Date of this Version
The George Eliot Review 46 (2015)
This is an important book which fills a gap in George Eliot studies by exploring with impressive authority the novelist's handling of money and economics in her life and work, on the premise that, for her, the economic was an essential constituent of a 'comprehensive ethical understanding' (p. 8). The author is unusually well-qualified for an analysis of economic theory and practice, having co-founded a hedge fund in the late 1990s and retired from the business of investment management shortly before the financial crisis of 2008. He modestly disclaims any foreknowledge of that crisis but points out that his knowledge of Victorian history and culture could have given him a prophetic edge if he had paid more attention to the banking crisis of 1857; and he cites an 1859 study of the causes of that crisis which is applicable in every particular to the recent crash. The world of the mid-nineteenth century is recognizably ours, which may account in part for the enduring appeal of the nineteenth-century realist novel, which, as Coleman maintains, 'had a unique and central role as a critical interrogator of the developing money economy' (p. 2).