considering that it was going too slowly through a rough country lane. “ ‘Get on, boy! get on, will you?’ he shouted.—‘I do get on, sir, where I can.’—‘You stupid fellow! Any fool can do that. I want you to get on where you can’t.’ ”16 While this is not quite the attitude one expects in the director of a bank, it may have served him well enough in times of economic buoyancy. It did not, however, carry him through the depression that blighted Britain after the end of the Napoleonic War, and his bank was one of the casualties. After its failure, he reverted to the family norm and entered into holy orders.
There are few intimations of this new, bustling, anxious world until her last completed novel, Persuasion, and even there the adverse effects of an economic depression, apparent in the financial difficulties of Sir Walter Elliot, are attributed to his folly rather than to the state of the country. But in the story on which she was working just before her death, Sanditon, business concerns are at last very much in the foreground. The setting is that of a characteristic enterprise of the period, turning a small coastal village into a holiday resort. The entrepreneur is a Mr. Parker, obsessed with his investment, “a complete Enthusiast,” as Austen remarks, no doubt mindful of the pejorative overtones that clung to the word throughout the eighteenth century.
Sanditon—the success of Sanditon as a small, fashionable Bathing Place—was the object for which he seemed to live. A very few years ago, and it had been a quiet Village of no pretensions; but some natural advantages in its position and some accidental circumstances having suggested to himself, and the other principal Land Holder, the probability of its becoming a profitable Speculation, they had engaged in it, and planned and built, and praised and puffed,17 and raised it to something of young Renown—and Mr. Parker could now think of very little besides.18
The story opens with Mr. Parker in quest of a medical man to add to the amenities of Sanditon, and he takes pleasure in the collateral effects of his enterprise on the village economy:
“Civilization, Civilization indeed!” cried Mr. P, delighted. “Look my dear Mary—Look at William Heeley’s windows.—Blue Shoes, and nankin Boots!—Who would have expected such a sight at a Shoemaker’s in old Sanditon!—This is new within the Month. There was no blue Shoe when we passed this way a month ago.—Glorious indeed!—Well, I think I have done something in my Day.”19
Austen is clearly unimpressed by the claims of commerce to promote the progress of the human race, and it is not surprising that in general her fiction inhabits a world of gentlefolk, of people who could say, as Elizabeth Bennet said to Lady Catherine de Bourgh, that her father was a gentleman, and she herself a gentleman’s daughter. Lady Catherine, of course, retorted that Elizabeth’s father might be a gentleman, “but who was your mother? Who are your uncles and aunts?”20 And the answer was that they were involved in trade, something one would not care to acknowledge incautiously.
Now it is true that in Pride and Prejudice, Austen is concerned to show Elizabeth’s uncle Gardiner as a distinctly gentlemanlike man. While his income comes from some unspecified business in the City of London, he is able to spend a month away from it in a tour of the north, and is treated as an equal by Mr. Darcy, whose ancestors, as Austen may well have learned from David Hume’s History of England, came over with William the Conqueror in 1066. Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner had qualified for gentry status. That was sufficient for the enlightened Mr. Darcy, if not for his aunt. It is clear that Austen is not in the least concerned with Mr. Gardiner’s conduct of his business, any more than she is with the nature of Sir Thomas Bertram’s estate in Antigua. An office in the City is beyond the horizon as much as a ship bound for the West Indies. What she is aware of is how people performed in Austen’s own world, and Mr. Gardiner did better than most.
It is to be feared that Austen saw the egregious Mrs. Elton in Emma as more representative than the Gardiners. We hear of her first as a Miss Augusta Hawkins, younger daughter “of a Bristol—merchant, of course, he must be called.” The word suppressed is “tradesman,” connecting her with the “rude mechanicals” of A Midsummer Night’s Dream rather than with merchants of Venice. And though Mrs. Elton was a good deal more at home in Highbury society than Bottom the Weaver was at the court of Theseus, she showed almost as little familiarity with the manners of gentlefolk as he had done, though her lapses are more subtle. She fails to realise, for example, that while it is allowable for one gentleman to refer to another by his surname alone, it is not at all the done thing for a wife to do the same.
“Never seen him in her life before [exclaims Emma] and call him Knightley! and discover him to be a gentleman! A little upstart, vulgar being, with her Mr. E., and her caro sposo, and her resources, and all her airs of pert pretension and under-bred finery. Actually to discover that Mr. Knightley is a gentleman! I doubt whether he will return the compliment, and discover her to be a lady.”21
But there are depths of social impropriety beneath even the families of questionable merchants of Bristol. Mrs. Elton’s sister Selina Suckling, who has married a moderately wealthy Bristolian, is disturbed by some upstart people called Tupman, who have settled in the neighbourhood.
“How they got their fortune nobody knows. They came from Birmingham, which is not a place to promise much, you know, Mr. Weston. One has not great hopes from Birmingham. I always say there is something direful in the sound.”22
Austen leaves us to guess at the abysses of indecorum indicated here, but as to how the Tupmans gained their fortune in Birmingham, not only does nobody know, but nobody is interested.
