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Old 08-18-2018, 10:14 PM
Dinsdale Dinsdale is offline
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Did 19th century English know everyone's income?

In novels such as Jane Austen's, characters often say things like, "He has 6000 pounds a year..." Did people really have a good idea of other peoples' income and, if so, how?
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Old 08-18-2018, 11:51 PM
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There was probably some publication like Forbes 500. Word of mouth. Nosy servants spreading the good news. Just like now we know all the movie stars and rich peoples worth.
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Old 08-19-2018, 12:57 AM
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Bear in mind that they weren't talking about income from work - they didn't care about that. They only cared about income from land owned, or more specifically, rental income from tenants . My guess is that that kind of information was relatively easy to find.
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Old 08-19-2018, 01:32 AM
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Bear in mind that they weren't talking about income from work - they didn't care about that. They only cared about income from land owned, or more specifically, rental income from tenants . My guess is that that kind of information was relatively easy to find.
I can't think of any reason why it would be. Unless they had recently been party to some litigation, a lord's lease agreements with his tenants or vassals would not be public information. On the other hand, it would be generally known which lands he owns, and one could arrive at an estimate of their income that way.

But the far more likely explanation is somebody was nosy. Or the information was obtained through the tried-and-true method of plot contrivance.
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Old 08-19-2018, 01:49 AM
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The classic Austen example is Mrs. Bennet, and her source was obviously the gossip grapevine. In a much smaller and relatively closely-knit small town/rural society, there were few secrets. Local property rental values would be known for establishing the rates to be charged for local government purposes.
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Old 08-19-2018, 02:14 AM
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I can't think of any reason why it would be. Unless they had recently been party to some litigation, a lord's lease agreements with his tenants or vassals would not be public information. On the other hand, it would be generally known which lands he owns, and one could arrive at an estimate of their income that way.
I think that it wasn't so much that rental revenues were public knowledge, but rather that they didn't change all that much - so if you knew how much his grandfather made off the land 50 years ago, you could assume he was pulling in basically the same amount now. Pre-Industrial revolution, farmland basically had a fixed output.
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Old 08-19-2018, 03:38 AM
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Bear in mind that they weren't talking about income from work - they didn't care about that. They only cared about income from land owned, or more specifically, rental income from tenants . My guess is that that kind of information was relatively easy to find.
The most common known income source mentioned in the books is actually interest from a sum of inherited money:
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Originally Posted by Sense and Sensibility
'They may all live very well together on the interest of ten thousand pounds'
(which is given as 500L a year, if you're wondering) Inherited sums do seem to be given precisely, though no mention is made of where the information comes from.

Most of the others appear to be approximations; Mrs Bennet doesn't actually get more accurate than 'Four or five thousand a year' in her estimation of Bingley's weath; Willoughby's estate in Sense and Sensibility is 'Rated by Sir John at about six or seven hundred a year'.
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Old 08-19-2018, 10:34 AM
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I agree that most of those numbers are based on gossip or estimation (e.g. his estate has X acres of good farmland that should rent at Y per year).

Of course, you see plenty of lying about being rich in books by Thackeray or Smollett, e.g.
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Old 08-19-2018, 12:11 PM
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Thanks. I didn't know if maybe there were some public tax records or something. Haven't read much Hardy, Bronte, etc in a while, so didn't know how familiar that trope was beyond Austin. I did recently read Gaskell's Cranford, and they talked about a couple of the middle class characters' annual income - after one character - Mellie? - lost all her investments in bank stocks. I seem to recall Trollope's Barchester novels discussing annual income.

How were the estates "productive." Did they sell meat and produce? That doesn't seem to be discussed too often - unless someone is hard up and selling timber or something. I always sorta thought of the produce and rents from property as sorta self sufficient - going into the running of the estate.

And some of the wealth does not seem directly tied to land. For example, Bingley rents, doesn't he? The way they talk about estates as predictably generating income, they impressed me as pretty secure, like guaranteed annuities. Tho occasionally someone will go bust on a railroad, canal, or overseas investment.

Next up, where and how did those women go to the bathroom?
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Old 08-19-2018, 12:26 PM
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How were the estates "productive." Did they sell meat and produce? That doesn't seem to be discussed too often - unless someone is hard up and selling timber or something. I always sorta thought of the produce and rents from property as sorta self sufficient - going into the running of the estate.
Tenants produced whatever it was their land produced - wheat, barley, oats, milk, pork, linen,etc, probably some combination of those things. Landlords took a cut, either of the goods themselves, or the revenue from selling them at market.

