Jane Austen discussion

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message 1: by Maria (new)

Maria (anamfalcao) | 1 comments Which one should i read first, Mansfield Park or Northanger Abbey?


message 2: by Abigail (new)

Abigail Bok (regency_reader) | 498 comments I'd say Northanger Abbey. It's shorter and livelier. Mansfield Park is pretty heavy, and some people don't like the heroine (though I do).


message 3: by Rachel, The Honorable Miss Moderator (new)

Rachel (randhrshipper1) | 674 comments Mod
I'd also recommend Northanger first.


message 4: by Jon (new)

Jon  Blanchard  | 54 comments Northanger Abbey is fun, to my mind.

Mansfield Park is a masterpiece, but I've only come to appreciate it when I know it well.

Both the heroine marry clergymen. I'd rather have Henry Tilney (NA) for my vicar than Edmund Bertram (MP).

I like the heroine of Mansfield Park a lot. It is the man she marries I don't like.


message 5: by Dl737 (new)

Dl737 | 8 comments Northanger Abbey - one of my favorites.

MP is my least favorite one because I find it hard to understand the heroine's actions. I know others love it and will therefore need to read it again to try to "get it" but I've already read it twice and still have issues with it.

NA I've read countless of times and love it with each reading!


message 6: by J. (new)

J. Rubino (jrubino) | 213 comments Very different books. I have always said that I think "Northanger Abby" ought to be taught in high school. Catherine is a teenage heroine who is obsessed with the pop culture of the day - gothic novels - which tends to warp her perception of reality. A correlation could be made to pop culture and social media influences today.
"Mansfield Park" is a great book. Fanny Price is unique among Austen's heroines because she is defined by her morality rather than her flaws. Interesting because, though she is physically frail compared to Elizabeth Bennet or Emma Woodhouse, she has an unerring sense of what is right that hasn't been shaded by prejudice or poor judgment. I think she gets a bad rap.


message 7: by Abigail (new)

Abigail Bok (regency_reader) | 498 comments I wholeheartedly agree with you, J.! The last time I read MP I was struck by how often Fanny has to struggle with her jealousy and anger, and how admirably she overcomes her lesser instincts.

Of the two, NA is doubtless an easier "starter novel" for those wanting to try Jane Austen.


message 8: by QNPoohBear (new)

QNPoohBear | 669 comments I agree about NA! When vampire novels were super popular about 10 years ago, I realized Catherine's gothic novels were the same thing. Fast carriages = fast cars, silly teens are silly teens, bad boys are still bad boys and strict parents are still strict. Northanger Abbey is a direct retelling. Modern teens could compare the two and compare them to their own lives easily enough.


message 9: by Beth-In-UK (new)

Beth-In-UK | 1041 comments I agree - MP is a pretty heavy going read, because it is the most openly moralistic, which can put readers off. It is the 'bad woman', Mary Crawford, who is the most engaging and fun, and the heroine, Fanny, is so often seen as dull, pious, self-virtuous and a goody two shoes.

I think MP demands a lot more of readers than her other novels, especially NA, which is one of her 'lightest' novels (and yes the most obviously juvenile.)

MP is noticeably longer than her other novels (well, the book always seems thicker at least), and definitely longer than NA.


message 10: by Juan Manuel (new)

Juan Manuel Pérez Porrúa Pérez (jm15xy) | 51 comments How about Sense and Sensibility? In terms of difficulty, I think there can be no problem.


message 11: by Jon (new)

Jon  Blanchard  | 54 comments I completely disagree about Mary, selfish and manipulative, and Fanny, endlessly put upon, snubbed and exploited, but this is not the place for this recurring argument


message 12: by Juan Manuel (new)

Juan Manuel Pérez Porrúa Pérez (jm15xy) | 51 comments A word in favor of Sense and Sensibility: Elinor and Marianne are prototypes for the two kinds of heroines Austen is famous for and their respective stories are templates for, on the one hand Mansfield Park and Persuasion, and Pride and Prejudice and Emma on the other.


message 13: by Beth-In-UK (new)

Beth-In-UK | 1041 comments Austen does seem to veer between the two types of heroine - we have the 'quiet, subdued' Elinor in S&S, ditto Fanny in Mansfield Park, and then again as Anne Eliot in Persuasion.