Birmingham’s sinister reputation can be understood if one turns to the relevant chapter of Robert Southey’s Letters from England, published in 1807. This is a book supposed to be written by a Spanish traveller, Don Manuel Alvares Espriella, and Southey evidently found the persona liberating, allowing him to view English society with an ingenuous directness which would have been difficult for a native. Don Manuel finds Birmingham the most repulsive city he has ever visited: noisy beyond description, filthy with a dirt that “penetrates every where, spotting and staining every thing, and getting into the pores and nostrils. I feel as if my throat wanted sweeping like an English chimney.”23 The goods manufactured are often shoddy, and illegal practices are carried on with impunity, including forging the currencies of every country with whom England carries on trade. But the Spaniard adds that employment in Birmingham is so insecure, so vulnerable to changes in markets, that the pervasive dishonesty is almost excusable. No doubt the Tupmans, Mr. Suckling’s undesirable neighbours, had been lucky and made their escape while their luck held.
Birmingham is not the only centre of commerce to dismay Don Manuel. Manchester too excites his revulsion, but this is because of the way its cotton mills exploit the labour of children. He looks at the “unnatural dexterity” with which these young victims do their work, while he himself is half giddy with the noise and the endless motion. The proprietor explains that one shift works from five in the morning until six at night, when the night shift takes over: “the wheels never stand still.” When, Don Manuel continues,
he told me there was no rest in these walls, day nor night, if Dante had peopled one of his hells with children, here was a scene worthy to have supplied him with new images of torment.24
He is appalled by the degrading effect this life must have on the children, and by the positive cruelty to which it would expose them.
They are deprived in childhood of all instruction and all enjoyment; of the sports in which childhood instinctively indulges, of fresh air by day and of natural sleep by night. Their health physical and moral is alike destroyed; they die of diseases induced by unremitting task work, by confinement in the impure atmosphere of crowded rooms, by the particles of metallic or vegetable dust which they are continually inhaling; or they live to grow up without decency, without comfort, and without hope, without morals, without religion, and without shame, and bring forth slaves like themselves to tread in the same path of misery.25
The proprietor is a humane and kindly man, and does not realise what he is inflicting on this generation. Don Manuel thought of cities in Arabian romance where all the inhabitants were enchanted: “here Commerce is the queen witch, and I had no talisman strong enough to disenchant those who were daily drinking of the golden cup of her charms.”26
In a later letter, this attack on the commercial spirit is generalised to encompass the entire development of English society in the previous half-century. The ethos of business poisons everything: “literature, arts, religion, government are alike tainted.” Agriculture has become a trading speculation: “field has been joined to field; a moneyed farmer comes, like Aaron’s rod, and swallows up all within his reach.” Agriculture is certainly improved, but at the cost of profound social disruption. Throughout the country there is too much wealth and too much poverty: “were there less of the one there would be less of the other.” And the solution? “Taxation might be so directed as to break down the great properties.”27
Southey adopts essentially the same stance some two decades later in his Colloquies of Society (1829). The liberating persona here is Sir Thomas More, who, as is natural in a Catholic martyr, subjects the Protestant Reformation to a sharp scrutiny. It has, he says, “prepared the way for the uncontrolled dominion of that worldly spirit which it is the tendency of the commercial system to produce and foster.”28 Mammon has acquired an undisputed and acknowledged supremacy, above all in England. Southey, appearing himself in this book as More’s partner in dialogue under the name of Montesinos, points out that without the “manufacturing system,” Britain could not have won the last war with France. But More sweeps this objection aside. Evil can produce only evil. Modern manufacturing debases everyone engaged in it. It forces people to work in unwholesome conditions, and “any result would be dearly purchased at such an expense of human misery and degradation.”29
Sir Thomas and Montesinos do indeed go on to make a distinction between “manufactures” and “commerce.” The merchants of ancient Tyre, and the medieval Moors, were worthy patrons of the state and of the arts, and such merchants are still to be found. It is not usual to class merchants among the liberal professions, but it should be, as mercantile pursuits require the most general knowledge, and provide good opportunities for acquiring and enlarging it.30 This emphatic concession to the business community is, as is often the case in Southey’s writings, not well defined, but one may guess he is thinking of people like William Roscoe of Liverpool, who was a banker, or possibly the directors of the East India Company. To complicate matters further, Southey sees most hope for the future in the plans of one of the most successful manufacturers of his time, Robert Owen.
Not that it is as a cotton manufacturer that Owen appears in the Colloquies. Southey invokes him purely as a philanthropist, author of the famous plan of co-operative associations, which would, he believes, greatly better the condition of the working classes if only it could raise the necessary capital. But alas! the Bible Society has far greater success in stimulating contributions than the eloquent Robert Owen, and it is a pity he is so constrained by the secularism which he insists on proffering to an unappreciative public.31
SOUTHEY: ROBERT OWEN AND THE “INVISIBILITY” OF BUSINESS IN EARLY-NINETEENTH-CENTURY LITERATURE
Southey’s presentation of Owen is a striking example of the sheer invisibility of serious business activity in the literature of the early nineteenth century. When Owen came to write his autobiography, the story of his success as a manager is riveting, and his account of the way he foiled his fellow-directors’ attempt to oust him from the management of the New Lanark mills is one of the most dramatic narratives to come from the period. But although it is hard to imagine that Owen would not have told his story many times over to sympathetic hearers, the fact remains that it was not published until 1857, when it took its place among the writings of the Victorian prophets, and when business had become an acceptable subject for writers of fiction.
