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Judging New WealthPopular Publishing and Responses to Commerce in England, 1750–1800$
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James Raven

Print publication date: 1992

Print ISBN-13: 9780198202370

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198202370.001.0001

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Fears of Ruination

Fears of Ruination

(p.183) 9 Fears of Ruination
Judging New Wealth

James Raven

Oxford University Press

This chapter focuses on depictions of the economic threat of extravagance in popular literature. Over-expenditure in attempts to maintain or extend appearances, or as the consequence of sheer folly, was said to devastate families and threaten the prosperity of the nation. Economy was presented as the universal ideal. Novels and moral essays repeated charges that particular business and consumer activity could promote economic instability, that credit crises affecting the whole community could originate from action by an individual, and that there was a determinable relationship between a right to a fortune and its usage. These themes were illustrated by the alleged activities of self-made petty traders, entrepreneurs, nabobs, and later, manufacturers and their families. In identifying wastefulness, the businessman and parvenu were made a convenient butt to portray the consequences of intemperance.

Keywords:   extravagance, popular literature, businessmen, manufacturers, literary representation, consumer activity, entrepreneurs

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