Regarding how people knew about rich men's income, bear in mind that gradations of rank were extremely important - someone who got £10k would not want to be seen as less important at a gathering than someone who was on £2k. Also it would be social death for a host if they failed to treat guests according to their relevant wealth and rank.
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Old 08-19-2018, 12:29 PM
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Regarding annuities, you should note that inflation in the 19th century was effectively zero. That meant that with a large enough investment, 3% government bonds called Consols provided a guaranteed income for the rest of someone's life.
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Old 08-19-2018, 12:47 PM
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I also realized several of the "livings" in these books are with the church.
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Old 08-19-2018, 02:48 PM
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Inherited sums do seem to be given precisely, though no mention is made of where the information comes from.
Wills are probated in Court, and are thus public record, available to anyone.
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Old 08-19-2018, 08:04 PM
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Quoth The Stafford Cripps:

Regarding how people knew about rich men's income, bear in mind that gradations of rank were extremely important - someone who got £10k would not want to be seen as less important at a gathering than someone who was on £2k. Also it would be social death for a host if they failed to treat guests according to their relevant wealth and rank.
Though, of course, social standing also wasn't the same thing as economic standing. It was quite possible for a baron to have more income than an earl, or even for a commoner to have more than either, and which was more relevant would depend on context.
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Old 08-19-2018, 09:10 PM
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In novels such as Jane Austen's, characters often say things like, "He has 6000 pounds a year..."
FWIW, Googling suggests that the factor to convert to today's dollars is around 100, so this is the rough equivalent of $600,000.
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Old 08-19-2018, 10:29 PM
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Regarding annuities, you should note that inflation in the 19th century was effectively zero. That meant that with a large enough investment, 3% government bonds called Consols provided a guaranteed income for the rest of someone's life.
Or rather, that the backing of the currency and the control over its supply was not nearly the same as it is today. It wasn't that inflation was nonexistent, it's that it on average wasn't the straight shot slowly creeping upwards that it is today, which is made possible by fiat currency and central banks keeping an eye on the money supply and responding to market conditions.

When money was all backed by precious metals (or actual precious metal), then inflation would be based on whether the new amount of gold being mined less that which was irretrievably consumed (such as thrown in a volcano) kept pace with the rate the economy was growing and demand for money increased. Prices would rise and fall with the the economy since there wasn't a central bank able to tighten or loosen the money supply as needed. Things like the Spanish finding huge amounts of gold and silver in the New World could cause quite a shock to the system.
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Old 08-19-2018, 10:48 PM
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Regarding annuities, you should note that inflation in the 19th century was effectively zero. That meant that with a large enough investment, 3% government bonds called Consols provided a guaranteed income for the rest of someone's life.
Well, it depends on what you mean by "effectively zero". Much of the nineteenth century was characterised by wild bouts of inflation and deflation, with higher highs and lower lows than we see today, and very rapid changes from one state to the other. Smoothed over long periods, however, inflation was close to zero. But in any period of, say, five or ten years, somebody living on a fixed income could either experience a world of pain, or a dramatic increase in prosperity. What they would be very unlikely to experience, for much of the nineteenth century, was a prolonged period of price stability. That didn't happen until quite late on in the nineteenth century.

Relevant to the works of Austen, the UK experienced several bouts of high inflation during the Napoleonic wars, followed by a slump and significant periods of deflation in the years afterwards. From the mid-1830s onwards, bouts of high inflation and deflation still occurred, but tended to balance on another out over periods of, say, 10 years.
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Old 08-20-2018, 03:02 AM
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Thanks. I didn't know if maybe there were some public tax records or something. Haven't read much Hardy, Bronte, etc in a while, so didn't know how familiar that trope was beyond Austin. I did recently read Gaskell's Cranford, and they talked about a couple of the middle class characters' annual income - after one character - Mellie? - lost all her investments in bank stocks. I seem to recall Trollope's Barchester novels discussing annual income.

How were the estates "productive." Did they sell meat and produce? That doesn't seem to be discussed too often - unless someone is hard up and selling timber or something. I always sorta thought of the produce and rents from property as sorta self sufficient - going into the running of the estate.

And some of the wealth does not seem directly tied to land. For example, Bingley rents, doesn't he? The way they talk about estates as predictably generating income, they impressed me as pretty secure, like guaranteed annuities. Tho occasionally someone will go bust on a railroad, canal, or overseas investment.