EDMUND BURKE: TRADESMEN SHOULD NOT RULE THE STATE
In the early nineteenth century itself, the business community is repeatedly presented as ill-bred and unimaginative. “Business community” of course includes a wide social range, with bankers in particular passing easily into the ranks of the gentry. But preoccupation with one’s trade and with matters of the market-place continued to incur the judgement pronounced in 1790 by Edmund Burke, in his Reflections on the Revolution in France:
The occupation of a hair-dresser, or of a working tallow-chandler, cannot be a matter of honour to any person—to say nothing of a number of more servile employments. Such descriptions of men ought not to suffer oppression from the state; but the state suffers oppression, if such as they . . . are permitted to rule.32
Burke clinches his argument with an apposite text from holy writ. “How,” asks the author of Ecclesiasticus, “can he get wisdom that holdeth the plough . . . and whose talk is of bullocks?”
One might wonder whether Coleridge had this passage from Burke in mind when he recalled, in Biographia Literaria (1817), his attempts in 1796 to secure subscribers for his radical periodical, the Watchman. He set off on his quest in a tour of the industrial districts of the English midlands and the north, beginning in Birmingham. His first interview was with a tallow-chandler, tall and lean, with a face to match, giving Coleridge “a dim notion of some one looking at me through a used grid-iron, all soot, grease and iron!” He listened patiently enough, in spite of its being one of his busy days when he was melting down the tallow from animal carcasses, an industrial process accompanied by a peculiarly penetrating and unpleasant smell. At the end of the poet’s harangue he asked the price.
“Only four-pence,”—(O! how I felt the anti-climax, the abysmal bathos of that four-pence!)—“only four-pence, Sir, each number, to be published on every eighth day.”—“That comes to a deal of money at the end of a year. And how much, did you say, there was to be for the money?”—“Thirty-two pages, Sir! large octavo, closely printed.”—“Thirty and two pages! Bless me! why except what I does in a family way on the Sabbath, that’s more than I ever reads, Sir! all the year round. I am as great a one as any man in Brummagem, Sir! for liberty and truth and all them sort of things, but as to this,—no offence, I hope, Sir,—I must beg to be excused.”33
An anecdote like that obviously serves to reinforce a common stereotype: tradesmen engage in malodorous activities, are unable to speak grammatically, tend to be close-fisted, and have limited intellectual horizons. They also smoke stupefying tobacco—doubtless suited to their coarse sensibilities—as Coleridge found when he afterwards dined with a more sympathetic tradesman “and three other illuminati of the same rank.” He was pressed to join them in a post-prandial smoke, and almost at once became uncomfortably giddy. Recovering, he went off to an appointment with a Unitarian minister, but then sank into a swoon, from which he only recovered after a party of the minister’s friends had assembled to meet him. These were not tradesmen but gentlemen, and never, Coleridge recalled, had he since heard “conversation sustained with such animation, enriched with such a variety of information, and enlivened with such a flow of anecdote.” One suspects that, as this was Birmingham, many of these gentlemen were engaged in business—but Coleridge does not say: presumably, the thought never crossed his mind.34
He mentions one other interview, this time in Manchester, with “a stately and opulent wholesale dealer in cottons.” Unlike the tallow-chandler, the dealer did not give Coleridge an opportunity to say his piece, but merely looked at the prospectus and then “crushed it within his fingers and the palm of his hand.” Saying that he was “over-run with these articles,” he retired to his counting-house. And that, Coleridge claims, was the last time he tried to get a subscriber.
Lewis Patton, who edited the Watchman for the standard Collected Works of Coleridge, gives a somewhat different account of the subscription tour. He bases this on Coleridge’s letters at the time to Josiah Wade, who like Jane Austen’s Mr. Hawkins, was a Bristol merchant. Coleridge did well in enlisting subscribers, not only in Birmingham but also in Derby, Nottingham, Lichfield, and to some extent in Sheffield, though here he was inhibited by not wishing to encroach on James Montgomery’s radical paper, the Iris. The letters were written to Wade because of the financial help he was giving Coleridge, and Patton also remarks that another Bristol tradesman, Joseph Cottle the bookseller, gave material assistance in gaining subscribers for the Watchman and in seeing to its distribution. None of this assistance is acknowledged in Biographia Literaria, an ingratitude that Cottle in particular deeply resented. But the ingratitude is evidently the consequence of a pervasive conviction that tradesmen may be worthy fellows, but are not to be taken seriously.
CHARLES LAMB: HIS ARCHETYPAL TRADESMAN JUKE JUDKINS
One of the most carefully finished presentations of the early-nineteenth-century idea of the archetypal tradesman is provided by Charles Lamb in his “Reminiscences of Juke Judkins, Esq., of Birmingham.” The essay appeared in the New Monthly Magazine in 1826, and emphasises the meanness rather than the imperfect education that one would normally expect in a tradesman. Judkins is a brazier, whose familiarity with brass as a material presumably makes his impudence the more brazen. The first thing that we learn is that he pays £93 a year to his widowed mother as a pension, which the prosperity of his business enables him to do with ease. But his mind evidently circles round the possibility of his not paying the £93, as the wording of his father’s will might be open to an interpretation that would relieve him from the outlay. But, he adds piously, “the wishes of a dying parent should in some sort have the effect of law.” Even so, the £93 deduction from his profits still rankles: the annual profits might seem to total £1,303, but “the real proceeds in that time have fallen short of that sum to the amount of the aforesaid payment of ninety-three pounds sterling annually.”35
He has been close-fisted since childhood. He recalls the occasion when he sold off by pennyworths the surplus gingerbread his mother had given him to take to his boarding school. “By this honest strategem I put double the prime cost of the gingerbread into my purse,” incidentally making sure that he retained enough to have plenty for himself while it remained good and moist. His father congratulated him on this stroke of business, but his mother burst into tears, saying “it was a very niggardly action.” Of course, he never shared the food his parents sent him, but neither did he defraud anyone even of a halfpenny, and he was always willing to do anything to serve his fellows in any way that was consistent with his own well-being. Still, unaccountably, he was never much of a favourite with them, and in later life he found it difficult to prosper in love.
