Real Money and Romanticism interprets poetry and fiction by Sir Walter Scott, John Keats, and Charles Dickens in the context of changes in the British monetary system and in the broader economy during the early nineteenth century. In this period modern systems of paper money and intellectual property became established; Matthew Rowlinson describes the consequent changes in relations between writers and publishers and shows how a new conception of material artifacts as the bearers of abstract value shaped Romantic conceptions of character, material culture, and labor. A fresh and radically different contribution to the growing field of inquiry into the ‘economics' of literature, this is an ingenious and challenging reading of Romantic discourse from the point of view of monetary theory and history.
Introduction: real money; 1. 'The Scotch hate gold': British identity and paper money; 2. Curiosities and the money form in the Waverley novels; Notes on the text of the Waverley novels; 3. Keats in the hidden abode of production; 4. Reading capital with Little Nell; 5. 'To exist in a kind of allegory'; Appendix: copyright and authorial labor in eighteenth-century Britain.
"Rowlinson has achieved his major objective, and developed a new understanding of the connections between Romantic authors, their works, and money and capital. Best of all, this comes with a surprising timeliness: through his unexpected alignment with Randall Wray, Rowlinson situates himself at the cusp of neo-Keynsian thought, and in doing so evokes our own modern financial crises. Although Rowlinson shies away from making direct connections to the current economic climate, it is difficult to ignore the link, and Real Money and Romanticism raises questions that will be hard for economists and Romantic scholars alike to ignore."
-Brett Mobley, Romantic Circles March 2011
"The finest recent study of a general topic in the early nineteenth-century is undoubtedly Matthew Rowlinson's historically informed and theoretically inflected Real Money and Romanticism...Rowlinson embarks on an authoritative discussion of the different kinds of money and money substitutes that circulated in the literary worlds of Scott, John Keats, and Dickens, as well as the political economy of Karl Marx. His main contention is that all of these writers and thinkers absorbed into their work "the difficulty of knowing when or if one's debts have finally been paid" (p. 31). During an era when retail trade was enacted through instruments of credit, the fears surrounding paper money became a staple of cultural and political commentary, such as we find in the etchings of James Gillray. In his very smart chapter on Scott's fiction, Rowlinson observes that the unreliable method of bills of credit through which Scott received payment becomes a preoccupation in The Antiquary (1816). Rowlinson discerns that in this narrative "indeterminate identification of things and of money itself is a more important topic than the identification of any character" (p. 65). Similarly illuminating is his analysis of Keats's poetry and correspondence, in which Rowlinson sees the poet's "preoccupations with his texts as bearers of value and obligation and with their status as stores of labor—or non-labor" (p. 142). And in his discussion of The Old Curiosity Shop (1840-41), Rowlinson discovers that the eponymous setting of Dickens's novel "is a place for objects that have lost their proper place, or for a residual materiality [End Page 915] that resists appropriation" (p. 168). Such statements reveal that Real Money and Romanticism is a powerful ideas-driven study that integrates its findings about changes in the finance system into the very fabric of the literary works it analyzes."
-Joseph Bristow, "Recent Studies in the Nineteenth Century." SEL 51 (2011)
"What Rowlinson has done, above all, is make clear not only how difficult this history is but also how much the Romantics were obsessed with it." -Alexander Dick, Book Review