Next up, where and how did those women go to the bathroom?
Landed estates were often vast (many still are), so would have generated considerable income in sales of produce and meat, as well as rent from tenant farmers.

As for Bingley, I think we can assume he has inherited wealth, and wills are public record, so everyone would know what he inherited.
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Old 08-20-2018, 03:57 AM
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Though, of course, social standing also wasn't the same thing as economic standing. It was quite possible for a baron to have more income than an earl, or even for a commoner to have more than either, and which was more relevant would depend on context.
Sure, but Darcy doesn't have a title, so for his social standing it's in his interests to let his income and wealth be known.
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Old 08-20-2018, 05:01 AM
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Wills are probated in Court, and are thus public record, available to anyone.
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...wills are public record, so everyone would know what he inherited.
Well, yes, but it is much, much more complicated than that.

Wills were publically accessible in the sense that anyone could obtain a copy from whichever ecclesiastical court it had been proved in. But that required paying fees, so people usually only applied for copies if they had a direct interest in the inheritance.

But more importantly, as economic historians often have cause to lament, wills are really useless as detailed sources about wealth. Often the testator will just say something along the lines of 'I leave all my land to my son X'. Or perhaps 'I leave all my land in Barsetshire to my eldest son X and all my land in Rutshire to my second son Y'. Smart lawyers knew that it was better not to be too specific, as a detailed list risked omitting something. Usually descriptions were no more detailed than they needed to be. Anyway, 'counting manors' is notoriously not a good way of measuring wealth.

It is true that the ecclesiastical courts required executors to submit inventories listing and valuing the deceased person's property. But this applied only to personal goods and not to land. Moreover, although death duties did exist during Austen's time, those also did not (as a broad generalisation) apply to land.

In any case, it wasn't too difficult for neighbours to have a rough sense of what the land someone owned was worth. Ownership of land couldn't exactly be secret. Owners were usually only too keen to assert their property rights and their tenants had no obvious reason to disguise the identity of the owner from whom they were leasing their land. So the locals almost always had a fairly clear idea of who owned what land. Moreover, they would have an equally clear idea of what that land was worth, either because they themselves were leasing parts of it or because they knew what the going rate was in that area. This was exactly the sort of thing in which smart farmers needed to take the closest possible interest.

Estimating the wealth of the largest landowners could be more difficult because their estates might be spread over many different areas. The locals in one area might not know much about the estates elsewhere. But that's rather like saying that it is a bit difficult to compare the wealth of, say, Bill Gates and Elon Musk. Someone with lots of estates in different parts of the country was obviously extremely wealthy.
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Old 08-20-2018, 08:23 AM
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I also realized several of the "livings" in these books are with the church.
More than "several," I would suggest. As used in Jane Austen and other writers of the same period, the word "living" almost always means an ecclesiastical office (i.e., a priest or vicar) for which the office holder receives a certain income, derived from the revenues of church property. The more official term for such an office is "benefice," but calling it a "living" was common.
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Old 08-20-2018, 10:53 AM
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I’m not sure why - or how - someone might keep their income a secret. Others have already mentioned various ways by which a person’s wealth might be estimated. But the most important thing to me is that wealth was linked to status, and marriages were financial alliances. A person would want to advertise their wealth as a way of securing their place in society and obtaining a partner.

I can’t think of what advantage there would be to keep it secret, nor to publically claim less income than one actually had. There might be an advantage in falsely claiming you had greater income, but if a person did try this they would have a hard time maintaining the expenses necessary for the deception to work.
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Old 08-20-2018, 11:02 AM
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There might be an advantage in falsely claiming you had greater income, but if a person did try this they would have a hard time maintaining the expenses necessary for the deception to work.
True. Guess it would be a short-term tactic to snag a richer spouse (for yourself or your child) that could provide support in the long-term.
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Old 08-20-2018, 01:10 PM
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There might be an advantage in falsely claiming you had greater income, but if a person did try this they would have a hard time maintaining the expenses necessary for the deception to work.
I don't know about real life, but it was common in Trollope's novels for aristocrats to have gone heavily into debt in order to keep up appearances, though. If memory serves, the title character in Ralph the Heir almost marries the daughter of his boot supplier in order to get him to waive his balance owed. The local squire in Doctor Thorne has to sell parts of his land because he went into hock with a rich merchant to pay for his daughter's marriage.
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Old 08-20-2018, 02:47 PM
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The percentage of landed people was always very small. And they intermarried, mixed socially, did business with each other, etc. Combine that with basically no rules on a local barrister or tax clerk blabbing to friends, among that tiny group general knowledge of others wealth would be common knowledge.

