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Written by Nikki N
(3/17/2013 11:14 p.m.)
in consequence of the missive, Emma's fortune, penned by Thérèse
I tend to agree with Therese that Emma was heiress of 30,000 rather than already in possession of it, since her father was still alive, and Regency society was a patriarchal society. If Emma had inherited money elsewhere and was richer than her elder sister, this would be unusual, so if JA intended it that way, I think it would have been specifically mentioned, to describe her unusual situation. But instead, we're told that Emma's distinction from Isabella is that she was much cleverer as a child than her older sister, not that she had somehow inherited some more money.
A fortune of 60,000 pounds plus a small to moderate estate like Hartfield would already make the Woodhouses rich by JA standards. It could bring in an income of perhaps 4,000 a year, and in S&S, Col Brandon, with 2,000 a year is described as rich, and in P&P, Bingley with 4,000 to 5,000 a year is certainly rich. I think the Longbourn estate of 2,000 a year in P&P is bigger than the Hartfield estate -- Longbourn has the village of Longbourn, whereas there is no village of Hartfield, it was only adjoined to the village of Highbury -- but the Bennets had hardly any money from other sources. The Woodhouses had a large house on their small estate because of their money from other sources.
Even if Mr W disliked London, if he was so very rich, I believe he would have regularly consulted and brought in a London physician as well as the apothecary Mr Perry. I feel that the Woodhouses' lifetyle was relatively modest and economical, but quite reasonable and sensible for an income of about 4,000 a year. If they were much richer, their lifestyle woud be too modest, Mr W was also quite persuadable, and if they had so much money, I think he could have been persuaded to allow Emma more opportunities for society and fashion e.g. getting Isabella to invite and introduce fashionable young ladies from London, and holding balls at Hartfield for them. Emma could also have ordered her clothes from London instead of shopping at Ford's in the village.
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