ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel
  • »
  • Entertainment and Media»
  • Television & TV Shows»
  • TV Shows

The Tontine and Lorenzo Tonti - What is a Tontine?

Updated on December 1, 2013

TONTINE, the 'reality show' that never was, should have hit the U.S. in 2008, boasting the biggest ever cash prize, $10,000,000, awarded to the sole survivor after 100 days of physical and emotional trials.

Things didn't go to plan and the show, mercifully, was never made. It ran into problems as early as the casting stages; the producer publicly decking one of the contestants arguably militated against its ever coming to fruition.

But, behind the hype, is there anything new under the sun? Why was the show to be called TONTINE? Is it just a word dreamed up by a TV production team, or, maybe, has the Tontine been around for 350 years? Read on...

Tontine Hotel

The Tontine Hotel, Peebles, Scotland
The Tontine Hotel, Peebles, Scotland

Why is there a 200 year-old Tontine Hotel in the little town of Peebles in the Scottish Borders? Simply because a celebrated Tontine was ratified there and the name stuck. There are a few more Tontine Inns and Hotels of like age in the UK, and in France, and many more public buildings and monuments that owe their existence to a Tontine. All well and good, you may say, but what's a Tontine??

Tontine Reality TV

I'll be honest - I'm not a fan of the 'reality TV' genre. I'm far more interested in the historical Tontine than in this money-making spin-off. Old man Tonti will be turning in his grave at such a misinterpretation of his doubtful but essentially philanthropic vision.

Yet there is one aspect of this show that was unusual and, I suspect, calculated to bring out the best/worst (you decide!) in participants and viewers alike - Tonti's investment principle applied! The selected participants were required to stake their own life savings in an all-or-nothing gamble. Would you do the same?

An Italian in France

It all began 1653, with a banker from Naples, Lorenzo de Tonti. While working in France, he invented an unusual investment scheme:

  • a group of people of similar age, the 'Tontinites', all contribute a lump sum
  • this fund is managed by an administrator on behalf of the Tontinites, who each receive regular dividends, while the capital sum also grows
  • there is no 'pulling out' allowed - you are in it for life!
  • as members die, one by one, the survivors benefit more and more, as their proportion of the dividend increases with each death
  • your reward, for outliving your fellows, is a very healthy pension!

In Tonti's original scheme, when the last rich old rogue finally copped it, the capital, by now considerable, reverted to the State. Depending on the size of the Tontine, this would then be used to erect anything from a public fountain to a library to a hospital. After all, the late departed would have no further use for it.

There wasn't much wrong with Tonti's original scheme. If you lived to collect your pension, it was there for you, and guaranteed to grow for as long as you survived. Certainly it was a little tough if you fell on hard times early and wanted your money back. On the other hand, after the initial investment there was no further outlay, no monthly deductions to maintain. I'm sure many of us today would be happy with such an arrangement.

Enter Greed, stage left . . .

Then a new version appeared in which the final capital devolved onto the last survivor, instead of reverting to the State. Superficially, this seems OK, but in practice, as the huge sum was of no use to a frail old man, it meant that families were the beneficiaries. Instead of a hospital, you create nouveaux riches, hardly an improvement. Worse - there was the unedifying spectacle of 'living competitions', and even concealed deaths, as families of weary old guys tried everything to keep them alive, not out of love but out of avarice. Which brings us to . . .

Robert Louis Stevenson

RLS - the initials of genius
RLS - the initials of genius

The Wrong Box

In collaboration with his nephew, Lloyd Osborne, Robert Louis Stevenson wrote one of the dark comedy masterpieces of English literature, The Wrong Box. It is the story of a Tontine. But it is much more than that. It is a tale of greed and desperation; of a railway crash and a body buried in a shallow grave, of a statue of Hercules smashed with a coal-hammer, of a silent Broadwood Grand Piano harbouring a corpse, of still Champagne and a rotting houseboat, of forgery, fear, false whiskers and the timeless expletive - Bent Pitman!

For this book alone, let's give thanks for the life of Lorenzo de Tonti, as we ponder the latter-day phenomenon of 'reality' TV.

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • Paraglider profile image
      Author

      Dave McClure 8 years ago from Kyle, Scotland

      Happy Sunday, or happy birthday (to me ;) But a working day, because the local weekend is Friday Saturday and the working week starts on Sunday. No rest for the wicked!

    • prettydarkhorse profile image

      prettydarkhorse 8 years ago from US

      wow, greed afterall, I am not a fan of reality tv show too, but definitely I want the original tontine as the money could be used by the state afterwards, like you said building hospital etc. Times had changed indeed, and greed will change everything.

      Have a good weekend and happy Sunday Dave, maita

    • Paraglider profile image
      Author

      Dave McClure 10 years ago from Kyle, Scotland

      That's fascinating - I never heard of Tontine as a name before (except Tonti, the Italian founder)

    • In The Doghouse profile image

      In The Doghouse 10 years ago from California

      My aunt who was a small child in the early 1950's had two imaginary friends their names were Torma and Tontine. My grandmother was never sure where she came up with those two names, she was very small. It is interesting to finally find out who Tontine is.

    • Kenny Wordsmith profile image

      Ashok Rajagopalan 10 years ago from Chennai

      Thank you for the 'Finsbury Tontie' info too.

    • Paraglider profile image
      Author

      Dave McClure 10 years ago from Kyle, Scotland

      Thanks Kenny - I'll look out for the Wodehouse. I hadn't heard about it before. The Stevenson book was originally going to be called 'The Finsbury Tontine' but was published instead as 'The Wrong Box'

    • Kenny Wordsmith profile image

      Ashok Rajagopalan 10 years ago from Chennai

      Thanks for filling us in.

      I remember reading about this in a novel by Wodehouse. Spring Fever, I think. The whole plot revolves around a tontine created by the hero's father and his friends.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: "https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr"

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)