By contract we have lively, self-confident, extroverted Emma and Lizzie Bennet.

By all accounts, Austen herself was lively and extroverted, so it's interesting she could still 'get under the skin' of the more introverted heroines.


message 14: by ClaraBelle (new)

ClaraBelle (elsiecorriedale) | 35 comments Terrence wrote: "I completely disagree about Mary, selfish and manipulative, and Fanny, endlessly put upon, snubbed and exploited, but this is not the place for this recurring argument"

I agree with you


message 15: by ClaraBelle (new)

ClaraBelle (elsiecorriedale) | 35 comments Beth-In-UK wrote: "Austen does seem to veer between the two types of heroine - we have the 'quiet, subdued' Elinor in S&S, ditto Fanny in Mansfield Park, and then again as Anne Eliot in Persuasion.

By contract we ha..."


❤️❤️


message 16: by ClaraBelle (new)

ClaraBelle (elsiecorriedale) | 35 comments Beth-In-UK wrote: "I agree - MP is a pretty heavy going read, because it is the most openly moralistic, which can put readers off. It is the 'bad woman', Mary Crawford, who is the most engaging and fun, and the heroi..."
I loved Fanny Price and MP


message 17: by ClaraBelle (new)

ClaraBelle (elsiecorriedale) | 35 comments Juan Manuel wrote: "How about Sense and Sensibility? In terms of difficulty, I think there can be no problem."
It was the easiest and most interesting to read for me!


message 18: by ClaraBelle (new)

ClaraBelle (elsiecorriedale) | 35 comments QNPoohBear wrote: "I agree about NA! When vampire novels were super popular about 10 years ago, I realized Catherine's gothic novels were the same thing. Fast carriages = fast cars, silly teens are silly teens, bad b..."

I don’t like NA or how dark and dull it was🖤🖤


message 19: by Beth-In-UK (new)

Beth-In-UK | 1041 comments I think the heroes divide into two camps too - in the larger camp we have the 'good but not dashing' heroes such as Edward Ferrars in S and S, and Edmund Bertram in MP, and, somewhat older, and perhaps a tiny bit dashing (!), George Knightley in Emma.

Then in the smaller camp we have Darcy (yay!) in P and P and Wentworth in Persuasion.

Henry Tilney in NA is a bit in between. More 'dashing' than 'dull' but overall somewhat young - though suitable for the very young Catherine I suppose.

On the other hand, sometimes her 'dashing' males are the baddies, such as Willoughby in S and S (I think Austen quite cleverly introduces him in a 'heroic' vein to which he then does NOT live up to)

Colonel Brandon in S and S is most like Emma's George Knightley I feel. I suspect the two of them would have got on very well had they ever met.

Frank Churchill (the 'not-hero') of Emma is rather like Henry Tilney - extroverted and outgoing and self-confident.

I wonder which other of Austen's characters would have liked - or loathed - each other? Although Fanny Price is young, I think she and Anne Eliot would have got on.

It's probably as well Catherine Morland in NA never met Lydia Bennet, or she might have fallen into bad ways ...worse than her 'false friend' (Isabella Thorpe, was that her name?)


message 20: by Mrs (new)

Mrs Benyishai | 254 comments I know that I am in minority so please someone enlighten me but I have never seen anything dashing or posotive about Wentworth. he is angry because he is arrogent (8 years ago he had nothing if Ann had married him where was she to live and eat and how was she to support children while he was adventureally at sea)it was sefish to assume responsibility for her. then his flirting with Louesa and Hennrietta was extermly selfish has he didnt really intend to marry either of them (remember Elizabeths answer to her aunt about young men flirting) the only good deed he did was to put Anne on the wagon I really dont like him but that is ok cause Anne did (like Emma she didnt meet many...)


message 21: by Abigail (new)

