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|Lydia & Wickham's marriage settlement
Written by Jo Y
(2/13/2004 7:14 a.m.)
Uncle G's letter: "You will easily comprehend, from these particulars, that Mr Wickham's circumstances are not so hopeless as they are generally believed to be. The world has been deceived in that respect; and I am happy to say, there will be some little money, even when all his debts are discharged, to settle on my niece, in addition to her own fortune."
Mr B, Jane & Lizzie discussing the letter and it's implications: Lizzie says "... His debts to be discharged, and something still to remain! Oh! it must be my uncle's doings! Generous, good man, I am afraid he has distressed himself. A small sum could not do all this."
"No," said her father, "Wickham's a fool, if he takes her with a farthing less than ten thousand pounds. I should be sorry to think so ill of him, in the very beginning of our relationship."
"Ten thousand pounds! Heaven forbid! How is half such a sum to be repaid?"
Lydia is to receive 100 pounds per annum during her father's lifetime and also her equal share of 5000 pounds on the death of both her parents. Mr B also mentions 50 pounds p.a. after his death. That seems clear enough, although not sure where the 50 pounds comes from - not mentioned by Uncle G; perhaps Mr B's original intention should he die before Mrs B as part of the settlement of his estate? What I'm mostly curious about is the 10,000 pounds (not referred to in Uncle G's letter specifically; although is this alluded to in the text above?). Is this a speculative figure that Mr B suspects Wickham owes his debtors or is it another payment - a dowry? - payable on marriage? Col Forster reported that Wickham left gambling debts believed to be more than 1000 pounds in Brighton. Why then the huge leap to 10,000 if it's just to clear those debts? Wickham obviously has not the means to discharge his debts and the Bennet's assume that money has had to be paid out by the Gardiners. Do Lydia's family have some honorable obligation to settle the debts so that Lydia starts married life with a clean slate financially? Why is Wickham "a fool if he takes her with ... less than 10,000 pounds"? The Bennet girl's inheritance, as indeed everyone's income/inheritance, seems to be no secret in these times, so why is Lydia worth 10,000 pounds?
Have I missed something startlingly obvious? I would be grateful if someone can shed light on this situation.
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