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<---More Recent 89. *Buy this Book!* 88. Annual Income 87. Location of 'Pemberley'
1980 version
86. Emma and 'Proper Order' Earlier Answers-->

Question 90 What influenced Jane Austen's writing about rich people verses poor people?
Reply Dear Jen,

Your question is wispy but inclusive! It is not immediately recognisable as fitting my novels exactly. I wonder if you have been reading me? Firstly it seems to assume that my writing stages rich v. poor and perhaps from a poor-sympathetic perspective. In fact a crass but not altogether misguided approach might see the main narrative activity as the bestowing of riches on a poor-ish but middle-class and deserving heroines, which would constitute a fantasy-reward to people like myself and my worthy (Jane Bennet-like?) sister as a reward for all that exterior fate snatches away (includes money?)

My own social insecurity as the daughter of a most respectable but not rich clergyman with six other children to look after might be seen as motoring the plot of a novel like Pride and Prejudice, in which the Longbourne residence is itself insecure thanks to the entail afflicting female offspring (as a sort of punishment for having those [only]). Interesting that the sister-pair here also suffer from silly family members who bring a sense of social exposure. Perhaps my mother was embarrassing, or perhaps I had to remind myself not to be like tearaway Lydia or the depressingly over-prudent Charlotte, marrying without affection but sure of a ‘competence’ and home, if not an altogether happy one, for life.

I also offered a safe haven for the virtuously plain-living and high-thinking sister-pair of Sense and Sensibility as if concerned to see my sister and possibly myself obtain the satisfactions and nice narrative closure denied us in ‘real life’. Really poor people, though, are only objects of compassion in Emma as perhaps the local Steventon folk were to my family. (They don’t, can’t be allowed to furnish characters in the novel itself, reminding us that I only reflect the lowest social levels indirectly). Emma is a rather snobbish book, but its centre-point is the magisterial rebuke given to Emma herself by Mr Knightley for being rude to the old and impoverished Miss Bates, a sort of reminder to the wealthy and privileged of their responsibilities. (I wondered if I wasn’t a bit closer to Miss Bates than Emma myself, and I was to be patronised by my favourite niece Fanny Knight, brought up on a great estate her father Edward had inherited, in a similar way.)

In Persuasion I attacked snobbery, showing that the poor naval Harvilles made better friends than the snobbish relatives of the heroine Anne Elliot like Sir Walter and elder sister Elizabeth, although we still enjoy the fact that Anne’s suitor Wentworth is not poor, and may even be awarded a baronetcy as the novel closes. Perhaps I hoped this was a prophetic point relating to my naval brothers Francis and Charles. My problem was partly that as I saw it, in my day even an educated woman could only expect a career in governess-ing (a private teaching post involving looking after possibly snooty and refractory kids, perhaps for a pittance). Without other careers open to female talents (apart from novel writing!) I liked to imagine advantageous marriages and a sort of social redemption based on the recognition of merit and talent, as if this was ratified by the marriage itself. Of course my society was so different from yours! Don’t be too hard on me for failing any political correctness tests you might devise!

With Best Wishes,

Jane Austen

September 17, 2005 19:24:00 (GMT Time)

Name:Brian Gildea                     Top
Email:bgofgb@ntlworld. com
Question 89 I have a book on Jane Austen, do you know of anyone who would buy it. ( Life of Jane Austen by Goldwin Smith, Pub by Walter Scott in 1890 ) it has 191 pages plus 9 other pages of Index and Bibliography. The book is in good condition.
Reply Dear Brian,

Sorry for the delay over answering this. I imagine a good many ‘Janeites’ (and others) might wish to know of the book’s existence at least. We're happy to forward any interested e-mails on to you if you don't wish your email address to appear on the site. Of course as I answer as (and to) Jane Austen (deceased) the question might be strictly construed as ‘Will someone buy this book?’ which might seem to be luring me on to the grounds of prophecy. However, as we have now posted its details you may have some interesting offers as a result, and I'll listen for sounds of yearnings in the breeze myself... If you wish to forge ahead, however, perhaps some of the sites mentioned in Question & Answer 18 would be of help?

With best wishes.

