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Charles Mackay

Journalist / Poet

Born: 1814
Died: 1889
Birthplace: Perth, Scotland
Best known as: Author of 1841's Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds
English writer Charles Mackay was a 19th-century chronicler of culture and events and a successful poet and lyricist. During his career as a journalist he worked for London's Morning Chronicle (1835-44), Glasgow's Argus (1844-47), the Illustrated London News (1852-59) and, as a correspondent reporting on the American Civil War, the Times (1862-65). Industrious and prolific, Mackay also worked as an editor and was an associate of Charles Dickens. He made his literary reputation in 1846 with a collection of poems, Voices from the Crowd, and achieved popular success the same year with the hit songs "Cheer, Boys, Cheer" and "The Good Time Coming" (music by Henry Russell). These days he is better known for his attempt at an even-handed history of Joseph Smith and the Mormons, 1851's The Mormons; or the Latter-day Saints, and for a book that's still in print, 1841's Memoirs of Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds. The latter book, a chronicle of various market crazes and irrational fads, is considered a classic in the field of market psychology.
Extra credit: Mackay, who had a doctorate in literature, was the father of popular novelist Marie Corelli (1855-1924), the author of 1890's Wormwood... A modern counterpoint to Mackay's Madness of Crowds is 2004's The Wisdom of Crowds by James Surowiecki.

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