Abigail Bok (regency_reader) | 498 comments Well, I am in the minority with you! I used to love Persuasion but as time went on my view of Captain Wentworth soured to the point that now I find the book hard to read. The novel seems very thin to me as well—perhaps if Jane Austen had not become ill she would have fleshed it out, including telling us more about Anne’s and Wentworth’s youthful romance, which could have helped readers see him as he was before bitterness set in. We’re told how brilliant and promising he is but we see very little of it.


message 22: by Alice (new)

Alice McVeigh | 14 comments I don't know. I'm a pretty stormy person too, and I understand his annoyance at Anne pretty well. They were passionately in love ('half the sum of attractions would have been enough') and she was talked out of the engagement by a friend, out of an excess of caution. I also think he probably WOULD have married Louisa (Austen writes, 'He had a heart for either of the the Miss Musgraves' - from memory!) had she not had the accident. (This is response to Mrs' comments, above, suggesting that he was just lightly messing around with Henrietta and Louisa.) He probably was unaware of the havoc his appearance caused - there are lots of places where Jane Austen hints at this - but that he was at least somewhat attached to Louisa seems to me to be clear... But, would he have realised his mistake in time? - I don't know! Even Anne admitted, 'Either of them would make him an affectionate, good-natured wife' - but Anne is famously just to everyone. (Note: quotes are only from memory - haven't time to check them out, but guarantee the sense of, as know most of the novels by heart.)


message 23: by Mary (new)

Mary Catelli | 50 comments In the novel, Wentworth is freaked out by everyone's assumption that he actually has an attachment to Louisa.


message 24: by Alice (new)

Alice McVeigh | 14 comments By that point, the scales had fallen from his eyes, and he'd come to think a little harder about Louisa - and to compare her (nice girl, friendly, good-natured, pretty) with Anne (exceptional - and possessing much more than the 'strong mind and sweetness of manner' that he originally describes as his ideal marriage partner). What you mention is the reason why he thinks it 'fair' to dampen speculation that he's committed to Louisa by buzzing off to visit his brother. ('I was considered an engaged man!') So yes, he was freaked out! But before then - sorry to be annoying - but he literally 'had a heart for either of the Miss Musgraves'. He was THAT angry at Anne.


message 25: by Beth-In-UK (new)

Beth-In-UK | 1041 comments Maybe we have to bear in mind that Wentworth probably didn't know women very well - he's spent his life in the navy, very possibly joining as a young teenager, 14-15 as seemed to have been the norm, spending months at sea, and when ashore either cavorting with 'port girls' (euphemism!) or short bursts of socialising with his social equals (as he does first time around with Anne). Not saying that exonerates him, but maybe explains him?

One of the key things with Louisa is that he realises, after the steps incident in Lyme, that there is a difference between strong minded and headstrong - he has openly praised Louisa for her decisiveness, knowing what she wants, her determination to get it, and criticised Anne's wishy-washy 'swayability' (by Lady R). The steps incident show him there is a down side to Louisa's attitude, and somethign to be said for Anne's caution.

I think yes, marrying Anne so poor and young as he was at the time, would have been rash - though presumably it could have just been managed, even if she'd been the wife of a not-as-well-paid-and-no-prize-money-yet wife of a Lieutenant - probably poorer even than the Harvilles. And we also see Captain Benwick had hesitated to marry his Fanny Harville for lack of sufficient money. He, of course, shows the other side of the caution divide, that he now berates himself for losing what little happiness he might have had with Fanny 'for money' as he bitterly says. (Interesting, and quite neat, perhaps, that both he and Louisa get it together - both are on the 'not caution' side).

I wonder how much explanation Anne gave Wentworth when she broke up with him? Had she explained to him that it was for his sake she was doing it, so he wasn't trammelled by a wife at a time he needed to make his career, and not because she didn't want to marry a poor man, may be they would have done the sensible thing and agreed to wait (and hope Anne didn't die in the meantime like poor Fanny Harville!).

Of course, Lady Russell didn't want Anne marrying Wentworth, rich or poor - I think she wanted Anne to marry a landed gentleman, not a naval officer. Of course, now that Wentworth is rich, I wonder if he'll buy himself an estate of his own, once the war ends?? Not quite sure how rich he actually had become - maybe just a small estate!


message 26: by Alice (new)

Alice McVeigh | 14 comments Hi Beth, Lots of good thoughts here! I'm a member of the USA Jane Austen Society as well as the UK one. Thought you might like this article: http://www.jasna.org/publications/per...


message 27: by Abigail (new)

Abigail Bok (regency_reader) | 498 comments I have wondered just how rich he was too. Even £20,000 in prize money would give him only about £1,000 a year.

