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Tony Grist

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Misers [Dec. 14th, 2005|11:48 am]
Tony Grist
Whatever happened to the misers?

Back in the 18th and 19th centuries people loved their misers. There was a whole literature about them. They were mean, they stank, they hid guineas in dung-heaps, they made pies out of long dead sheep. Mr Boffin in Our Mutual Friend is an avid collector and consumer of miser-porn. Daniel Dancer, John Elwes, Vulture Hopkins- these guys were famous.

There were famous fictional misers too- Scrooge, Silas Marner, Uncle Ebenezer Balfour.

But then along came the 20th century and misers- both real and fictional- dropped out of sight.

So why don't we have them any more?
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Comments:
[User Picture]From: halfmoon_mollie
2005-12-14 05:25 am (UTC)
Too close to real life, I would imagine. But I WORK with a couple of them, at least. One person I can think of who bought candy from one of the professor's kids and then had me fill out an employee expense voucher - "Candy for Class" - so the University would pay for it. Too bad you can't come visit when I'm filling out travel vouchers - you'd know we still have them, and they are worse than ever!

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[User Picture]From: jackiejj
2005-12-14 07:50 am (UTC)
I agree that you work for a real miser and Scrooge!

Did you bring in a green tree to have a sort-of decoration?

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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2005-12-14 08:15 am (UTC)
Yes but a real old-time miser would go home to a plain supper of dry bread and dripping in a house with the roof falling in and the doors coming off the hinges and a bag of bright golden guineas under every floor board. They don't make 'em like that any more.
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[User Picture]From: airstrip
2005-12-14 05:25 am (UTC)
Welfare.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2005-12-14 08:16 am (UTC)
A shrewd point.

I think miserliness is in part an extreme reaction to the fear of falling into poverty and having no safety net.
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[User Picture]From: solar_diablo
2005-12-14 06:41 am (UTC)
Maybe they've lost relevance in a consumer culture where one's value is determined by the power of the purchase?
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2005-12-14 08:18 am (UTC)
That's probably a factor.

Mind you, the true miser is also a misanthrope who doesn't care what other people think of him or her.
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[User Picture]From: jenny_evergreen
2005-12-14 06:51 am (UTC)
Capitalism; there's no greater enemy to it than a miser, so it was the first thing to go. No one wants to be a Scrooge! (And those who are keep it to themselves as much as possible, 'cause they're really going to hear it if they don't.)
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2005-12-14 08:26 am (UTC)
But Scrooge was a capitalist. He raked the money in and then sat on it.

The real, old-time misers couldn't help themselves; it was a form of mental illness. The strange thing is it seems to be a form of mental illness that has died out- or has it?
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[User Picture]From: jenny_evergreen
2005-12-14 09:52 am (UTC)
That's not a good capitalist, that's a bad capitalist; the money must be spent!

Perhaps the actual mental illness kind has reduced; it's been a long time since the "Western world" has faced a time of serious deprivation, and it makes sense that that would have been a strong trigger for that kind of problem.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2005-12-15 02:20 am (UTC)
So the miser is the person who dams up the flow of capital and prevents the system from working as it should- hmm, yes, I get your point.

I think you're right about deprivation.
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[User Picture]From: shullie
2005-12-14 07:23 am (UTC)
i was married to pne for 17 years!
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2005-12-14 08:26 am (UTC)
Hah!
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[User Picture]From: greybeta
2005-12-14 07:43 am (UTC)
They exist as positive pessimists. Like me, for instance. ;)
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2005-12-14 08:31 am (UTC)
So if I ever come to your house I must remember to poke about in the dungheaps in the back yard when you're not looking....:)
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[User Picture]From: jackiejj
2005-12-14 07:54 am (UTC)
Kate and I joke about a "ha-penny newspaper," from an old book I have, The Lodger, in which a man and woman were so poor they had to save up to buy a newspaper, so it was a special treat.

When I get all frugal (soup for three-days-running, or re-using old teabags), Kate accuses me of having a "ha-penny newspaper" mentality...

