By William Henderson
A wealthy vein of economics writings which runs in the course of the 19th century and past is now principally neglected simply because its authors have been girls or simply because they favoured literary over clinical varieties. Economics as Literature re-examines probably the most attention-grabbing texts from inside this tradition.
The works thought of include:
*stories (eg by way of Maria Edgeworth and Harriet Martineau)
*dialogues (eg through Jane Marcet and Thomas de Quincey)
*'imaginative' writing (eg from Ruskin and Francis Edgeworth)
*Keynes' General Theory that is locked inside of a 19th century 'tradition' of uniting technology and paintings.
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Extra resources for Economics as Literature
If practical education is to win converts, it requires child readers and the willing reconstruction of parents. 37 Maria Edgeworth What is uppermost then is Edgeworth’s skill as a writer: the stories prospered long after the didactic introductions, written under Lovell Edgeworth’s influence and gradually removed in editions published later in the century, had been abandoned. Parents need to see believable children, for they, rather than the introductions, had the persuasive power crucial to the success of the educational project.
Edgeworth had read Smith’s Theory of Moral Sentiments and works on political economy (Butler, 1972: 150, 153). Owen is not given an explanation of the group’s motivation nor of the principles upon which the work was organised. He has to work these out from his observation and experience. No mention is made of the ‘principle of the division of labour’ as it would be mentioned (later) in a Principles text or in the Martineau tales. Furthermore, when Owen concludes the story with a summarisation of his learning, the moral is not economic but social: ‘I hope I shall never be cross to any of you again, whenever I feel inclined to be cross, I will think of your good-nature to me, and of The CherryOrchard’.
When he has made only ‘four and seven-pence’ of the two guineas that he must raise, for, in accordance with Humean ideas, Jem is allowed to contemplate ‘the daily increase of his fortune’ (Hundert, 1974, quoting Hume: 142) Lawrence asks him what he intends to do with the money. 33 Maria Edgeworth Edgeworth provides him with the following response: ‘ “That’s a secret,” said Jem, looking great’ (p. 11). This is the greatness of nobility rather than of smugness. His persistence is demonstrated by the mat-making episode.