I do think your explanation of Wentworth’s ham-handedness with women of quality makes some sense, though around the Musgroves he appears pretty comfortable, and Sophy Croft takes him to task for his attitudes about women. I think she’s pretty well aware of his bitterness and that it could easily slip over into misogyny.

My sense of the scene when Anne backed out of the engagement is that she tried to explain but all he heard was “It’s off” before he went into a tailspin and wouldn’t listen. He probably didn’t trust her enough to believe any reason she tried to give, and she was too diffident to force the issue. And of course she didn’t have Mr. Darcy’s privilege of writing a long letter of explanation.


message 28: by Alice (new)

Alice McVeigh | 14 comments I think she could have written a long letter of explanation - and we don't know that the engagement was broken off in person, though I like your imagining of it - but she probably wouldn't have. As I understand it, one could correspond if one was engaged (which is why Elinor was - briefly - convinced that Marianne WAS engaged, and why Jane Fairfax corresponded with Frank Churchill) but otherwise it was considered improper. But I think you're not taking enough account for inflation, in Wentworth's case. This is a great source: http://jasna.org/publications/persuas...


message 29: by Mary (new)

Mary Catelli | 50 comments In the book, it's clear that if Anne and Wentworth had remained engaged, it would have been a long enough engagement for him to make the money. Notice that when he asks what would have happened if he had written after a year, it was to resume the engagement, not to marry then.


message 30: by Alice (new)

Alice McVeigh | 14 comments Yes. Very good point!


message 31: by Beth-In-UK (new)

Beth-In-UK | 1041 comments How old was Anne at the time she first met Wentworth? Was she actually 21 by then? If not, presumably she'd have had to get her father's permission, and he was unlikely to have given it - especially if egged on by Lady R to refuse it. He's rude enough about the Wentworth family at the time of the action, so would hardly have welcomed his daughter marrying one.

But if Wentworth had returned a year or two later, then she'd have been of age to marry even without her father's consent, even if he didn't give her any kind of dowry (one assumes Mary got some kind of dowry when she married Charles Musgrove?)


message 32: by Beth-In-UK (new)

Beth-In-UK | 1041 comments If it was improper to have letters when you weren't engaged, how come Darcy writes to Elizabeth (his letter of explanation)? Or is that since he'd just proposed to her it was 'ok' even though she'd turned him down?

I wonder when it did become acceptable to write to a man, and vice versa? Post World War One perhaps??


message 33: by Beth-In-UK (new)

Beth-In-UK | 1041 comments I wonder if Wentworth would have been as keen on the Musgrove girls had Anne not been on the scene? It's always struck me partly as pique, and partly 'revenge' along the lines 'Look, Anne Eliot, you didn't want me, so here's me flirting my head off with other women, so there!'

His impulsiveness almost ruins his life when he realises that his behaviour towards Louisa has almost got him leg-shackled.

At what point does Wentworth realise that he's going to meet Anne again? It must have been 'off scene' I assume, ie, when his sister tells him they are going to lease Kellynch? I wonder if, when he's actually staying there with the Crofts, if he goes into Anne's bedroom and wonders what might have been???? (If I were making a film I think I might take the liberty of showing him do that!)


message 34: by Beth-In-UK (new)

Beth-In-UK | 1041 comments There's so much jealousy and rivalry running through the novel - Wentworth deliberately flirts with Louise to 'get even' with Anne, and then it's only after Mr Eliot has openly fancied Anne, and then wooed her quite assiduously, that Wentworth realises that he can't bear to see her marrying anyone but him.


message 35: by Alice (last edited Dec 20, 2020 11:16PM) (new)

Alice McVeigh | 14 comments I agree with messages 33 and 34. Though I think W. was flattered by the attention of the Musgroves - the whole family, not only the daughters - and that also fired his flirting. But he was definitely - if subconsciously - wanting to show Anne that he was no longer broken-hearted. It doesn't make him look good - but I completely agree with you.


