An 1890 cartoon by John Tenniel, in which the Old Lady of Threadneedle Street– the Bank of England, so called for the City of London street where it was and still is located– doles out free money to silly, naughty boys, AKA bankers. The more things change the more they stay the same, and all the other appropriate sayings…
Two nice details: firstly, the boys have been playing at cards (emphasising that they’re just gambling and can lose just as easily as they win, no particular skill involved) and secondly, the Old Lady’s costume is made of money bags and bank notes.
“SAME OLD GAME”
OLD LADY OF THREADNEEDLE STREET. “YOU’VE GOT YOURSELVES INTO A NICE MESS WITH YOUR PRECIOUS ‘SPECULATION!’ WELL – I’LL HELP YOU OUT OF IT, – FOR THIS ONCE!!”
The Devil of Usury. From John Blaxton’s pamphlet against loan sharks, ‘The English Usurer’, printed by John Norton for Francis Bowman of Oxford, 1634.
“An Usurer (i.e. a person who lends money at an unreasonably high rate of interest and/or with unfair terms) is not tolerable in a well established Commonweale, but utterly to be rejected out of the company of men.”
Too bloody right. Four hundred years on, little has changed: payday loan companies, Lehman Brothers, toxic mortgage lending, fixing the LIBOR rates, bank executives getting huge bonuses at failed but state-bailed banks, etc. Note also the piggy bankers on the right, the top one saying “Mine is the Usurers defect. To root in earth, wallow in Mire” and the bottom one issuing the refrain we’ve also recently heard many contemporary versions of from bank CEOs, that they can’t and won’t be held accountable for the devastation they’ve caused with their greed: “Living spare me, and Dead spare me.”
PS: Beware, for after a long separation I have been reunited with my beloved library and this blog will most likely live up to its tagline like never before in the coming weeks as I explore it anew. Forthcoming… Japanese monsters, Cold War kitchen performances, telekinesis, Giorgio Moroder robot, a load of intensely nerdy vintage computer stuff, etc.