A further look around the City of London reveals other notable writers who spent time behind a clerk’s desk. Charles Lamb joined the ranks of the East India Company in 1792, and worked there for a quarter of a century. The two impatient years that PG Wodehouse spent at HSBC before he left to pursue his career as a writer will have provided ample material for his novel Psmith in the City. Most surprisingly, the routine and stability of office life proved pivotal for TS Eliot, who published one of his most celebrated works, The Waste Land, while working at Lloyds Bank, just across the road from the Bank of England.
Thefts, heists and financial crises have also inspired their fair share of stories. In Around the World in Eighty Days, Phileas Fogg embarks on his quest to circle the globe following a theft at the Bank of England. Financial crises became an important theme for writers such as George Eliot, who visited the Bank of England in 1874 and signed a ‘giant’ (£1,000) banknote, which makes up part of this exhibition. Another novel, Ovington’s Bank by Stanley J Weyman, features a fictionalised account of the 1825 banking crisis, during which one of the Bank of England’s first successful interventions to stem a financial crisis took place. The last few years have seen another burst of literature focused on the most recent financial crisis, from David Hare’s play The Power of Yes to novels such as John Lanchester’s Capital.