message 36: by Shana (new)

Shana Jefferis-Zimmerman | 160 comments I just finished rereading Persuasion yesterday. At the very end it divulges that Captain Wentworth has amassed a fortune of five-and-twenty thousand pounds. So his income would have only been £1250 in the 5 percents!


message 37: by Beth-In-UK (new)

Beth-In-UK | 1041 comments I agree it doesn't make him look good, but I think it an also show he's fighting his own re-awakening feelings in a way. If he hadn't felt so hurt by Anne's original rejection of him, I don't think he'd have been so determined to spurn her now, seven years on.

But I also think that, in a rather sexist sort of way (!), he thinks Anne has lost her looks with ageing (perhaps he feels that even if they'd married her looks would have gone off by now??). It really is only when Mr Eliot eyes her up in Lyme that he thinks 'Hey, if other blokes can fancy her, maybe she's still got something??' - and of course we also read that the fresh sea air has 'revived' Anne, as has, I also think, her being included in the party, and not left mouldering away sadly at Kellynch - other people do her good, and make her happier, and being happier, her looks improve. Also, and I think this is very female indeed, she's aware that Mr Eliot (even before she knows who he is) has eyed her up at the inn in Lyme, and that makes her feel better too!

Wentworth's jealousy of Mr Eliot does make him realise what he's losing (again!), and on top of that jealousy for any man who fancies Anne (and remember, he's already been taken aback by hearing from the Musgraves that Charles had wanted to marry Anne, not Mary!), is the added torment that marrying her father's heir would not only make her, eventually, Lady Eliot in time, but also mean she can live at Kellynch as its mistress all her life.


message 38: by Beth-In-UK (new)

Beth-In-UK | 1041 comments I think Bingley has £5k a year, and Darcy £10k, so they are both much richer than Wentworth.

I wonder what Sir Walter's income was, and the capital value of Kellynch (though it was entailed I assume, to Mr Eliot - or his own son if Mrs Clay manages to snabble him!)? I don't think we are ever told, are we? Only that Lady Russel worked out how he could live within his income and clear his debts in a matter of years by living 'thriftily'....which of course he totally ignores!

I don't think that the owner of an entailed estate could get a mortgage on it could they? It would be most unfair to his heir if they could, as otherwise the moment Sir W died the creditors would seize the estate?

(I know this did happen to unentailed estates - including heirs who 'lived on the expectation' and borrowed money that they intended to repay only when they inherited and then the estate was promptly foreclosed on the minute they did.)


message 39: by Mary (new)

Mary Catelli | 50 comments Beth-In-UK wrote: "(though it was entailed I assume, to Mr Eliot - or his own son if Mrs Clay manages to snabble him!)? I don't think we are ever told, are we?"

Yes, we are told that Mr. Eliot fears Sir Walter's possible remarriage because there might be a son.


message 40: by Shana (new)

Shana Jefferis-Zimmerman | 160 comments Beth-In-UK wrote: "I think Bingley has £5k a year, and Darcy £10k, so they are both much richer than Wentworth.

I wonder what Sir Walter's income was, and the capital value of Kellynch (though it was entailed I assu..."


I have a hodge-podge of comments that I want to make.... :)

Sir Walter's financial particulars are never aired, which I find interesting. We do know Lady Russell has a detailed plan to clear him of his debts in seven years, if he will follow it (which he won't). But we are never told his income or the value of Kellynch. I once read that Mr. Bennet's estate at Longbourn could be valued at 60,000 pounds because we know its income is 2,000 per annum. I have no idea of the accuracy of this estimate. It does seem to require some assumptions regarding how nice the family manor house on the estate is, relative to the estate's income, for such a rule to have any validity.

Did anyone else notice in the baronetcy volume that Sir Walter is so obsessed with, it does divulge that Lady Elliot bore him four children and one was a stillborn son?

Persuasion does also mention that Mr. Elliott is likely worth more than Sir Walter.

