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Financial Speculation in Victorian Fiction

Plotting Money and the Novel Genre, 1815-1901

Tamara S. Wagner

Publication Year: 2010

In Financial Speculation in Victorian Fiction: Plotting Money and the Novel Genre, 1815–1901, Tamara S. Wagner explores the ways in which financial speculation was imagined and turned into narratives in Victorian Britain. Since there clearly was much more to literature’s use of the stock market than a mere reflection of contemporary economic crises alone, a much-needed reappraisal of the Victorians’ fascination with extended fiscal plots and metaphors also asks for a close reading of the ways in which this fascination remodeled the novel genre. It was not merely that interchanges between literary productions and the credit economy’s new instruments became self-consciously worked into fiction. Financial uncertainties functioned as an expression of indeterminacy and inscrutability, of an encompassing sense of instability. Bringing together canonical and still rarely discussed texts, this study analyzes the making and adaptation of specific motifs, of variously adapted tropes, extended metaphors, and recurring figures, including their transformation of a series of crises into narratives. Since these crises were often personal and emotional as well as financial, the new plots of speculation described maps of some of the major themes of nineteenth-century literature. These maps led across overlapping categories of literary culture, generating zones of intersection between otherwise markedly different subgenres that ranged from silver-fork fiction to the surprisingly protean versions of the sensation novel’s domestic Gothic. Financial plots fascinatingly operated as the intersecting points in these overlapping developments, compelling a reconsideration of literary form.

Published by: The Ohio State University Press

Series: Theory and Interpretation of Narrative

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. i-iv

Table of Contents

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pp. v

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pp. vii-viii

These acknowledgments can only begin to express the enormous debt of gratitude for the emotional as well as intellectual support freely given by the many people, scattered over the globe, who have helped to make this book possible—a debt accumulated in uncountable...

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pp. 1-29

In The Way We Live Now (1875), the Melmottes’ origins remain a mystery that becomes increasingly irrelevant. Few of M. Melmotte’s business partners venture to inquire too closely into the specious public faith in his financial integrity even as they...

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1. Silver-Fork Speculation and the Making of Financial Fiction

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pp. 31-60

The silver-fork novel, or novel of fashionable highlife, played a much more influential role in the development of nineteenth-century literature than has commonly been acknowledged. Given its emphasis on the retrospective representation of...

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2. The Sensational Stock-Market Novel

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pp. 61-88

Containing the first fictional ghost shackled by chains made of “cash-boxes, keys, padlocks, ledgers, deeds, and heavy purses wrought in steel,” Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol (1843) opens up with a declaration of Scrooge’s reputation...

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3. Speculators Abroad

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pp. 89-125

The functions of foreign financial speculations in the Victorian novel are indisputably among its most sensitive and complex issues. The central irony of Charles Reade’s Hard Cash (1863) is that the eponymous cash is not safe in a...

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4. Speculators at Home

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pp. 126-172

The most pertinent narrative function of Victorian stockmarket villains remains grounded in the mysteries attached to their dubious financial transactions. Cunning speculators who place bets on their victims’ greed or gullibility have...

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pp. 173-178

The proliferation and attendant stratification of emergent subgenres in the nineteenth century map out the fascination with which financial speculation was being depicted and taken up as a source of narratives at the time, illustrating...


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pp. 179-209


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pp. 210-224


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pp. 225-232

Back Cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9780814271346
E-ISBN-10: 0814271340
Print-ISBN-13: 9780814211199
Print-ISBN-10: 0814211194

Page Count: 232
Publication Year: 2010

Series Title: Theory and Interpretation of Narrative

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Feminist literary criticism.
  • Feminism and literature.
  • Fairy tales -- Great Britain -- History and criticism.
  • English literature -- 19th century -- History and criticism
  • Persuasion (Rhetoric).
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