A GLASS HALF FULL: CAPITALIST ETHICS IN THE NOVELS OF WILL PAYNE

Scott Dalrymple

Abstract


Will Payne (1865–1954) was an American financial journalist and novelist with unique and interesting views on capitalism and society. Most turn-of-the-century American novelists who wrote about economics inhabited opposite poles of the political spectrum: they tended to write either overt socialist tracts (e.g., Upton Sinclair, Jack London, Theodore Dreiser) or hagiographies of captains of industry (e.g., Samuel Merwin, Henry Kitchell Webster, Mary Hallock Foote). Payne’s work, however, defies such simple categorization. In novels such as The Money Captain (1898), Mr. Salt (1903), and When Love Speaks (1906), Payne challenged readers to consider a longer term view of the effects of capitalism.

The able men—the men who can do things—are going to run the world, you know. They’ve got to; for the other crowd simply can’t.

—Will Payne, When Love Speaks


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