Wealth did not directly mean status. This was a key difference that separated the 13 colonies and England. In the US a some people grew up poor and became successful which usually provided high status. Benjamin Franklin was one of ten kids, a runaway apprentice who was a self started businessman and scholar. Became internationally renowned and respected. That sort of thing didn't happen often in England (and is still considered unusual).

So a rich merchant was far down the ladder compared to a baron up to his neck in debt.

OTOH, with wealth one could acquire a title thru various means. But it could be tricky and might take a generation or two to get a worthy title.
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Old 08-20-2018, 04:50 PM
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Plus consider that any bank or other such institution would need details on the customers' income. (sort of like today). And confidentiality was always less of an issue before it became a formal legal requirement. As mentioned, the social circles were quite small, especially in the more rural settings - so like any small town, noble, merchant or peasant, everyone knew everyone else's business. If somebody did not pay his boot-maker or his grocer, everyone else would hear of it. If Bob got paid before Charley, Charley would hear about it and grumble. Staff would gossip that his lordliness had gone to London on urgent business to try and settle debts and get a cash advance with this banker.

Plus, this is small town society gossip. Accuracy was never necessarily a strong suit for this information. A person might try to set the record straight, but then would need to produce evidence, at least by deed. If the bills were never paid, eventually everyone would know, no matter how much he claimed.

Since "how rich are you?" was a major source of status, it was of course a major source of gossip too... as is evident from the mentions in those novels.

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Old 08-20-2018, 06:34 PM
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The opening pages of Vanity Fair are all about this sort of speculation.
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Old 08-20-2018, 10:58 PM
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Why would we even be asking this? Didn't nearly all Victorian fiction have omniscient third party narrators?
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Old 08-21-2018, 12:39 AM
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Why would we even be asking this? Didn't nearly all Victorian fiction have omniscient third party narrators?
Yes, but frequently information about a character's property and/or income is imputed to other characters in the book. We know that Mr. Bingley has "four or five thousand a year" because Mrs. Bennet tells us so.
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Old 08-21-2018, 03:58 AM
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Why would we even be asking this?
Because, as the OP states, 'In novels such as Jane Austen's, characters often say things like, "He has 6000 pounds a year..."'
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Old 08-21-2018, 05:26 AM
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Didn't nearly all Victorian fiction have omniscient third party narrators?
Also, Jane Austen wasn't Victorian, and while the books are written in the third person, her narrators are not omniscient, eg the Fairfax/Churchill surprise or Marianne not understanding why Willoughby was ignoring her.
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Old 08-21-2018, 02:23 PM
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Hmm - hadn't thought of that. Guess most are 3d party. But the one I just finished - Tenant of Wildfell Hall - definitely 1st.
(No explicit references to other characters' income in that book either, tho.)

Even if there were not many references to specific income, I believe there are quite common references to impoverished gentility needing to marry someone of wealth. And I believe there are many mentions of pre-engagement "negotiations?," during which a woman's father would say how much he would settle on her. I guess if that was written as a contract, there would be plenty of disclosure and opportunity for people to blab/brag/complain.
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Old 08-21-2018, 08:11 PM
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Hmm - hadn't thought of that. Guess most are 3d party. But the one I just finished - Tenant of Wildfell Hall - definitely 1st.
(No explicit references to other characters' income in that book either, tho.)

Even if there were not many references to specific income, I believe there are quite common references to impoverished gentility needing to marry someone of wealth. And I believe there are many mentions of pre-engagement "negotiations?," during which a woman's father would say how much he would settle on her. I guess if that was written as a contract, there would be plenty of disclosure and opportunity for people to blab/brag/complain.
It was indeed written as a contract or, rather, a trust - a "marriage settlement". But, while those directly involved would know the details of the marriage settlement, they weren't public unless one or other party chose to publicise them.
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Old 08-21-2018, 10:54 PM
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Sure, but Darcy doesn't have a title, so for his social standing it's in his interests to let his income and wealth be known.
But his aunt was a Lady (an Earl's daughter, as well as being married to a Sir) and was therefore considered titled. Remember what a big deal she made about that to Elizabeth near the end, to which Elizabeth replied that "Mr. Darcy is a gentleman, and I am the daughter of a gentleman, so we are of the same rank" or words to that effect. Of course, Elizabeth's mother was another story altogether, I always thought she must have been a (very pretty) barmaid or tenant farmer's daughter before Mr. Bennett raised her up.

