The Banking Habits of Eighteenth-Century Authors: Pope and Others

Richard Terry

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It is more than two decades since literary scholars first began exploring the impact of the eighteenth-century financial revolution, especially the general extension of credit, on literary culture of the period. Yet one humble aspect of this revolution has rarely been appreciated by literary scholars: the growth of personal banking. Anyone who has searched through eighteenth-century banking ledgers will be aware of the growth of the customer base over the course of the period, with some of this additional business being supplied by writers and other members of the literary trade. The purpose of my article is to shed light on how eighteenth-century writers managed their affairs through the services afforded by banks, as well as in some cases through entering into financial arrangements outside the banking sector. The most eminent literary figure of the early eighteenth century was undoubtedly Pope, who was sufficiently successful for the protection and investment of his earnings to present a considerable logistical problem. Although he benefited from informal banking services provided by wealthy friends, he still opened at least six bank accounts with different providers over the course of his life. My article concludes by taking Pope’s personal banking habits as a case-study, seeking to understand these as a discrete aspect of how he managed his professional career. Overall, I hope this essay will assist future scholarship by identifying some of the rewards and pitfalls of using bank archival material as a source for literary enquiry.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)488-509
JournalThe Review of English Studies
Issue number290
Early online date23 Aug 2017
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2018


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