Quick Index Board Index Home FAQ Site Map
Written by Anselm
(9/6/2009 9:04 a.m.)
in consequence of the missive, Henry Dashwood should have had some income, penned by kathleen (elder)
I'm still trying to get my head around all the ins and outs of this inheritance stuff, but the Cambridge edition quotes Mary Hays, in The Memoirs of Emma Courtney (1796), as calling £1,000 apiece "a scanty pittance", even compared to the already "niggardly" provisions which would have been made for them under the terms of the strict settlement that would have prevailed at the time, geared to the transmission of the estate entire from eldest son to eldest son, at the expense of all the other children. According to this note, the three daughters could each have expected to get one third of £10,000 (i.e. the total possible charge of 12.5 per cent on the estate, which was worth £80,000, this being calculated from its £4,000 annual income being the standard 5 per cent of the estate).
Instead, their income is reduced to one eighth of what it had been before, from £4,000 to £500. Jane and Cassandra Austen and their mother lived on £460 per annum after George's death in 1805, and from all accounts they managed to keep up a genteel appearance - but only just. No carriage, the minimum of servants - Fanny describes it all in Ch.2.
Which leads me on to that...that...woman. A lot of electronic ink has been spilt, and doubtless will continue to be, on her atrocious conduct in whittling down the "scanty pittance" (if you accept the Cambridge note's calculation) of £1,000 apiece to effectively absolutely nothing. For me, the full outrageousness of her statement that "They will be much more able to give you something" is revealed by a comment in Gene Ruoff's essay Wills, in which he states that John and Fanny Dashwood are "near to being fabulously wealthy - only 300 to 400 families in England had incomes of over £10,000 a year". (Of course, this should be read in conjuction with the many posts on this site about inflation.) If you accept this calculation, it would be like singer Sir Tom Jones, at £130 million the 406th richest person in the UK, telling me, on £15,000 a year, the same thing. Words cannot express the disgust that any decent person would feel upon hearing this - and JA wisely doesn't even try. She just leaves it to us to know what to feel.
Groupread is maintained by Myretta with WebBBS 3.21.