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The moment she pointed out any book as being entitled Lives of eccentric personages, Anecdotes of strange characters, Records of remarkable individuals, or anything to that purpose, Mr Boffin's countenance would light up, and he would instantly dart in and buy it.' In the following chapter, Mr Boffin brings a coachload of the books to his premises and readers are introduced to a selection of typical titles and to the names of several of the misers treated in them.Among the books appear James Caulfield's Portraits, Memoirs, and Characters of Remarkable Persons (1794-5); and F.A typical late example of Christian doctrine on the subject is the Reverend Erskine Neale's The Riches that Bring No Sorrow (1852), a moralising work based on a succession of biographies contrasting philanthropists and misers.Running parallel has been a disposition, inherited from Classical times, to class miserly behaviour as a type of eccentricity.In the Christian West the attitude to those whose interest centred on gathering money has been coloured by the teachings of the Church.From its point of view, both the miser and the usurer were guilty of the cardinal sin of avarice and the two were often confounded.She had also carefully picked up every pin that fell in her way, till she nearly filled one hundred pincushions.
Those with wealth are in need of the prayers of the poor for their salvation and can only earn them by acts of charity.
Accounts of misers were included in such 19th century works as G. Wilson's four-volume compendium of short biographies, The Eccentric Mirror (1807).
Such books were put to comic use by Charles Dickens in Our Mutual Friend (serialised 1864/5), with its cutting analysis of Victorian capitalism.
The first account of Elwes' life was Edward Topham's The Life of the Late John Elwes: Esquire (1790), which was initially published in his paper The World.
The popularity of such accounts is attested by the seven editions printed in the book's first year and the many later reprintings under various titles.