Lamb provides a hilarious account of Judkins’s courtship, which is dominated by discussions about the choice of a house and associated expenses, and founders on his assiduity in bargaining over the oranges on sale outside the theatre, when he was prevailed upon to take his fiancée and her mother to a play. An enterprising cousin who had joined the party dashed off and got some fine oranges at a nearby fruiterers, and thus insinuated himself into the affections of the lady. Not that Judkins can bring himself to believe that such a trifle could have been the motive of her inconstancy:
for could she suppose that I would sacrifice my dearest hopes in her to the paltry sum of two shillings, when I was going to treat her to the play, and her mother too (an expense of more than four times that amount), if the young man had not interfered to pay for the latter, as I mentioned?36
We leave him wondering.
Fifteen years earlier, Lamb had depicted the ethos of the world of business in terms equally mordant. “The Good Clerk” in the essay with that title has lost almost every vestige of human spontaneity, although Lamb is so directly imitating the seventeenth-century Theophrastan “character” that the reader instinctively perceives that what is being presented is an ideal to which no one, happily, could quite attain. The good clerk is clean and neat, temperate, either celibate or married—all on strictly commercial principles. He is honest:
not for fear of the laws, but because he hath observed how unseemly an article it maketh in the Day Book, or Ledger, when a sum is set down lost or missing; it being his pride to make these books to agree, and to tally, the one side with the other, with a sort of architectural symmetry and correspondence.37
Lamb informs us that this “character” was sketched during intervals in his employment as a clerk, and was inspired by “those frugal and economical maxims” put about a century earlier by writers like Daniel Defoe. He then enters into a searing analysis of Defoe’s Compleat English Tradesman as a guide to “every little mean art, every sneaking address, every trick and subterfuge (short of larceny) that is necessary to the tradesman’s occupation,” all tending to one purpose, “the sacrificing of every honest emotion of the soul to what he calls the main chance,” narrowing and degrading the heart. He illustrates this charge out of a chapter on the government of the temper. Tradesmen must discipline themselves to be patient under the most extreme provocation: behind the counter they must have no flesh and blood about them—there must be no passion, no resentment. Even customers who obviously have no intention to buy, but yet rummage through five hundred pounds’ worth of goods, must be borne with: “’tis his business to be ill used and resent nothing.” Even if his real temper is fiery and hot, it must not show in his shop. Of course, nature will out, but it must be upstairs, with his family.
I heard once of a shop-keeper [Defoe continues] that behaved himself thus to such an extreme, that when he was provoked by the impertinence of the customers, beyond what his temper could bear, he would go up stairs and beat his wife, kick his children about like dogs, and be as furious for two or three minutes, as a man chained down in Bedlam; and again, when that heat was over, would sit down and cry faster than the children he had abused; and after the fit, he would go down into the shop again, and be as humble, courteous, and as calm as any man whatever; so absolute a government of the passions had he in the shop and so little out of it: in the shop, a soul-less animal that would resent nothing; and in the family a madman.38
Clearly what fascinated Lamb in this passage was the dichotomy between being soul-less and being mad: a dichotomy that would have had a painful resonance in his own family, with the homicidal mania of his own sister a constant anxiety. In the context of the present inquiry, it throws a strong light on the shortcomings—to put it mildly—of commercial life as perceived in the early nineteenth century.
Neither of the essays considered here was collected in The Essays of Elia, and so have remained little known. They provide a helpful context, though, for the incident that closes the essay on “Imperfect Sympathies.” Lamb has been admitting that, although he loves Quaker ways and Quaker worship, he could not actually live the Quaker life. “I must have books, pictures, theatres, chit-chat, scandal, jokes, ambiguities, and a thousand whim-whams, which their simpler taste can do without.” Although he does not actually say so, he would evidently find the emphasis on complete veracity difficult to sustain, but he admires the presence of mind which is the evident result of this self-imposed watchfulness on words. He illustrates “the astonishing composure of this people” by an incident that occurred while he was travelling on a stage-coach with three Quaker merchants. They halted for refreshment in Andover, where both tea and a supper were provided. Lamb had the supper, the Quakers confined themselves to tea. When the landlady proceeded to charge them all for both meals, the Quakers objected. They offered to pay for the tea; Lamb offered to pay for his supper. The offers were refused, and the Quakers put away their money and marched out. Lamb followed their example.
The coach drove off. The murmurs of mine hostess, not very indistinctly or ambiguously pronounced, became after a time inaudible—and now my conscience, which the whimsical scene had for a while suspended, beginning to give some twitches, I waited in the hope that some justification would be offered by these serious persons for the seeming injustice of their conduct. To my great surprise, not a syllable was dropped on the subject. They sat as mute as at a meeting. At length the eldest of them broke silence, by inquiring of his next neighbour, “Hast thee heard how indigos go at the India House?” and the question operated as a soporific on my moral feeling as far as Exeter.39
But not, perhaps, much beyond Exeter. It would be absurd to apply a heavy moral judgement to this “whimsical scene,” but there is a family resemblance between the “good clerk” and these Quaker men of business, not to mention a quiet ruthlessness which no doubt assisted greatly in the successful conduct of affairs.
