Sydney Checkland

  • Accountancy and the British Economy 1840-1980: The Evolution of Ernst and Whinney by Edgar Jones
    Batsford, 288 pp, £10.00, December 1981, ISBN 0 7134 3776 6

The novelist, the dramatist and the poet have largely passed the accountant by. How could his dry bones be made to live? Perhaps authors have been right in the past, leaving the service professions, as we now call them, to minor figures like Bob Cratchit and Mr Wemmick, in whom the dullness and servility of their daily works is redeemed by warmth and eccentricity at home. The senior lawyers, in the manner of Bottom the weaver, have taken the best parts, reading the dramatically perverse will, appearing as guileful advocates in the courts, laying down the principles of business in cases with mysterious names such as the Carbolic Smoke Ball Company, handing down judgments that unconsciously reflect their social ethos. The accountants, by contrast, have provided no drama. In Dickens’s time they had hardly asserted themselves as a profession, being subsumed, as far as they were noticed at all, among the clerks and bookkeepers.

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