Mr. Darcy's mother, Lady Catherine's sister, was also a Lady, as the daughter of an earl, but Darcy's father was not titled, and so neither was he. But he was the grandson of an Earl (not even an Honorable?)

In "The Importance of Being Earnest" (1895) Cecily Cardew has 150,000 pounds "in the funds." We know this because Jack Worthing is her guardian and so is privy to her financial status. I've never known why "the funds" were particularly wonderful, but Lady Bracknell certainly seems to think so. I assume it means something like rock solid blue chip stocks with high dividends.
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Old 08-21-2018, 11:57 PM
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Mrs Bennet’s Brother is a wealthy merchant, and her sister is married to an attorney. This points to a middle class status for her family.

Darcy is the grandson of an earl, but through the female line. That doesn’t count. Similarly Lady Catherine’s daughter, also the grandchild of an earl through the female line, is also plain Miss de Bourgh.
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Old 08-22-2018, 12:17 AM
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But his aunt was a Lady (an Earl's daughter, as well as being married to a Sir) and was therefore considered titled. Remember what a big deal she made about that to Elizabeth near the end, to which Elizabeth replied that "Mr. Darcy is a gentleman, and I am the daughter of a gentleman, so we are of the same rank" or words to that effect. Of course, Elizabeth's mother was another story altogether, I always thought she must have been a (very pretty) barmaid or tenant farmer's daughter before Mr. Bennett raised her up.

Mr. Darcy's mother, Lady Catherine's sister, was also a Lady, as the daughter of an earl, but Darcy's father was not titled, and so neither was he. But he was the grandson of an Earl (not even an Honorable?)
As the grandson of an earl, wouldn't Darcy still have had his name in Debrett?

On the continent, where the untitled gentry (like the Bennets) were generally considered to be of the nobility along with the titled lords and ladies, it was sometimes just those untitled families that had the oldest pedigrees with regard to their noble status, and as such they sometimes enjoyed greater status more status than ducal or baronial families having been ennobled only a century or so earlier.

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Old 08-22-2018, 04:36 AM
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It was indeed written as a contract or, rather, a trust - a "marriage settlement". But, while those directly involved would know the details of the marriage settlement, they weren't public unless one or other party chose to publicise them.
While the contract wouldn’t be a public document, the terms necessarily had to be consistent with the very public process where the bride and groom and their ‘prospects’ had been marketed widely since birth. Everyone was keen that their families’ wealth be recognised, and marriages were the time when the facts were proved. Either your daughter came with £3,000 a year or she didn’t. Your son’s prospects would be a bit vaguer, but his prospective wife’s family would need to be provided with hard evidence of your claims.

And having acquired a new son or daughter-in-law, the assets they brought into your family need to be made known, as context for marrying off your other children.
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Old 08-22-2018, 01:12 PM
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It seems to me too, that when the alternatives are grubbing in actual work for a living, or mooching off the relatives (and friends) - it was important for status that you make known, at least discreetly, what assets or "funds" you have available for your life of leisure. Presumably some occupations - military commissions, lawyers, elected positions - held a bit more prestige than actually working for a living. (Did a commissioned officer pull in a wage also?)

I do wonder too whether this sort of knowledge was important to those who supplied the lordly class, and therefore part of their social gossip - after all, even the ones who had decent funds were often notorious for taking their time paying their tailor's bill. What was their equivalent of a credit check on a client?
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Old 08-22-2018, 04:51 PM
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...I've never known why "the funds" were particularly wonderful, but Lady Bracknell certainly seems to think so. I assume it means something like rock solid blue chip stocks with high dividends.
I'm reading a book right now titled Behemoth - about the development of giant factories.

Started w/ cloth mills in England around 1820. Yesterday I read a line that said something like, "In England most wealthy people had the majority of their wealth in land or government bonds." I was wondering about merchants and folk in shipping...

I think trusts and various corporate structures developed around about that time.

