29 JUNE 1918, Page 8


IMAGINARY money is slow to change its face-value. When we forgo a longish journey or a serious purchase, and thus turn an honest pound or two of imaginary money by our self-denial, its spending-power is quite unaffected by the war. Two pounds, old value, seem to lie to our credit, and on the strength of it we shall he in danger of spending at least three in actual cash, allowing for the depreciation. It is fatally easy just now to rake in imaginary coins, and the worst of it is they have some occult power of burning a hole in the pooket. We cannot help believing that we have got them in reality in spite of our bank-books. So many facts con- tribute to this false faith. For instance, we cannot spend more titan a given sum at the butcher's. The difference betiveen our meat-bill as it was and is gives us in imagination quite a little income. Hospitality is cut off—some nice little lump sums fall into fancy's coffer owing to that privation. We hardly have any holidays—that accounts for another imaginary haul. There is kw need for smart clothes—so one can without extravagance take the obvious savings out in the quality. The money pours in, and then people with no imagination wonder why the shops are doing so well and why we see so much jewellery. How can people be so silly in war time I The comment is just ; but after all it takes more than four years of war to alter human nature, and money seems to be almost as instinctive an incentive to the imagination as war. No children require to be taught to play either at " shop " or at " soldiers." They make shift with any stick when they want to parade with a gun or a sword, and with any small object when they pretend to pay for a purchase or to give change. We also are "like children in the market-place "—constantly making believe.

But imaginary money is not only saved by imaginary economies. Memory lays it up in great store. The large class of people who have seen " better days " have a fund of it. Unfortunately, poor

things, it bears no relation to their banking account. It is not repre- sented in any silver or gold, and can offer no temptation to extrava- gance. Still, it gives them great pleasure. They can talk and think about it, and it yields what many people freely give their actual fortunes to obtain—a sense of social dignity. Recollected grandeurs add ornament to plain living. Dim recollections of a butler or a lady's-maid often give more comfort than their presence. Money rolls up quickly in imagination, and a moderate competence becomes wealth as the years go by.

There is another form of fortune for which we draw on our imagi- nation. We all have banks-in-the-air, just as we have castles there. The pounds, shillings, and pence which come from these have nothing to do with memory or tradition; neither can we cheat ourselves into believing that such a fortune has any actual value. We spend it only in imagination, and as a rule how very well we spend it ! What a large proportion we give away ! How differently people act who have really got it in sordid investments ! It is a very harmless plaything, this dream-money. No one ever does any harm with it. It goes to satisfy our sense of pity and our longing for benevolent power; it makes us patrons of art, travellers, and persons of experience and importance—all in imagination, of course. The people who vow they have never wished to be rich must have very poor imaginations. They want to say, we suppose, that they would be sorry to take the means to be rich which com- mend themselves to many very honest persons, sorry to barter their whole leisure or forgo all their present inexpensive hobbies for its sake, sorry to work at high pressure or drill themselves till they can absolutely command their own attention and forbid the pleasant wanderings of a. mind at ease. They would not, they may also mean, be willing to endure the secret humiliation of waiting for other men's deaths. This ill waiting " is, however, much less °opinion than the novelists would have us suppose. To pgint Death as a thing longed for instead of dreaded by those who watch for his approach is tempting, and perhaps easier to draw than the more general situation. The vast proportion of men and women in the class which saves have never any hope of money being left them except by their parents or those near relations in whose case natural affection• turns hope to fear. Not many imaginations play round " dead men's shoes." They are something of a novelist's property. Men are too superstitious to invoke Death, and after all superstition is at least as common as avarice. But to return to our subject. Money which we envy till we can almost think it already ours, and can spend in imagination, is not what is properly meant by imaginary money. Like a real unearned income, the latter leads us to many unnecessary expenses, but it brings us a great deal of happiness. This happiness is so much desired that many Teeple will buy it with real money. The money paid for a lottery ticket is in nine hundred and ninety-nine cases out of a thousand nothing but the price of a dream. Most buyers know this quite welL They do not expect a real fortune. They buy an aid to imagination. No doubt many great undertakings were financed at their conception by dream-money. The real philanthropists of the world, the people who have eased by money the burden of their fellows, have had their imaginary cheques cashed by the public times out of number. " If I had money, what would I do with it I " they have said to themselves. In imagination the money has become theirs. Benevolent thoughts have served the turn of fancy. Finally they have become absorbed in a scheme, have put their whole strength into its development, and a world which levee to play Providence to its favoured children has rewarded their faith. For most of ns, of course, no such fruition of fancy ever takes place. The most that can be said for our imaginary betret-olence is that we get pleasure out of it and cultivate in

ourselves an amiable attitude of mind. Happiness and pastime are the only commodities that dream-money can be relied upon to buy. It can be laid out to great advantage in the rebuilding and refurnishing of castles-in-the-air, restocking their picture-galleries, enlarging their gardens, and extending the owner's influence. Just now it is well to keep our balances at our "air.banks " as large as possible. We shall have to depend a good deal upon them for " loose money " to play with for some years after the war.