The article analyzes the ideologically motivated representations of noble poverty in nineteenth-century Finnish print publications that were used to justify a takeover of society by commoners. The national-level public debate on the issue was slow in nature and took place in different genres, namely works of fiction and journalism, as well as non-fiction books on national history. Of the fiction writers, Zachris Topelius and Arvid Järnefelt come particularly to the fore. Topelius, who doubled as an academic historian and newspaperman, made good use of the medium of fiction to educate his readers about the development of society in the past, while simultaneously promoting a progressive political agenda focusing on the gradual withdrawal of the nobility from the political and economic arena. Järnefelt's numerous descriptions of voluntarily and involuntarily poor noblemen were based partly on personal and family experience and partly on his egalitarian, Tolstoyan social-political agenda. Further proof is sought from newspaper material and non-fictional representations of national history. The article aims to show that noble poverty as a symptom of the general decline of the noble estate is a distinct, uniform, and recurring narrative theme in nineteenth-century political discourse.

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