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The Truth Hurts Like the Dickens

By Michelle Martin
Published April 27, 2010

I've been re-visiting Charles Dickens lately; in particular, the story of the great financier, Mr. Merdle, in his novel Little Dorrit.

You've got to love the glorious names Dickens invents for the people that populate his work. Think of a French cuss word you may remember, then re-read the above character's name. Now you know exactly what Dickens thinks of the man, and you have a clue as to his eventual fate.

His history as recounted by the author has a ripped-from-the-headlines feeling. I'll show you what I mean:

Numbers of men in every profession and trade would be blighted by his insolvency; old people who had been in easy circumstances all their lives would have no place of repentance for their trust in him but the workhouse; legions of women and children would have their whole future desolated by the hand of this mighty scoundrel...

For by that time it was known that the late Mr. Merdle's complaint had been, simply, Forgery and Robbery.

-- Little Dorrit, Chapter 25.

Since Madoff's arrest in December on charges of running a $50 billion Ponzi scheme, I've read many articles about how we Madoff investors should have known what was going on, how believing in Madoff was no different than believing there were WMD in Iraq. And I wish I could say I had reservations about Madoff before "the Call." I wish I could say I knew better about getting such consistently good returns, but I did not.

-- Geneen Roth, Salon, January 7, 2009.

'Separation of the jugular vein - death rapid - been dead at least half an hour.' This echo of the physician's words ran through the passages and the little rooms, and through the house while he was yet straightening himself from having bent down to reach the bottom of the bath, and while he was yet dabbling his hands in water; redly veining it as the marble was veined, before it mingled into one tint...

'You asked me once what Merdle's complaint was.'

'Extraordinary answer! I know I did.'

'I told you I had not found it out.'

'Yes. I know you did.'

'I have found it out.'

'My God!' said Bar, starting back, and clapping his hand upon the other's breast. 'And so have I! I see it in your face!"

-- Little Dorrit, Chapter 25.

Mander committed suicide March 17 in his Freelton, Ont. home north of Hamilton, leaving behind little evidence of the $50 million or so in loans he had taken from investors in southern Ontario.

-- CBC News, March 31, 2010.

Arthur Clennam, who now felt that he had devoted himself to the storming of the Circumlocution Office, and must go through with it, accompanied the messenger to another floor of the building, where that functionary pointed out Mr. Wobbler's room. He entered that apartment, and found two gentlemen sitting face to face at a large and easy desk, one of whom was polishing a gun-barrel on his pocket-handkerchief, while the other was spreading marmalade on bread with a paper-knife...

'Mr. Wobbler?' inquired the suitor.

'What's the matter?' then said Mr. Wobbler, with his mouth full.

'I want to know-- ' and Arthur Clennam again mechanically set forth what he wanted to know.

'Can't inform you,' observed Mr. Wobbler, apparently to his lunch. 'Never heard of it. Nothing at all to do with it. Better try Mr. Clive, second door on the left in the next passage.'

-- Little Dorrit, Chapter 10.

Details of no fewer than 33 inquiries by the SEC's inspector general over the past five years into instances of employees using office time to search for dirty pictures and video on their government-issued computers were uncovered in an internal memo obtained by the Associated Press. Seventeen of those involved were "senior level" employees earning up to $222,418 (£144,846) a year.

The revelations have not come at a good time for the SEC, which has already had a bruising couple of years, not least over its failure to stop Bernie Madoff and his Ponzi scheme.

-- The Independent, April 24, 2010.

Michelle Martin lives in Hamilton where she and her husband are watching their 10 children fly the nest, one by one. She has been published in both the Hamilton Spectator and Raise the Hammer, as well as in the online edition of the National Post and, more recently, in the Canadian Urban Transit Association's Urban Mobility Forum. Michelle is coordinator of the Community Access to Transportation program. She was formerly on the writing/copy editing team of the original Crown Point hub paper, The Point. However, the opinions she expresses in Raise the Hammer are her own. She sometimes tweets @deltawestmom

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By Kiely (registered) | Posted April 27, 2010 at 16:06:37

Well done Michelle... The more things change, the more they stay the same.

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