Posted by Theresa (via Caroline) on September 03, 1997 at 22:32:54:
Theresa asked about Highbury on the Emma page. She wrote:
1)Can anyone give me a good source for information about the community and business structure and appearance for a town such as Highbury? It was supposed to be located in Surrey and the book does mention key places--The Crowne, Fords, Mrs. Goddard's school, Donwell Abby, etc.. I'd like to better understand the social and business structure of such a place.
2) I've wondered if Donwell Abby was an old monastary given as an award to the Knightly family after the conquest.
3)Where do the Woodhouse's get their money. They seem located so close to the business district--closer than any other key home place in Austen's other novels that I can recall.
Three questions!The easiest and quickest one to answer is #2, so I'll do that first.
HOW THE KNIGHTLYS GOT DONWELL ABBEY
Abbeys were church lands, and often consisted of enormous amounts of property. No monarch could meddle with them at all - not sell, buy, give or whatever - a very vexing thing for the king! King Henry VIII abolished the monasteries and confiscated all the lands, ostensibly as part of his dispute with the Pope, but in reality because he was chronically short of money.(that's a really interesting story, but it's sidetracking, so I won't go into it here.) So, sometime in the 1530's, Donwell and all its posessions would have been grabbed by the king and sold to the highest bidder - aristocrat or no. Depending on the details, the whole shebang might have been sold to one person, or the property might have been split up into smaller lots and sold to several people. (There are some bits in the book which suggest the latter to me. Randalls might well have been Abbey property, too. Hartfield could have been, but I have a suspicion, based mainly on its name, that it was not.)
If you wish, you could imagine that the Knightly family bought the lands which included the Abbey buildings, plus other farmlands (like RobertMartin's Abbey Mill farm) at this time. But it is just as likely that they acquired it at some later date.
Sorry, it's not as romantic as doing something for your country and getting royally rewarded!
WHERE DO THE WOODHOUSES GET THIER MONEY FROM
The only business Mr Woodhouse seems to engage in is farming, or rather being a landlord of farmers and having his own farm looked after by somebody. He has probably inherited most of his money, and may have some invested, though somehow I cannot see him taking much interest in investing! Living so close to the business sector is probably a result of the smallness of the village and the relative smallness of his estate (it's a big house, but it's not as big as Donwell, Pemberley or Rosings...)
#1requires a long answer, so I'll do it separately.
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