Notes On Utterly Unsuitable Yet Nonetheless Appealing Financial Role Models

Well, let’s see.

There is Gertrude Stein, with her fabulous apartment and endless hosting. Lots of langoustines and literary discussions.

Dorothy Parker and her cocktails.

Dissolute gentlemen in Oscar Wilde plays. Men with good cravats. Dandies in general. Anyone named Beau. Anyone who walks around town all day and considers this an activity.

Lords who hold storytelling competitions in their castles. Lords who get gout. Anyone who gets gout.

The Fitzgeralds.

Heroines in Jane Austen novels. Everyone in Jane Austen novels. Patsy and Edina.

Pride and Prej

Bon vivants and gourmands who sit at cafes for hours while friends stop by to say hello. Anyone who reads and drinks all day and considers this an activity.

Gentlemen scholars. Lady detectives. Lady scholars with magnifying glasses and collections of cool things like bugs. Lady detectives with happy servant sidekicks.

Julia Child. Because she and Paul could afford more in France back then. Also: M.F.K. Fisher. Same reason. All that sole meuniere could make one jealous.

Anyone who owns a jewel-encrusted pet turtle. On a leash. Or a pet wombat, preferably a large one.

People who drink wine stored in their own charmingly musty cellars. People who ask you to go down to the cellar and pick out a bottle. People who ask their butler to go down to the cellar and pick out the usual for dinner.

Profligate sons in nineteenth-century British novels who either mend their ways or die.

Owners of personal libraries. Owners of built-in bookcases, in teak or mahogany, who also possess leather club chairs, claret, cigars, and a firm hold on power. Those who have gone on the Grand Tour.

Those with rooms with a view. Those who sacrifice their rooms with views.

Drivers of Fiat 500s.

Sebastian Flyte, with the champagne but without the depression. Anyone else who eats quail eggs.


Anyone in possession of a houseboat. On a body of water, preferably a river. Those who regularly consume cream teas or go punting.

Lady Chatterley. Chicks and all.

Travelers who take ocean liners. Travelers with steamer trunks.

Inhabitants of windswept moors. Inhabitants of large, rambling houses with ghosts. The ghosts themselves, who have no responsibilities and are thus free to haunt.

Homeowners with bars in their living rooms in the style of The Graduate. Women in glittering dresses with martinis in their hands.

Joanna Lumley, with her pseudo-colonial travels, which should perhaps be reconsidered. Auntie Mame, with her near-constant redecorating, which should not be reconsidered.


Those with extensive collections of Edith Piaf records.

Cary Grant and his house in Palm Springs. But were I to acquire the house, I would also require Cary Grant.

Anyone accustomed to dining on a train. Anyone who sleeps in a train berth, with or without a mysterious stranger. Anyone who lives in a hotel or has written a novel in a hotel.

Ladies in smart tweed suits. Gentlemen in smart tweed suits.

Aviatrixes. With their leather helmet-thingies and goggles. With their crossing of seas.

A woman who cuts her hair short to enjoy gallivanting around Rome for a day. A woman who tells you how to whistle.

Members of café society and eaters of Sachertorte. Consumers of smoked fishes.

Evil queens. Witches. Especially witches with gardens filled with herbs and what-not.

The Tenenbaums.


Owners of properties with gazebos in the manner of The Sound of Music. Owners of properties with lakes in the same manner.

Owners of grandfather clocks that don’t keep the time. Those in possession of glamorously threadbare rugs.

Plucky, poor heroines who discover they are heiresses.

Those who are taking the waters. Those who are bathing.

C.K. Dexter Haven. Needless to say.


Susan Harlan is an English professor at Wake Forest University, where she specializes in Shakespeare. She writes for venues including The Guardian, The Toast, The Morning News, Nowhere, Curbed, and Roads & Kingdoms.

Top photo: Wikimedia Commons



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