WALTER SCOTT: THE QUAKER ENTREPRENEUR—A DEDICATED “IMPROVER”—AND THE DECLINE OF THE “OLD ORDER”
Another Quaker entrepreneur who figures in an early-nineteenth-century text is Joshua Geddes, in Walter Scott’s Redgauntlet. Although clearly seen as a landowner, Scott being at pains to emphasise the continuity between the Quaker and his wild Border ancestors, he is a dedicated improver, and the plot of the novel partly turns on his “improved” method of fishing. He uses tide-nets instead of the traditional methods of spear and line. The result, says Redgauntlet, is that “you will destroy the salmon which makes the livelihood of fifty poor families.” In due course a crowd of “damned smuggling wreckers” armed with guns, fish-spears, iron crowbars, spades and bludgeons comes to destroy the nets. Published in 1824, this episode would inevitably remind readers of the Luddite machine-breaking of the previous decade. The riot serves to facilitate the capture of Darsie Latimer, and so leads on to issues more romantic than the enterprises of Joshua Geddes. But the implications of this element in the narrative reinforce the theme of the novel as a whole—that the old order cannot sustain itself, whether as a nation ruled by the Stuart dynasty, or in communities wringing a subsistence from the land and from the rivers in the way they have done for centuries. Although much is made of Joshua’s courageous non-violence, it is clear that he is willing to invoke the law against the disturbers of his property, and the rioters are doubtless correct in thinking that the overseer of his fisheries has gone to Dumfries to fetch down redcoats and dragoons. But Redgauntlet himself is probably unduly jaundiced in warning Darsie that Joshua “will himself shear thee like a sheep, if you come to buying and selling with him.”40 But while discounting a natural prejudice, the reader may well take the hint that it is as well to be on one’s guard in any dealings with a man of business, Quaker or not.
In Redgauntlet, Joshua is a marginal figure, but in Rob Roy, published in 1817, the world of commerce takes centre stage, juxtaposed with that lusty survival of a pre-commercial society, the Scottish Highlands before Bonnie Prince Charlie and the disaster of 1745. The hero’s father, the elder Osbaldistone, is a merchant in the most respectable sense, a man whom even Jane Austen’s Emma would hesitate to call a tradesman. Scott, indeed, endows him with all the narrowness of outlook that forms part of the early-nineteenth-century stereotype of the businessman. For him, the depreciation of the French currency was the most remarkable national occurrence of the time, and of course he regarded all merely literary pursuits with contempt.41 When Di Vernon chides Frank for his ignorance of the figures of heraldry, she wonders at the upbringing that allowed him to remain in such a benighted state: “ ‘Of what could your father be thinking?’—‘Of the figures of arithmetic,’ ” Frank replies, “ ‘the most insignificant unit of which he holds more highly than all the blazonry of chivalry.’ ”42 Scott evidently wants the reader to think of Edmund Burke’s celebrated lament over Marie Antoinette: the age of chivalry is gone; that of sophisters, economists and calculators has succeeded. And if the elder Osbaldistone is no sophister, he is certainly a calculator and economist in the eighteenth-century senses of the words, which focus on the sparing and effective use of resources. Although his son magnanimously pays tribute to the estimable functions of commerce, it is as part of a tactful attempt to free himself from the obligation to devote his life to the family firm.
“It is impossible, sir, for me to have higher respect for any character than I have for the commercial, even were it not yours. . . . It connects nation with nation, relieves the wants, and contributes to the wealth of all; and is to the general commonwealth of the civilised world what the daily intercourse of ordinary life is to private society, or rather, what air and food are to our bodies.”43
That may be the theory, but it leaves on one side the question of what kind of character is most successful in commerce. The elder Osbaldistone’s self-command is not ludicrous, as Defoe’s much-tried shopkeeper’s is, but it is integral to his insensitively dominating personality. He behaves with arbitrary authority, dismissing the son of his French associate for no good reason, and displacing Frank in favour of an unknown cousin, who, as it turns out, almost brings ruin on the firm. He had something of the temperament of a political adventurer. He seemed driven by a need
to push on from achievement to achievement, without stopping to secure, far less to enjoy, the acquisitions which he made. Accustomed to see his whole fortune trembling in the scales of chance, and dexterous at adopting expedients for casting the balance in his favour, his health and spirits and activity seemed ever to increase with the animating hazards on which he staked his wealth.44
The insecurity of trade was foremost in the minds of many people at this time of bank failures and ill-comprehended movements in the trade cycle. Scott himself was to suffer personally from this instability, and the horror of bankruptcy was an important element in the emotional power of Rob Roy for its first readers. For Frank’s father, bankruptcy was “an utter and irretrievable disgrace, to which life would afford no comfort, and death the speediest and sole relief.”45
But financial failure was not merely a personal disaster. It could entail social cataclysms, revolutions. Bailie Nicol Jarvie explains to Frank how English firms have bought woods in the Highlands, and paid for them with bills that find credit in Glasgow and Edinburgh—“I might amaist say in Glasgow wholly, for it’s little the pridefu’ Edinburgh folk do in real business.” If the Osbaldistone firm could not support these bills, the Highland economy would be crippled, and social unrest would necessarily follow, probably in a desperate rising. Frank thinks it singular that the mercantile transactions of London citizens should become involved with revolutions and rebellions.
