Hey Diddle Diddle

Diddling would have been on Poe’s mind, and nearly everyone else’s, in mid-nineteenth-century America, when the capitalist frenzies that possess the country from time to time were rampant. When speculation runs amok, when stocks rise and fall overnight, when financial panics are regular occurrences, when currencies become worthless in a moment, when people are shorn today of the riches they gained yesterday and head off tomorrow to do it again, when it is every man for himself and the invisible hand against all—when, in short, the American dream is taking shape and the unfettered market is frustrating and occasionally fulfilling it, you can’t be sure about whom or what to believe. After all, the trusting are the diddler’s prey, their faith the sign of their weakness. It was a diddle-or-be-done world, and it still is.


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