And yes, Captain Wentworth is of much more modest means than Mr. Darcy or Mr. Bingley, as his 25,000 pound fortune will only earn him 1,250 per annum at present. Of course Captain Wentworth has the opportunity (and risk) of returning to his naval duties and increasing his fortune.

Great points, as always, Beth-in-UK!


message 41: by Beth-In-UK (new)

Beth-In-UK | 1041 comments Shana - thank you! It's always such fun to dig in to books one (thinks!) one knows quite well, and to hear other readers coming up with such interesting gen. The bit about the possible value of Longburn I'd never heard, nor what Wentworth's actual income was.

I suppose that valuing an estate was tricky in that, as you say, it wasn't just a question of the income the farms brought in, but of how attractive/large/grand the manor house was, as in, that might determine its sale value (eg, to a naval officer who'd won a lot of prize money!)

In respect of Wentworth returning to sea and capturing yet more French ships, I guess that would all have come to an end with the abdication and Waterloo. I wonder if there was any kind of 'rush' amongst the navy when the tide of war started to turn decisively against Boney, eg, after the Russian campaign, and naval officers wanted to get as much prize money as they could before he was finally beaten?!!


message 42: by Beth-In-UK (new)

Beth-In-UK | 1041 comments In a way, if it was going to take Sir Walter 7 years of prudent living to clear his debt, you know, maybe he did the sensible thing in monetising his key asset (ie, renting out Kellynch!) while he lived in a smaller way in Bath (though are we told whether he continued his extravagant ways there?!)


message 43: by Beth-In-UK (new)

Beth-In-UK | 1041 comments As a PS to that last post of mine, if anyone has ever seen the old wartime black and white movie 'I Know Where I'm Going' (essentially a romcom I guess), the hero is a Scottish laird (on leave from the Navy) who has let out his ancestral island to a rich millionaire (that the heroine is determined to marry - even though she's falling for the laird!). The hero says that by letting out the island for a year, the rent he gets will enable him to live on his island himself for three years, so it was worth it to him! (Plus, anyway, he was in the navy, so wasn't going to get to live there himself during the war I suppose.)

I wonder how many 'manor houses' in the regency period were, in fact, let out by impoverished owners to either folk like the Crofts, or, perhaps, to the nouveau riche making pots of money out of the industrial revolution, trade etc.,

In fact, thinking about it, Bingley rents Netherfield Hall, doesn't he - though I don't think we're ever told who is the actual owner (which one would suppose that gentry like the Bennets would have known, yet they never mention it).

It's always a bit ironic that the BIngley sisters are so socially snobby (eg, about Charlotte's father, newly enriched), when their own fortune is derived from trade, I seem to recall, but presumably a few generations ago so it isn't as 'vulgar' any more??


message 44: by Beth-In-UK (new)

Beth-In-UK | 1041 comments Mary, doesn't Mr Eliot take matters into his own hands, once Anne marries Wentworth, and makes Mrs Clay his own mistress - to stop her snaffling Sir Walter, and then the final comment by Austen is something about whether Mrs Clay would manage to persuade Mr E to marry her (and she'd still become Lady Eliot in the end!)


message 45: by Beth-In-UK (new)

Beth-In-UK | 1041 comments Shana - I hadn't remembered that about Lady E having a still-born son way back when.

I wonder if it's noteworthy that in three of Austen's novels - Persuasion, Pride and Prejudice, and Emma - the heroines have no brothers to inherit their father's property. Or is it just a tactic to drivce the assorted plots forward?!

I suppose it's least financially relevant in Emma, as it looks like there is no entail anyway, so when Mr Woodhouse finally does die his fortune will split between his daughters anyway?

