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|The loss of the family home
Written by Elizabeth K
(9/8/2009 4:01 a.m.)
in consequence of the missive, "Wealth is comparative", penned by Elizabeth K
I fully realise that their significant drop in income would have been a large shock for the Dashwood sisters and their mother but the Dashwoods will still have enough money to live comfortably. In a time when a farm worker could expect to earn £25 in a year, and have to maintain “himself, his wife, and half a dozen children in food, lodging, clothes, and fuel” (Anna Laetitia Barbauld and John Aiken, Evenings at Home: Or, the Juvenile Budget Opened, 1846, written between 1793 and 1796), the Dashwoods are fortunate.
Yes, they will lose their carriage and horses, as well as some of their servants and a considerable fall in income per annum, but that is just hard luck! They are certainly not impecunious. As I said in my post, “Five hundred a year”: “Their standard of living will be different from what they are used to: a large Sussex estate, and they may have to economise more but they are a long way from being on the breadline. JA’s families may be deprived of some things, but they are never seriously badly off.”.
This is my point: the Dashwoods will have to reduce their expenditure quite considerably, especially as there were large taxes on items such as tea and sugar, but they are nowhere near being poor. They have kindly, wealthy relations belonging to the gentry, who can help them out. In that respect, they are very privileged as they can be secure in the thought that they will never fall into destitution.
However, it is very difficult to accurately compare; as Edward Copeland says, “Money in Jane Austen’s novels has an uncanny way of seeming so much like our own that we run the serious mistake of thinking that it is” (Jane Austen in Context, p. 317).
Oh, and a word to Divya: in our busy lifestyles today, I accept that it would be difficult to live in a Regency fashion, but in fact, I do (in part)! ]Imagine having to chop wood to heat your house: this is perfectly imaginable for me as I have done it - until a few years ago, we had no central heating and heating was provided by the woodstove and the open fire. Gathering firewood is a commonplace task for me and I don't have a microwave, good public transport or a tumble dryer. But as I have once again gone off-topic (so many things to talk about!), I shall concede that the Dashwoods would have had to greatly adapt. Another point is the loss of their beloved family home. I can only imagine their sorrow not only at the loss of their father but also at being literally kicked out of their own home and being made unwelcome there.
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