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Tuesday Ten – Financial Fiction


The 1800s saw some of the worst financial crises ever. Banks failed with alarming frequency, entire populations lost everything (India, Ireland, South America), and bankers and bank practices were scrutinized as never before – some even prosecuted.
Here are a couple failed banks and financial crises:
Anglo-Indian Bundelcund Banking Company 1833
Royal British Bank 1855
Irish Tipperary Bank 1857
The Inter-Oceanic Railway of Honduras 1872

Here are 10 (mostly) Victorian authors who wrote about finance. Some were affected by their banks folding and losing everything (William Thackeray). Some merely knew how to research and had never used a bank in their lives (Emile Zola). But they all wrote what today would be called the financial-fiction genre.

Marie-Henri Beyle, generally known as Stendhal, Lucien Leuwen (1894), published 52 years after his death.

Honoré de Balzac The Rise and Fall of Cesar Birotteau and The House of Nucingen selections from La Comédie humaine (various dates).

Harriet Martineau Illustrations of Political Economy(1832-1834) in 25 volumes. Poor Laws and Paupers Illustrated (1833) in 10 volumes, and Illustrations of Taxation (1834) in 5 volumes. When Lord Brougham sent Martineau government reports to use in constructing her stories she replied “I certainly never before met with materials so fit for the purposes of fiction.”

William Makepeace Thackeray Vanity Fair (1847-1848), Samuel Titmarsh and the Great Hoggarty Diamond (1849) and The Newcomes (1854).

Charles Dickens Little Dorrit (1855 and 1857).

David Morier Evans, editor Bankers’ Magazine (1857) and The Banker’s Daughter (1870-1873).

Gustav Freytag Soll und Haben (1855) meaning, debit and credit was the most successful German novel of the century.

Anthony Trollope The Way We Live Now(1875).

George Gissing The Whirlpool (1897).

Emile Zola L’Argent or Money (1891).



  1. Marlene says:

    It’s interesting to look through history and see the same mistakes happening over and over again with finances. Charles Dickens was a surprise.

  2. Christine Koehler says:

    You’re right, Marlene. We think of the 1800s and not necessarily of people writing fiction about their financial trouble. I guess we’re so inundated with different genres now that thinking of what happened and was written about then is harder.

    Dickens was a surprise. But considering his social conscience position, maybe I shouldn’t have been too surprised.

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