One thing this book commented on was the shortage of circulating cash. Large commercial schemes apparently had difficulty coming up with sufficient cash for payroll.
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Old 08-22-2018, 04:57 PM
Mk VII Mk VII is offline
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In the absence of any kind of financial regulation, your word was indeed, your bond, as there was no other way of your creditor getting his money. Which was why rumouring that your antagonist was not good for his bond was a duelling matter, if your creditworthiness in the market was being attacked (the last fatal duel in Scotland was over this.) Of course this option was not open to tradesmen. They just had to be shrewd at judging a client's worth.
Army commissions did carry a salary, but it usually wasn't enough to support the lifestyle they were required to lead.
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Old 08-22-2018, 07:39 PM
Tom Tildrum Tom Tildrum is offline
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Well, the creditor could get security in the form of a lien on land for large-scale lending, and take the debtor to court after the fact, just like today. What they didn't have were standardized credit scores.
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Old 08-22-2018, 08:13 PM
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Army commissions did carry a salary, but it usually wasn't enough to support the lifestyle they were required to lead.
Plus, you had to buy your commission in the first place. (Or some wealthy relative or patron had to buy it for you.)

Some regiments were more fashionable than others, and the officers were under a greater expectation to live high, and to have a private income with which to do so. There's an indirect reference to this in Austen, where at the end of Pride and Prejudice Wickham takes a commission in a "northern regiment" which has the dual advantage of not requiring him to live beyond his means, and taking him and his wife well away from her family.
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Old 08-23-2018, 07:49 AM
Brayne Ded Brayne Ded is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by UDS View Post
Plus, you had to buy your commission in the first place. (Or some wealthy relative or patron had to buy it for you.)

Some regiments were more fashionable than others, and the officers were under a greater expectation to live high, and to have a private income with which to do so. There's an indirect reference to this in Austen, where at the end of Pride and Prejudice Wickham takes a commission in a "northern regiment" which has the dual advantage of not requiring him to live beyond his means, and taking him and his wife well away from her family.
The system of purchasing army commissions lasted until the Cardwell reforms of around 1870. Army officers generally needed to have a private income, and were expected to have one. Hence the large number of sons of nobility in the army.

The north-south divide that Mrs Gaskell highlighted applied to the army as well. The London regiments were the most fashionable ones, anything from "up north" was seen as very low status. Although the north of England has always provided a disproportionately large number of military men, I'm hard-pressed to think of any northern regiment of any fame. Scotland is another matter.
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Old 08-23-2018, 08:01 AM
Brayne Ded Brayne Ded is offline
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Status and money

The discussion seems to be about the Georgian/Regency era (Jane Austen) and the early-mid-Victorian era stories of Anthony Trollope and Mrs Gaskell. This was a time when there was either no income tax, or very little, and no inheritance tax. It also saw a radical change in British society due to commoners acquiring wealth and the aristocracy steadily losing it. The 18 C and early 19 C saw a number of nabobs (Englishmen in India who became rich, sometimes fabulously so) who were conspicuously wealthy, later on this changed to those who became rich through the industrial revolution. There were of course nouveau riche snobs who married into the aristocracy, a favorite topic of some novels, but as time went on this occurred less often, as status became linked more to actual wealth as opposed to a title.

One thing that hit the landed aristocracy is perhaps just after the period in question, but this was the general depression of the 1870s followed by a slump in farm produce prices in the 1880s. The latter was partly due to imports from the colonies. It also hit hard at the old idea that land was immutable wealth that yielded a more or less guaranteed income, both from produce and rents. The number of tenants also dropped sharply, as they left for the towns to work in factories. Quite a number of country houses changed hands in this period, a clear indicator of economic distress.
  #45  
Old 08-23-2018, 01:29 PM
Mk VII Mk VII is offline
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A series of disastrous harvests in Europe reduced agricultural incomes while at the same time the opening up of the North American prairies meant wheat prices didn't rise to compensate.
  #46  
Old 08-23-2018, 04:20 PM
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Hmm - hadn't thought of that. Guess most are 3d party. But the one I just finished - Tenant of Wildfell Hall - definitely 1st.
Just thought of another 1st person one - Jane Eyre.
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  #47  
Old 08-25-2018, 09:30 AM
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Reading Tim Harford’s “Fify Inventions...” in the section on insurance he mentions that governments in the 1700’s started selling a form of life insurance. They were perpetual bonds that instead of paying back the principal paid to the life of the buyer. These were guaranteed by the government so essentially a very safe annuity. Perhaps this explains the reference to “funds”?
  #48  
Old 08-25-2018, 11:04 AM
Mk VII Mk VII is offline
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It refers to Government stocks - typically perpetual stocks which have no redemption date but pay a fixed interest rate. 'Consols' have been running since the 18th century, and itself represents a consolidation of earlier government debt.

The last of this perpetual debt has recently been redeemed, as the (rather low in recent decades) interest rate it paid is now above market rate.
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