“Not at a’, man—not at a’,” returned Mr. Jarvie, “that’s a’ your silly prejudications. I read whiles in the lang dark nights, and I hae read in Baker’s Chronicle that the merchants o’ London could gar the Bank of Genoa break their promise to advance a mighty sum to the King of Spain, whereby the sailing of the Grand Spanish Armada was put off for a haill year.”46
The attempt to ruin Osbaldistone is, of course, foiled, but then Frank and his father have to join with other mercantile houses to support the credit of government when the 1715 Jacobite rising threatens financial stability.47
TRADESMEN AND MEN OF COMMERCE: ARITHMETIC THEIR COMMON CURRENCY
If Osbaldistone represents commerce at its most socially elevated, Jarvie is emphatically a tradesman. But the two men, antithetical in so many ways, have something in common. As Frank remarks, they both considered “commercial transactions” the main object of human life, and they shared a profound faith in arithmetic: for Jarvie, one of the most appalling disabilities of his Highland relatives is that “they dinna ken the very multiplication-table itself, whilk [which] is the root of a’ usefu’ knowledge.”48 Tradesman as he is, though, he has moved upwards in society. He has progressed from being a working weaver to trading only as a wholesaler, and, as we have seen, he is a man of reading, during the winter months anyhow. Frank notices that his conversation “showed tokens of a shrewd, observing, liberal, and, to the extent of its opportunities, a well-improved mind.”49 These qualities are obscured by his “oddity and vulgarity of manner,” and Frank thinks him ridiculously vain—but then he has something to be vain about. He is a magistrate of some consequence, at least in Glasgow. He still has to lament the fact that great men in the state will not profit from the advice of one whom they would dismiss as a “Glasgow weaver-body,” while Osbaldistone’s head clerk, Mr. Owen, thinks of him as “a petulant, conceited Scotch pedlar”—until the progress of events changes his mind. But within certain limits, Jarvie is clearly a man of considerable intellectual pretension. In chapter 26 he treats Frank and Mr. Owen to an elaborate statistical analysis of unemployment in the Highlands.
“Ye maun understand I found my remarks on figures, whilk, as Mr. Owen here weel kens, is the only true demonstrable root of human knowledge.”
Owen readily assented to a proposition so much in his own way, and our orator proceeded.
And proceed he does, remorselessly estimating, multiplying, subtracting, and reaching the conclusion that half the population have no access to honest work.
“Aweel, sir, this moiety of unemployed bodies, amounting to”—
“To one hundred and fifteen thousand souls,” said Owen, “being the half of the above product.”
“Ye hae’t, Maister Owen—ye hae’t—whereof there may be twenty-eight thousand seven hundred able-bodied gillies fit to bear arms, and that do bear arms, and will touch or look at nae honest means of livelihood even if they could get it—which, lack-a-day! they cannot.”
Jarvie benevolently offers to help Rob Roy’s sons to honest employment, but the offer is not appreciated. Rob Roy strides furiously about, cursing in a peculiarly expressive Gaelic. His sons weavers, indeed!—“but I wad see every loom in Glasgow, beam, traddles and shuttles, burnt in hell-fire sooner!” He calms himself, though, appreciating that Jarvie meant well, and concedes that if he should ever think of apprenticing his sons, he would give Jarvie the first refusal.50
Jarvie’s deficiencies in gentlemanly qualities are summed up in his pointed unconcern with the idea of honour. When Frank speaks of acting in a way that will be to his father’s advantage and to his own honour, Jarvie remarks that he will attend to nothing about honour:
“We ken naething here but about credit. Honour is a homicide and a blood-spiller, that gangs about making frays in the street; but Credit is a decent honest man, that sits at hame and makes the pat play.”51
Not that Jarvie does sit at home, but good-naturedly ventures into the Highlands to assist Frank and his father, and encounters considerable perils on the way. But when rust prevents him from drawing his sword at the beginning of the fight in the inn at the Clachan of Aberfoil, he has no hesitation in seizing a red-hot poker from the fire and setting his adversary’s plaid on fire. It is hardly sporting—no gentleman would have demeaned himself thus—but it is highly effective.52
Jarvie’s liberality of mind does not extend to the picturesque. He is entirely unmoved by the scenery surrounding Loch Lomond, so magnificent that it inspires Frank to thoughts of retiring as a hermit “in one of the romantic and beautiful islands amongst which our boat glided.” Jarvie, however, enters into a series of calculations which enable him to prove the practicability of draining the loch, and “giving to plough and harrow many hundred, ay, many a thousand acres, from whilk no man could get earthly good e’enow.” He would have retained just enough of the loch to form a canal, greatly facilitating the transport of coal north of Glasgow.53
Although Scott’s satirical intention here is unmistakable, an engineering project on this scale would not have seemed out of the question to a generation which was seeing the ambitious and varied enterprises of men like Thomas Telford. “Never before in history,” wrote one of Telford’s biographers, “had man created works of such magnitude as the mighty aqueducts that Telford flung across the valleys of the Ceirog and the Dee,” and while he may not have drained Loch Lomond, the same writer claims that “no man in his century performed a greater service for Scotland,” turning the Highlands from an almost trackless country of dispirited people into one served by his harbours, his roads, his great Caledonian Canal and his many bridges.54 Although outrageously unromantic, Jarvie’s project was in tune with that diffuse sense of power which informs a good deal of English romantic poetry.
