Exactly 293 years ago today, the great English poet Alexander Pope was beside himself with excitement.
On Aug. 22, 1720, he wrote to his friend, Lady Mary Wortley Montagu:
“I was made acquainted late last night, that I might depend upon it as a certain gain, to Buy the South Sea-Stock at the present price, which will certainly rise in some weeks, or less. I can be as sure of this, as the nature of any such thing will allow, from the first & best hands.”
The original letter is in the collection of the Morgan Library in New York. J.P. Morgan himself purchased it around 1903 – and it’s easy to imagine the burly banker, then the most powerful financier in the world, bursting out in laughter when he first read it.
Pope, author of “An Essay on Man,” translator of Homer and one of the sharpest wits ever to put a pen to paper, had – like thousands of other Englishmen of the time – lost his financial mind in one of the first bubbles to sweep the markets. Pope had good company, including Sir Isaac Newton, the eminent portrait painter Sir Godfrey Kneller, numerous members of Parliament and the Prince of Wales’s valet....MORE
Fools rush in where Angels fear to tread
To err is human; to forgive, divine.