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James Morrison 1789-1857 a model millionaire?

Dakers, Caroline (2012) James Morrison 1789-1857 a model millionaire? In: Hard Cash: money, property, economics and the marketplace in Victorian Popular Culture, 11-12 July 2012, Institute for English Studies, University of London (Victorian Popular Fiction Association).

Type of Research: Conference, Symposium or Workshop Item
Creators: Dakers, Caroline

James Morrison, haberdasher, merchant banker, moneylender, landlord, radical Whig MP, art collector and art patron, is now recognised as the richest commoner in the 19th century. He was born in 1789, the son of a country innkeeper in the Lower George Inn, Middle Wallop, near Salisbury, but he made his first fortune through selling textiles in the City of London. He then diversified, lending money to impoverished aristocrats, investing in tea from Canton and railways in the USA, buying estates in England and Scotland and amassing an important collection of art including masterpieces by Rembrandt, Rubens, Poussin, Turner and Constable.

Nineteenth century literature is littered with examples of the evil power of money. Excessive wealth, and the desire for it, is linked to excessive and immoral behaviour. Dickens’s Dombey is typical: ‘The earth was made for Dombey & Son to trade in ... Dombey & Son had often dealt in hides but never in hearts.’

Henry James famously remarked ‘the novel is history’. And a rather more recent cultural historian Beverley Southgate in 2009 History meets Fiction has written ‘fiction represents and actually embodies some of the widely accepted social mores and intellectual presuppositions of its age’. Our understanding of the 19th century, its history, is profoundly coloured by invented characters, who were in turn inspired by real people.

Here I shall be presenting material from ‘history’ – my character James Morrison was real – and I shall be proposing that public aspects of his life provided 19th century novelists with ‘food’, with nourishment. He was personally known to Dickens and Disraeli; he lived on the same street as Merdle (Little Dorrit) and bought the stately home where Disraeli had made love to ‘Henrietta Temple’. His sons stayed in the same hotel at Niagara Falls, with Dickens referring to him in letters home as Boz. Morrison's ‘rag to riches’ biography was source for Victorian novelists, a model for their millionaires – even though Morrison was himself a model millionaire.

Official Website: http://www.ies.sas.ac.uk/events/ies-conferences/VictorianPF4
Your affiliations with UAL: Colleges > Central Saint Martins
Date: July 2012
Event Location: Institute for English Studies, University of London (Victorian Popular Fiction Association)
Date Deposited: 02 Jun 2014 15:51
Last Modified: 02 Jun 2014 15:51
Item ID: 6681
URI: https://ualresearchonline.arts.ac.uk/id/eprint/6681

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