After sitting back with a steaming cup of orange pekoe tea (it’s from Sri Lanka, did you know?) and a file of Pride and Prejudice fan fiction on my computer, I soon got drawn in. Lavish modern scenes were thrown around Mr. Darcy, as he swans from one high class restaurant to another, from the Ritz to the Hilton. It was a great hour or two, and then I suddenly thought… in today’s monetary terms, how much would ‘10,000 pounds a year’ actually be? We know that it is a considerable sum, but enough to spend most of your life on a yacht? Enough to randomly buy Lizzy a Ferrari or some other type of over-priced car?
Interestingly enough, opinions differ on this topic vastly. It obviously takes economists who can judge the changes in time, financial climate, inflation and all those other annoying details into account but some people have actually bothered (Hurrah!) to figure out how much dosh Mr. Darcy had.
A conservative estimate of Mr. Darcy’s wealth comes from A Quick Guide to British Currency. Micheletti discusses a ‘source’ that would estimate 10,000 pounds income as about (US)$700,000 while comparing it to Venetia Murray’s analysis of his income being around 500,000 pounds. But this is only a conservative estimate (although that amount of money is more than enough to get my mouth gaping in approval).
Economist J.Bradford De Long on his blog speculated that Darcy’s disposable income could be anywhere between (US)$300,000 and (US)$6,000,000 (however I think the disparity is the difference between what he earns and what he is worth perhaps?)! De Long asks us to picture Darcy as “a thirty-year-old retired dot-com millionaire with wealth of $150 million or so”. This post was also mentioned in a NYTimes article that posed some interesting reflections about society today vs. society in Regency England. (It’s in the business section and I read the whole thing enjoyably, this must be a winner!)
I thought that Dunleavey’s comments about how we tiptoe around money issues today, were insightful. She writes that: “inquiring directly about anyone’s income is particularly taboo — it’s striking that people appear to have been more frank about money 200 years ago”. It’s so true! We still want to know, and we go to great lengths to not seem stalkerish or as though we want to find out how much they earn (I know of one woman who Google Earthed someone’s house to “see if the area was nice”) when they used to just ask.
However, despite all these economists and financial advisors running around- I think I’d rather trust a Janeite. Put more simply, the Jane Austen Society of Australia, who state that 1 pound back in the day would have about (AU)$100 spending power now. Leaving Mr. Darcy’s 10,000 pounds at about AU($)1 million. A nice sum I think! They also make the fantastic point that he would have had to pay a lot of that in upkeep (of his estate, servants, horses, looking after Georgiana and later Wickham et cetera). The article also has a tonne of interesting thoughts about other peoples’ incomes and how much its costs to keep a horse, hire a horse or go by stagecoach. (It even goes into how they earned this money as well.) I would happily assume that Mr. Darcy’s earnings would be somewhere between the 600,000 pounds and 750,000 pound bracket, however JaneAustensWorld’s post ‘Pride and Prejudice Economics: Or Why a Single Man with a Fortune of £4,000 Per Year is a Desirable Husband’ provides a very convincing case that 10,000 pounds is nearer the 300,000 mark.
So, the only accurate conclusion about his income that can be made with all these numbers floating around? He earns a crapload. Enough to afford his own private waterfall, jet or whatever else strikes his fancy!