I’m re-reading the novels of Jane Austen at the moment, and I’m reminded of a couple of questions that have puzzled me since I first read Emma about 20 years ago. They’re not related, but I thought I’d combine them rather than create two threads.
1: Pronouns. In her dialog, Austen often has characters, when talking with their siblings, speak of “my father” or “my mother.” To me, as a 21st-century American, this sounds odd, because the use of the possessive has a connotation of exclusion, i.e. my father, not yours. Talking to my sister, I would refer to Dad or Father, but not “my father,” because it would seem like I’m saying he’s not her father. With a friend, I’d speak about “my father” but not with my sister. It is my impression that virtually all Americans follow this usage.
So my question is, do people in the U.K. (or other English-speaking countries) still use this form today, or is it an outdated 19th-century usage? (Bonus question: Can you recall other writers who used the construction? I haven’t read many other writers from that period, but off the top of my head, I don’t recall Dickens or others using it. Is it peculiar to Austen, perhaps?)
- “Livings.” In pretty much every Austen novel, there is at least one clergyman who is given a “living” to serve at a local parrish. The context makes the situation relatively clear: a fund of money has been provided to support the minister. Apparently, though, this fund is usually under the control of the local squire, who can choose who will get it and when. I have inferred that the “living” is sometimes a stream of income from some investment or property.
Am I right about that? Can you provide any more factual details about how these “livings” worked? Where did the money come from? The church? The squire? If the former, why would it be under the control of the latter? What portion of the English churches of the day were supported by such arrangements? Do you know any other interesting facts about “livings”?