Now and Then: Eras of Commercialist Excess

Check out this description of London in the late 1800’s, via George Packer’s review of Anthony Trollope’s masterpiece, The Way We Live Now:

“The Way We Live Now” is one of the last examples of the three-volume serialized Victorian novel. If the genre seems nearly as alien to contemporary American readers as the Renaissance epic poem, the world that Trollope portrays is not so remote. Trollope’s London is a satirical distortion of the city that he found upon returning from eighteen months of overseas travel: the luxurious center of a vast empire floating on limitless credit, a society defined entirely by commercial interest, a hothouse of financial speculation and status competition, a place where relationships have become purely transactional. In his autobiography, Trollope described this London in the harsh language of a moralist: “If dishonesty can live in a gorgeous palace with pictures on all its walls, and gems in all its cupboards, with marble and ivory in all its corners, and can give Apician dinners, and get into Parliament, and deal in millions, then dishonesty is not disgraceful, and the man dishonest after such a fashion is not a low scoundrel.”

Sound familiar? Read the whole thing…

Source:

When the Money Gets Too Big (New Yorker)

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