Jonathan Parry

  • The City of London. Vol. II: Golden Years, 1890-1914 by David Kynaston
    Chatto, 678 pp, £25.00, June 1995, ISBN 0 7011 3385 6

Timothy was the timid Forsyte, the one who retired at 40, anxious that his career as a publisher was sapping his reserves of energy. Energy was the greatest resource of his five incurious, unphilosophical brothers, the tea merchant, the solicitor, the estate agent, the mineowner and the rentier, who turned £30,000 into £1 million in the second half of the 19th century and were Galsworthy’s symbols of the middle-class backbone of Victorian England. As a Forsyte, Timothy had, needless to say, rather more energy than he feared: he saved £2000 a year and died aged 101, worth five times what he had been on retirement. But his brothers would have done more with his savings: Timothy put his money in Consols and earned a trifling 3 per cent per annum. From the 1870s onwards, government stock was regarded with little more than contempt by active investors; it was for widows and orphans.

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