Scrooge is my favorite miser. I love his cold room, his meager fire...how delightfully gloomy!
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2005-12-14 08:29 am (UTC)
A "ha'penny newspaper"- that's lovely.

I've always thought Scrooge's lifestyle had a lot to recommend it. "Bah, humbug!"
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[User Picture]From: jackiejj
2005-12-14 08:35 am (UTC)
I seem to remember that Dickens wrote his Carol in two weeks, being desperate himself for money.

My favorite part of the book is the scene when Scrooge walks home through the foggy cold streets and then into his gloomy apartments.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2005-12-14 09:05 am (UTC)
I like Marley's ghost. Especially the bit where his face appears in the door-knocker. Deliciously scary.
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[User Picture]From: jackiejj
2005-12-14 09:09 am (UTC)
Nothing like Marley's ghost.

Is he the first chain-rattler?
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2005-12-15 02:24 am (UTC)
There's a chain-rattling ghost in a "true" ghost story told by one of the ancient Roman writers (Pliny, I think.)

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From: manfalling
2005-12-14 04:19 pm (UTC)

miser mike

I was a total miser in my first year out here in Japan. I used to skip breakfast and lunch, and not eat a thing until about 11pm (we`re talking all day nothing but water here) when i would have a massive meal for about 500 yen ($5) at home.

I went out to eat maybe once a week, and one movie too, with Yuka, and we ALWAYS went Dutch. I hardly ever drank, and I never had desserts or snacked. I NEVER turned the air conditioner in my apartment on. In fact it was broken, and I was quite happy about that, because it meant I would never use it. Instead I lined my windows with cardboard boxes (seriously!) to insulate them in the winter, and huddled under like 5 blankets (from school- I wouldn`t buy them!) whenever I was at home. In the summer, I slept with all windows open.

We took one holiday all year, and it was this fantastically cheap 5 day package deal to Saipan, the poor man`s Guam. It was great still.

I never bought new clothes. Buying a winter jacket for me almost had both me and Yuka in tears cos she thought I needed one and I thought I`d rather just be cold.

I never bought a bicycle and walked whenever I could to skip the few hundred yen a train might cost me.

I never bought a computer or a heater or CD`s or DVD`s or a TV or a DVD player or an i-pod or a plate or a pan or anything at all...

I was a total miser. And. It felt really good ;)
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2005-12-15 02:28 am (UTC)

Re: miser mike

I get spasms of miserliness.

I panic about our finances and decide I'm never, not ever, going to spend any more money.

I think miserliness is triggered by insecurity. That would fit with your situation that first year in Japan.
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From: manfalling
2005-12-15 03:39 am (UTC)

Re: miser mike

I don't know y'know- to me it feels more like getting down to the roots of what I NEED as opposed to what I WANT. Not indulging whims. Getting away from that whole- eating so many chocolates you make yourself sick- thing. Because if you don't do that, and you go without for a while, then like Charlie, you appreciate the chocolate all that much more when you get it.

If I eat 3 meals a day, I never really (not REALLY) get hungry, and I never REALLY get full. I'm eating 3 meals a day not because I WANT to but because people say you should. And you can't get full (to bursting) 3 times a day, without getting enormously fat. So I eat 1 massive meal a day, for which I have to wait the whole day, get enormously full, and it sees me through til afternoon/evening the next day.

Miserliness is more like that for me than like insecurity, I think.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2005-12-15 04:50 am (UTC)

Re: miser mike

But eating one huge meal a day isn't true miserliness. The true miser (the Dickensian miser) never ever eats a huge meal. He subsists on crusts and water and pies made out of rancid sheep.

And the money he saves gets squirreled away in dungheaps, under floorboards and up chimneys.
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From: manfalling
2005-12-15 05:46 am (UTC)

Re: miser mike

then i shan't claim to be dickensian. perhaps i'm not even a real miser. i never deny myself something i need- like- not having enough food. i just like to delay gratification on stuff like that.

money i save- that goes in the bank. i don't have a dungheap! your scroogian miser seems like he trusts nobody at all. well, you know what they say. miserliness is next to miserableness!
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