Posted by Arnessa on November 20, 1997 at 15:22:44:
In response to Financial Situation, written by Dick Schneider on November 20, 1997 at 12:26:15
] I have been fascinated in the Jane Austen stories by the frequent reference to a person's income. How did one know the amount of income others had? Did the upper classes go around telling each other how much income they received? How did one verify such figures or were they just accepted at face value? Part of the reason this question comes to mind is that I am not so able to preceisely define in advance how much income I will have.
It's a good question. I always assumed a lot of it had to do with gossip. Often a person's income is introduced with "THEY SAY he has 5,000 a year.." or something like that. There is no verification of these figures that I can see but if you've ever lived in a small town for any length of time you begin to understand how accurate "they" can be. But the situation changes if you move to larger cities. Like in Northanger Abbey, we actually have a situation where the calculation of Catherine's wealth is made from an inaccurate report circulated in Bath.
But people will inevitably talk, and people who know the person in question fairly well. Remember how in Persuasion, Mrs. Smith knows that Mr. Eliot has gone through much of his wealth because her husband was such good friends with him.
Also, too, when I think that families lived on their estates for centuries, it's easy to imagine that other people in the town could estimate how much the estate and its current proprietor were worth in the currency of the day.
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