JOHN GALT’S MR. CAYENNE—ENTREPRENEUR AND BENEFACTOR
It has to be admitted that Scott’s attitude to Jarvie is patronising. There is, however, at least one fairly respectful presentation of the manufacturing tradesman in the received canon of early-nineteenth-century literature, and that is John Galt’s Mr. Cayenne, in Annals of the Parish (1821). Galt was well aware of the conventional view of the mean-minded tradesman, and has in fact left a fine example of the type in A Rich Man, his fictional autobiography of a self-made man, Archibald Plack, a poor Glasgow lad who became Lord Mayor of London. His skill at pursuing the “main chance” resembles the relentless close-fistedness of Lamb’s Juke Judkins, but he is better at dealing with people, and has greater intelligence. It may be more than a coincidence that Galt’s people, like Bailie Nicol Jarvie, belong to the west of Scotland, away from “the pridefu’ Edinburgh folk” and the rest of the literary establishment.55 Not that Mr. Cayenne himself is presented as a typical inhabitant. He is a loyalist exile from the newly independent American colonies, with a hot temper and an aggressively secular outlook that horrifies Galt’s narrator, the Rev. Micah Balwhidder. But he sets up a successful cotton mill in the parish of Dalmailing and gives employment to large numbers (some imported from Manchester), housing them, too, in handsome dwellings. The necessary investment is supplied with an unstinted hand by Cayenne and his partners in London. The factory village is, alas, a source of corruption, and Balwhidder is particularly distressed by the way it nourishes dissenting sects. But Cayenne is a strong supporter of the established order, even though he on occasion manifests his support in a blasphemous manner. Two youths who are brought before him as subversive reformers plead that Jesus Christ too was a reformer. Like the notorious Lord Braxfield on a similar occasion, Cayenne did not allow this as a plea. “ ‘And what the devil did he make of it?’ cried Mr. Cayenne, bursting with passion; ‘Was he not crucified?’ ” Balwhidder was shattered: it was for him as if “the pillars of the earth sunk beneath me,” and the roof carried away in a whirlwind. But the Lord failed to show His displeasure, and the lads were acquitted also.56
Cayenne, however, has his philanthropic side. It was due to his humane foresight that the parish was supported through a period of dearth, he having organised corn imports from the Baltic and America. He was also generous in his support of refugees from the troubles in Ireland in 1798, making no distinction between rebels and loyalists:
He said he carried his political principles only to the camp and the council. “To the hospital and the prison,” said he, “I take those of a man”—which was almost a Christian doctrine, and from that declaration Mr. Cayenne and me began again to draw a little more cordially together; although he had still a very imperfect sense of religion, which I attributed to his being born in America, where even as yet, I am told, they have but a scanty sprinkling of grace.57
This last observation by Balwhidder is a reminder that Cayenne unites a number of stereotypes, and is not just an example of the manufacturer. He is a coarse-speaking colonial, and something of an irascible humourist like Matthew Bramble in Smollett’s Humphry Clinker. But the combination exempts him from the patronage or contempt which the literary world commonly felt to be appropriate on the rare occasions when its attention was turned to trade. At one point, he acts in precisely the way one would expect of the lord of the manor. This was during the alarm about an imminent French invasion in 1803, when Dalmailing raised a fine troop of volunteers to defend the nation in its hour of peril. After the inaugural parade and demonstration of fighting skill, everyone
marched to the cotton-mill, where, in one of the warehouses, a vast table was spread, and a dinner, prepared at Mr. Cayenne’s own expence, sent in from the Cross-keys, and the whole corps with many of the gentry of the neighbourhood, dined with great jollity, the band of music playing beautiful airs all the time.58
Admittedly, this is an event which Balwhidder sees as an exceptional testimony to the unity of all classes, but the fact remains that Cayenne rises to the occasion with the ease of an accomplished gentleman.
Cayenne’s colonial roots and his growing integration into the Dalmailing community also help to set him apart from the malpractice associated with the world of business. In chapter 43 we see him seeking Balwhidder’s advice about how to respond to an unreasonable demand from his partners that he should give up part of his share in the business for the benefit of one of their relatives. Balwhidder advises him to accept the admission of a new partner, but at the same time to suggest that his own shareholding should be increased, in view of his undoubted services to the firm.
I thought Mr. Cayenne would have louped out of his skin with mirth at this notion, and being a prompt man, he sat down at my scrutoire, and answered the letter which gave him so much uneasiness.
The partners withdrew their proposal, and wrote to him that it was not considered expedient to make any change “at that time.” As soon as he received this letter, he came straight over to Balwhidder, “and swore an oath, by some dreadful name, that I was a Solomon.” By thus juxtaposing Balwhidder’s unworldly discernment and Cayenne’s rough good nature, and making them triumph over metropolitan business interests, Galt prepares the way for a more sympathetic portrayal of trade and industry. Cayenne’s partners, of course, reinforce the stereotype of rascally tradesmen: Cayenne himself emerges as a Captain of Industry, a resourceful benefactor of his local community. We are almost in the world of Disraeli’s Coningsby and Charlotte Brontë’s Shirley. But not quite.59
KEATS AND HAZLITT: MERCHANTS/BUSINESSMEN CONDEMNED—“ETHICALLY AMBIGUOUS . . . INTELLECTUALLY AND EMOTIONALLY STUNTING”
In John Keats’s poem Isabella, there are some stanzas in which he denounces the heroine’s brothers, who are merchants, “ledger-men,” for whom “many a weary hand did swelt / In torched mines and noisy factories.” “Why,” he asks five times in stanza 16, “Why were they proud? . . . Why in the name of glory were they proud?” Well might the poet ask the question, as it was the almost unanimous conviction of the literary establishment of his day that business was at best ethically ambiguous, and intellectually and emotionally stunting. It is significant that when the politically radical essayist William Hazlitt was attempting to define the Zeitgeist in the pen-portraits of The Spirit of the Age (1825), he included no one whose primary concern was with trade or industry. Nor does business figure in his writings, unless one excepts his mockery of Robert Owen and his philanthropic plans. There is, however, one direct consideration of the business world. It is a series of “Hints to Persons in Business and Men of the World,” never published until P. P. Howe included them in his Centenary Edition of Hazlitt in 1934. Hazlitt insists that the “spirit of gambling . . . is the soul of commerce,” and that when men of business “think they are consulting their own interest . . . they are in fact governed by pride, caprice, obstinacy, and fancy.”
