Bagehot: The Life and Times of the Greatest Victorian

Bagehot: The Life and Times of the Greatest Victorian

by James Grant


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The definitive biography of one of the most brilliant and influential financial minds—banker, essayist, and editor of the Economist.

During the upheavals of 2007–09, the chairman of the Federal Reserve had the name of a Victorian icon on the tip of his tongue: Walter Bagehot. Banker, man of letters, inventor of the Treasury bill, and author of Lombard Street, the still-canonical guide to stopping a run on the banks, Bagehot prescribed the doctrines that—decades later—inspired the radical responses to the world’s worst financial crises.

Born in the small market town of Langport, just after the Panic of 1825 swept across England, Bagehot followed in his father’s footsteps and took a position at the local family bank—but his influence on financial matters would soon spread far beyond the county of Somerset. Persuasive and precocious, he came to hold sway in political circles, making high-profile friends, including William Gladstone—and enemies, such as Lord Overstone and Benjamin Disraeli. As a prolific essayist on wide-ranging topics, Bagehot won the admiration of Matthew Arnold and Woodrow Wilson, and delighted in paradox. He was also a misogynist, and while he opposed slavery, he misjudged Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War. As editor of the Economist, he offered astute commentary on the financial issues of his day, and his name lives on in an eponymous weekly column. He has been called "the Greatest Victorian."

In James Grant’s colorful and groundbreaking biography, Bagehot appears as both an ornament to his own age and a muse to our own. Drawing on a wealth of historical documents, correspondence, and publications, Grant paints a vivid portrait of the banker and his world.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780393609196
Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date: 07/23/2019
Pages: 368
Sales rank: 47,255
Product dimensions: 6.20(w) x 9.40(h) x 1.30(d)

About the Author

James Grant founded Grant’s Interest Rate Observer, a financial markets journal, and authored The Forgotten Depression,
which won the Hayek Prize. His writing has appeared in theFinancial Timesand the Wall Street Journal. He lives in Brooklyn,
New York.

Table of Contents

Author's Note xiii

Prologue: "With devouring fury" xvii

Chapter 1 "Large, wild, fiery, black" 1

Chapter 2 "In mirth and refutation-in ridicule and laughter" 14

Chapter 3 "Vive la guillotine" 34

Chapter 4 The literary banker 46

Chapter 5 "The ruin inflicted on innocent creditors" 65

Chapter 6 "The young gentleman out of Miss Austen's novels" 82

Chapter 7 A death in India 95

Chapter 8 The "problem" of W. E. Gladstone 112

Chapter 9 "Therefore, we entirely approve" 137

Chapter 10 "The muddy slime of Bagehot's crotchets and heresies" 163

Chapter 11 The great scrum of reform 179

Chapter 12 A loser by seven bought votes 205

Chapter 13 By "influence and corruption" 220

Chapter 14 "In the first rank" 234

Chapter 15 Never a bullish word 246

Chapter 16 Government bears the cost 263

Chapter 17 "I wonder what my eminence is?" 283

Acknowledgments 295

Notes 297

Bibliography 315

Index 319

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