Families with entailed estates must have lived on tenterhooks until an heir - and spare! - was born (and survived to manhood and inheritance)

In a way, although in Sense and Sensibility Elinor and Marianne do have a brother, because he is only a half-brother they get no financial protection from him (aided and abetted by the ghastly Fanny!)


message 46: by Isabel (new)

Isabel (nomorechocolate) | 41 comments Concerning the matter of money, I read in John Mullan's "What Matters in Jane Austen?" (How Much Money is Enough, ch. 13) that around Jane Austen's time you needed an annual income of about 600 pounds to live the life of a gentleman/-woman. 1000 a year to keep a carriage. The yearly income was the 5% interest you got from your fortune.
So if Wentworth had 1000 or 1250 (I forget if he made 20,000 or 25,000 in the war, you can add 500 for Anne (she will be given 10,000 - once her father's debts are paid, I guess), so that makes a not so bad income of 1,500/1,750 a year. If W. is able to make even more money, their income will increase further.


message 47: by Mary (new)

Mary Catelli | 50 comments Emma has to be able to inherit since she explicitly says that her lack of poverty will make her situation as an old maid quite endurable.


message 48: by Shana (new)

Shana Jefferis-Zimmerman | 160 comments Isabel wrote: "Concerning the matter of money, I read in John Mullan's "What Matters in Jane Austen?" (How Much Money is Enough, ch. 13) that around Jane Austen's time you needed an annual income of about 600 pou..."

Isabel, Your numbers are consistent with what I've read. I posted earlier (above) that Captain Wentworth should expect an income of 1250 pounds per annum. I arrived at that number using his 25,000 pound fortune (which is mentioned in Persuasion at the end) and I multiplied it by 5% (the customary return on government bonds in England at the time). Jane Austen does this herself when Mrs. Bennett proclaims that Bingley has "four or five thousand a year" in P & P. 4% and 5% were customary rates of return on bonds. There is a lower returning bond, called a consol, that was supposed to only return 3%, but it was sold at a discount so, in actuality your return was in the 4-5% range that normal bonds paid. I've spent a lot of time researching money in the Regency, as my two novels relied upon the numbers for accuracy's sake.

By far, the most valuable research I ever printed off the internet is from Susanna Ives' website. It must be 20 pages long, but it is an excerpt from "A New System of Practical Domestic Economy" published in 1823. The numbers are from 1823 (or a bit before) but it gives me the normal annual budget, broken down by type of expense, for every level of income, starting at 55 pounds per year and going up to 5,000 pounds per annum. It's fascinating as it shows how many servants, if any, the family would have, how many horses, how many carriages, the rent the family would typically pay, what was spent on clothes, how much the family should save every year....

It shows the cost of many, many things and is so detailed that costs are broken down into pounds, shillings, and denarius (the English penny at the time).

But back to you point, Isabel, this document shows a family of five earning 300 pounds per annum would have 2 maid-servants and no horses and no carriages, not even a gig.

The same family of five at 600 pounds per annum would have 2 maid-servants, 1 man-servant (and men-servants were more expensive than maid-servants, lol), and 2 horses.

750 gets the same family a gig (though not a more expensive enclosed carriage) as well.

So our numbers coincide pretty well. Some readers may find this boring, but I was not going to write about any family's lifestyle and have a completely mis-matched income to their circumstances!


message 49: by Beth-In-UK (new)

Beth-In-UK | 1041 comments Not boring at all - quite fascinating! I wonder how it would compare to something written these days about how much money one would need to live at various levels. A lot would depend, I would say, on whether one was fortunate enough to have inherited a house - the same was probably true back then. These days, housing is in such short supply in the UK that rents are very high, and eat up a huge proportion of income, whereas food is very cheap, and takes far less of one's wages. As for hiring staff, forget it!!!!

Most new mothers know that unless they are earning a very good salary, or only intend to have one child, that it is cheaper to be a stay at home mum rather than to pay for two or more lots of childcare. Especially if they also want someone else to clean their house for them while they are out working!

Of course, it is a definite social improvement that wages ARE so high these days - cheap labour means exploitation, whichever way you look at it.

I wonder, in Regency times, where the cut off was between being just wealthy enough to HAVE a servant, and just poor enough to have to BE one....???!1


message 50: by Beth-In-UK (new)

Beth-In-UK | 1041 comments Shana, does that estimable book on Household Economy go into the finances of renting versus owning the property you lived in? If you owned the house, were there local taxes (the current rates/council tax) to be paid, and, indeed, did you have to pay them if you rented (as renters do in the UK)?

How expensive was renting? Are we ever told in Persuasion what the Crofts were forking out for Kellynch?


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