They are in love with money—and, like other lovers, are capricious and headstrong, mad at disappointment, the slaves of suspicion and idle rumours, let go the substance to catch at the shadow, live in a dream (as much as the poet or alchemist), and in their anxious desires and feverish expectations, lose all judgment and common sense, though they suppose these qualities to be confined to themselves.60
Bailie Nicol Jarvie and Mr. Cayenne might point to better things, but to the literary world of Hazlitt’s contemporaries his indictment would have seemed an extreme formulation of an unquestionable commonplace.
[1. ]Selected Letters and Journals of George Crabbe, ed. T. C. Faulkner and R. L. Blair (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1985), 66 (7 July 1796).
[2. ] See N. Blackburne, The Restless Ocean (Lavenham: Dalton, 1972), 102.
[3. ]Metropolitan Literary Journal, vol. 1 (May 1824), 8 (from a lecture on poetry by Jennings).
[4. ] E. Darwin, The Botanic Garden (1791), vol. 1, 27.
[5. ] R. Southey, “Inscription for the Caledonian Canal: 2. At Fort Augustus.”
[6. ] W. Wordsworth, The Excursion (1814), bk. 8, lines 118-26.
[7. ] Ibid., lines 333-34.
[8. ] W. Wordsworth, “Miscellaneous Sonnets,” part 3, no. 46 (written in 1844).
[9. ] Wordsworth, Excursion, bk. 1, lines 324-25.
[10. ]Edinburgh Review, November 1814.
[11. ] F. Burney, The Wanderer, ed. M. A. Doody, R. L. Mack and P. Sabor (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991), ch. 67, p. 623.
[12. ]Edinburgh Review, April 1808.
[13. ] G. Crabbe, The Borough, letter 8, lines 73-77.
[14. ] W. Blake, Vala, Night the Seventh (b), lines 175-82. Cf. Jerusalem, ch. 3, plate 65, lines 17-24.
[15. ] W. Blake, Complete Writings, ed. Geoffrey Keynes (London: Oxford University Press, 1969), 207.
[16. ]Letters of Jane Austen, ed. Lord Brabourne (London: Bentley, 1884), vol. 1, 35-36.
[17. ] “Puffed” = advertised.
[18. ]Sanditon, ch. 2.
[19. ] Ibid., ch. 4.
[20. ]Pride and Prejudice, vol. 3, ch. 14.
[21. ]Emma, vol. 2, ch. 14.
[22. ] Ibid., vol. 2, ch. 18.
[23. ]Letters from England, ed. J. Simmons (London: Cresset Press, 1951), 198, letter 36.
[24. ] Ibid., 207-8, letter 38.
[25. ] Ibid., 209-10.
[26. ] Ibid.
[27. ] Ibid., 368, 371-72, letter 60.
[28. ] R. Southey, Colloquies (1829), vol. 1, 154.
[29. ] Ibid., 170.
[30. ] Ibid., 196.
[31. ] Ibid., 132-45.
[32. ] E. Burke, Reflections on the Revolution in France (1790), in The Writings and Speeches of Edmund Burke, vol. 8, ed. L. G. Mitchell and W. B. Todd (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1989), 100-101.
[33. ] S. T. Coleridge, Biographia Literaria, ch. 10.
[34. ] Ibid.
[35. ]The Works of Charles and Mary Lamb, ed. T. Hutchinson (London: Oxford University Press, 1909), vol. 1, 369-70.
[36. ] Ibid., 376.
[37. ] Ibid., 162 (Reflector no. 4, Oct.-Dec. 1811).
[38. ] Ibid., 164-66.
[39. ] Ibid., 550-52.
[40. ] W. Scott, Redgauntlet, letter 6, and chs. 3 and 4.
[41. ] W. Scott, Rob Roy, ch. 2.
[42. ] Ibid., ch. 10.
[43. ] Ibid., ch. 2.
[44. ] Ibid., ch. 1.
[45. ] Ibid., ch. 18.
[46. ] Ibid., ch. 26.
[47. ] Ibid., ch. 37.
[48. ] Ibid., ch. 34.
[49. ] Ibid., ch. 27.
[50. ] Ibid., ch. 34.
[51. ] Ibid., ch. 26.
[52. ] Ibid., ch. 28.
[53. ] Ibid., ch. 36.
[54. ] L. T. C. Rolt, Thomas Telford (London: Longmans, Green, 1958), xii-xiii.
[55. ] John Galt, A Rich Man and Other Stories, ed. W. Roughead (London: Foulis, 1925).
[56. ] John Galt, Annals of the Parish, ch. 34.
[57. ] Ibid., ch. 39.
[58. ] Ibid., ch. 44.
[59. ] I am indebted to Ivan Melada’s The Captain of Industry in English Fiction, 1821-1871 (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1970), for some of the suggestions made here about Mr. Cayenne.
[60. ]The Complete Works of William Hazlitt, ed. P. P. Howe, vol. 20 (London: J. M. Dent, 1934), 350-52.