STUMP » Articles » Mornings with Meep: The Wisdom of Dickens » 3 June 2018, 13:15

Where Stu & MP spout off about everything.

Mornings with Meep: The Wisdom of Dickens  


3 June 2018, 13:15

I’m a big Dickens fan.

Here’s the video:

Here’s a direct link.


As I said, I’ve been a long-time Dickens fan, having read all his completed novels multiple times (except Oliver Twist, which I explain in the video).

My twelve days of Dickens series:

That 12th Day of Dickens relates to an article I wrote for The Stepping Stone, newsletter of the Leadership and Development section of the Society of Actuaries.

The article can be found here. I cover Martin Chuzzlewit (my second favorite Dickens novel) and Little Dorrit.

Let me excerpt the article:


The Anglo-Bengalee fraud, as large as it was compared to some of the personal monetary shenanigans in other novels, pales in comparison in the next Dickensian fraud: Mr. Merdle of Little Dorrit. The fraud here is not a single company, but a fraud surrounding a specific man and his pursuits.
Merdle’s fraudulent disaster is no work of fictional imagination on Dickens’ part, though he had plenty of imagination. In 1855, while Dickens was working on the earliest chapters of Little Dorrit, several banks failed and those in charge were put on trial. In the novel, Dickens reflected the speculation mania that ultimately drove the failure. He also reflected the desire on those burned to find human sacrifices (figuratively), which is how Clennam finds himself on the receiving end of hostility as he goes to debtor’s prison. He was an innocent victim of the fraud, believing, like Pancks, that this was a sure thing. He made an easy target once Merdle was gone, as Clennam had his own creditors who were collateral victims. An example must be made, even if of dupes, to satisfy public opinion.


This might seem a cute exercise, looking at the historical frauds and failures related to literature. But who cares? That’s almost 200 years ago! We’ve come so far!

But have we? Think of Bernie Madoff—a man who worked his social connections, who hooked in people who believed that he was doing something legitimate (like Merdle) or those who figured he was corrupt and thought they could also profit (as with Jonas Chuzzlewit hoping to profit from the Anglo-Bengalee). Madoff perpetrated his fraud longer than Montague managed, mainly because he didn’t get murdered by a blackmailed partner.

Think of Enron, where clever people figured that they knew a surefire way to mint money … but then ran into trouble. Think of subprime mortgages, WorldCom, asset bubbles of one sort or another—the essentials of current frauds may differ in the specific details, but many of the human behaviors behind them remain the same.

Yup — This time it’s different?

Nope, this time it’s exactly the same. And you can look to Dickens to see what that sameness is.

How do we prevent new frauds and asset bubbles? One may take a technical approach, but at the heart is human nature—how people behave, how people have particular goals, and how some will try to get what they want fraudulently. Many of these frauds are successful due to the perpetrator’s own knowledge of human nature. It’s hilarious how often we hear “This time it’s different!”…. and it turns out people’s greed, envy, pride, and pretty much all the mortal sins, come into the mix in the same old way.

Funny that.


I write a lot… you can see some of my more formally-published stuff at this link – it’s me keeping track of what I’ve published and where.

Most of the stuff I write about is leadership/business using classic books (sometimes business classics like Drucker’s The Effective Executive, other times, the Iliad) and stuff regarding spreadsheets. Also, how to learn stuff (for cheap/free).


See you next week!