Friday, November 16, 2012
Pride and Prejudice: 18% Complete
I'm a good section into Pride and Prejudice and I'm loving it so far! One of the main things in the beginning of the book, for some of the characters at least, is how much money the eligible gentlemen bachelors have per year. The girls' father, Mr. Bennet, is described as having two thousand pounds per year, the charming Mr. Bingley has four or five thousand, and Mr. Darcy has an astonishing ten thousand a year! Of course I have no point of reference for how much this is, but, thanks to a lovely little web page, run by Eric Nye from the University of Wyoming, you can convert from historical British pounds (by year) into modern American dollars. It's a completely ingenious site and I am indebted to Mr. Nye for setting it up. If you wish to do your own conversions, you can check the page out here.
So how much are Mr. Bingley and Mr. Darcy worth anyway? If we assume that this book takes place at the same time that it was published (1813) then Mr. Bingley has between $250,000 and $325,000 a year, compared with Mr. Bennet's $130,000. The wealthy Mr. Darcy comes in at about $650,000 a year. I was a little surprised by these numbers, to be honest. While these amounts of money are clearly in the "well-off" range, when I think of wealth and family fortunes in these old British days, I imagine it to be more than that (with the exception perhaps of Mr. Darcy's money...that's getting closer to what I was imagining). Now you do have to take into account the fact that some people, like Mr. Darcy and Mr. Bennet, I believe, owned their houses and didn't have to pay any mortgage or anything, which gives them more disposable income. Mr. Bingley is renting his house at Netherfield, however.
The first Austen vocabulary word I have for you is "strictures" which, in the context which I found it, means "a sternly critical or censorious remark or instruction."(definition from the New Oxford American Dictionary).
I only have a short little quote today, but one that I found funny. One thing I'm liking about Jane Austen is how, from the very first line, she puts in tongue-in-cheek remarks which are clearly not her own opinion but those of some of the characters. Here Mr. Bingley has enthusiastically accepted an invitation to a ball, to the delight of some of the women, and Austen writes:
"To be fond of dancing was a certain step towards falling in love; and very lively hopes of Mr. Bingley's heart were entertained."
Because, of course, if you like dancing then you surely must be about to fall in love!