Jane Austen

August 11, 2005 05:40:05 (GMT Time)

Name:Bren                     Top
Question 88 I have several questions concerning annual income during the 19th century.
~Where did the money come from when an estate was entailed along with an annual income?  Was it from taxes collected?
~Who or what determined whether or not there was an annual income w/ the entail of an estate?
~If Mr. Bennet had an annual income of $1000.00, would Mr. Collins also automatically receive the same income upon inheriting Longbourne?
Reply I am very sorry to take so long to reply and also to have probably to disappoint you. Your question seems overwhelmingly historical and legal, though it does nod to me at the end. I had lawyers in my family but my acquaintance with the system was informal, though more than nodding. I used the entail as an example of a patriarchal arrangements used to disinherit the Bennets specifically on account of the fact that Mr Bennet, though he kept perpetrating offspring on the Mrs Bennet he despised, found to his consternation they were all female, and left off, perhaps understandably, after Lydia arrived. I underscored the arrangement’s heinousness by making Collins a character who by conceit and sycophancy, made especially clear the unpleasantness of patriarchal arrangements in general and this sort of entail in particular. The entail would be from rents on properties and land on and of the estates. It ensured that the estate could not be bequeathed at the pleasure of any one possessor. Mr Collins gets plenary inheritance so inherits the property and land and forms of income associated with them--rents on land and properties included in the estate. From all that’s implied by this your $1000 comparison the answer would appear to be ‘yes’. But these legal fictions entered into my fictions in a non-technical way, the absurdity and outrage of Collins inheriting the property, the land, and the rents in such a way as to give him, in all his foolishness, and perhaps potential malice, power over the worthy (and unworthy) Bennets, was what I was preoccupied by as a novelist who specifically described herself as ‘unlearned’. For more information you might wish to consult works by David Spring, the well-known historian, author of The English Landed Estate and The First Industrial Society. You might like to consult the Cambridge Companion to Jane Austen, ed. Copeland and McMaster, and Edward Copeland’s Women Writing about Money for further info.

With best wishes.

Jane Austen.

June 15, 2005 23:23:32 (GMT Time)

Name:Claire Parker                     Top
Question 87 What was the location for Pemberley in the 1980 BBC version of P&P? Thanks.
Reply Dear Claire,

Sorry to be so long in replying to you. It was interesting to procure the 1980 P&P video and the country house was, I agree, of an unusual and intriguing type. Mr and Mrs Gardiner actually seemed to want to discuss its chronology and architraves with Mr D. in a rather tantalising way, don’t you think? (Not a very exciting [dated?] production, though?? With too many Bonnets, effete accents all around, not too much conspicuous subtlety of interplay between the characters?? But at least the Gardiners didn’t ironise things while at Pemberley as the later actors of their roles did in 1995.) I am awaiting further information about this, but think a candidate might be Hughenden Manor, Bucks--associated with Disraeli, no less. You may wish to check this out yourselves, for example in Mark Bence-Jones’s Ancestral Houses (Weidenfeld and Nicholson, 1984). But there’s only one photograph of a portion of its grandeur, so this might be wrong. Lots of shots in the film itself, of course. It’s possible more information will follow (possibly almost immediately): apologies once more for the delay.

With best wishes.

Jane Austen.

June 15, 2005 05:00:41 (GMT Time)

Name:Rita Davis                     Top
Question 86 In Emma, it says: to carry round the refreshments at exactly the proper hour, and in the proper order. in reference to Mrs. Elton's party. What does this mean?
Reply Dear Rita,

I must apologise abjectly for my apparent torpor in replying. Somehow I got a little overstretched (apparently this can happen in death as in life). I was also a little slow in getting to the right chapter (is your question fully formulated?) Of course this social detail (though the facts are ironically withheld) might be seen as an opportunity for me to air my savoir-faire. But it is much more an opportunity for Mrs Elton to air hers, on the assumption that, although in fact a vulgarian, she is God’s gift to a backwater-ish Highbury backward in its knowledge of the mores and customs of the great world she will ‘re-present’ (with, no doubt, the information furnished by her brother-in-law’s great mansion of Maple Grove well to the fore). The passage ekes out Emma’s scornful sense of Mrs Elton’s overemphasis on externals and unlikeable patronage of her new milieu. For a little more information on these things, if this is what you wish, you might like to look at Deirdre Le Faye’s Jane Austen: The World of Her Novels (London: Frances Lincoln, 2002), especially pp.119, 121. As this discussion and other locations in the novel confirm, Emma is herself proud of a certain punctiliousness over such things, and can herself be patronising in her attitudes towards ‘the locals’. Mrs Elton is so enraging because her patronage includes Emma herself, and Hartfield, and her father.

Apologies once again.

Jane Austen

May 13, 2005 17:28:36 (GMT Time)