H G Wells on Money

In the marvellous “Love and MR Lewisham”, the occultist swindler Chaffery offers Lewisham this commentary on money:

What is clothing? The concealment of essential facts. What is decorum? Suppression! … to the common civilized man the universal exchangeability of … gold is a sacred and fundamental fact. Think of it! Why should it be? There isn’t a why! I live in perpetual amazement at the gullibility of my fellow-creatures. Of a morning sometimes, I can assure you, I lie in bed fancying that people may have found out this swindle in the night, expect to hear a tumult downstairs and see your mother-in-law come rushing into the room with a rejected shilling from the milkman. “What’s this?” says he. “This Muck for milk>” But it never happens. Never. If it did, if people suddenly cleared their minds of this cant of money, what would happen? The true nature of man would appear. I should whip out of bed, seize some weapon, and after the milkman forthwith. Its becoming to keep the peace, but its necessary to have milk. The neighbours would come pouring out – also after milk. Milkman, suddenly enlightened, would start clattering up the street. After him! Clutch – tear! Got him! Over goes the cart! Fight if you like, but don’t upset the can!… Don’t you see it all – perfectly reasonable every bit of it. I should return, bruised and bloody, with the milk-can – I should keep my eye on that… But why go on? You of all men should know that life is a struggle for existence, a fight for food. Money is just the lie that mitigates our fury. (Wells 1900/2002:176-77)

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