It might be said, as a broad generalization, that there are two types of people: those who believe money is something to be spent, and those who believe money is a good thing in of itself. People who like to spend their money regard it as only so much paper or coins until it has performed its magic of creating whatever one cares to wish for. Paul’s mother Hester is such a person. She could never get enough money because she can think of too many ways to spend it. When Paul arranges through his Uncle Oscar for his mother to receive five thousand pounds in one lump sum,
Something very curious happened. The voices in the house suddenly went mad, like a chorus of frogs on a spring evening. There were certain new furnishings, and Paul had a tutor. He was really going to Eton, his father’s school, in the following autumn. There were flowers in the winter, and a blossoming of the luxury Paul’s mother had been used to. And yet the voices in the house, behind the sprays of mimosa and almond-blossom, and from under the piles of iridescent cushions, simply trilled and screamed in a sort of ecstasy: “There must be more money! Oh-h-h; there must be more money. Oh, now, now-w! Now-w-w—there must be more money!—more than ever! More than ever!”
The people who believe money is a good thing in itself value it because it can provide security and freedom. Robert Burns, the great Scottish poet, talks about money in his “Epistle to a Young Friend,” which is full of practical advice.
To catch dame Fortune’s golden smile, Assiduous wait upon her; And gather gear by ev’ry wile That’s justified by honour; Not for to hide it in a hedge, Nor for a train attendant, But for the glorious privilege Of being independent.
And Somerset Maugham, who made a lot of money as a writer of plays, novels, short stories, and essays, had this to say on the subject of money:
The value of money is that with it you can tell anyone to go to the devil.
That is approximately the same as saying that with enough money you can enjoy the glorious privilege of being independent.
It was a good thing that Hester lived in the days before credit cards, because she would have spent Paul’s five thousand pounds, which she did have, and another five thousand pounds which she didn’t have. This is pretty much what is happening to many Americans today, and Hester can be seen as a representative of all the people who believe money is only good for buying “things” and only paper or base metal in its “natural” state; or worse yet, the money may only be in the form of numbers on a bank statement, numbers which may or may not be convertible to the scraps of paper with the pictures of all those serious and sober-looking gentlemen on them.
The love of money may be the root of all evil, but respect for money is not a bad idea at all. Many people only learn the value of money when they run out of it.