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First, let me start by saying that English is not my first language; thus, I am really struggling to understand the language used in such classic novels as those of Jane Austen's.

I've just finished reading Sense and Sensibility. I find it hard to understand the income of Edward and Elinor after they married. As I understand (I might be wrong) Elinor brought 3 thousand pounds into her marriage, but I am not quite clear how much Edward was bringing. I think he was left with just 2 thousand, but, in the last chapter, there is this line,

What she would engage to do towards augmenting their income was next to be considered; and here it plainly appeared, that though Edward was not her only son, he was by no means her eldest; for while Robert was inevitably endowed with a thousand pounds a year, not the smallest objection was made against Edward's taking orders for the sake of two hundred and fifty at the utmost; nor was anything promised either for the present or in future, beyond the ten thousand pounds, which had been given with Fanny.

So did Edward have 2 or 10 thousand pounds? What would be the interest of his money combined with Elinor's? And plus with the maximum of 250 pounds per year from his work, how much income did they both enjoy? And was it enough to live on?

  • Oh one more thing, why wasn't Edward the eldest son? If her mother could forgive Robert and accepted Lucy, why it seems like Edward was kind of an outsider? I find it hard to understand the situation of the Ferrarses at the end of the novel. – TBBT Jan 8 '18 at 14:33
  • That (your comment) could be turned into a reasonable second question. Please go ahead :-) – Rand al'Thor Jan 8 '18 at 18:16
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Elinor owned about 1000 pounds (we are told this in chapter 2), Edward 2000. The interest from this would have been 150 pounds a year (5 percent was what you got from government bonds, so this is the golden standard when calculating interest. Austen used this herself, as will be seen). The living that Edward had been presented by Colonel Brandon generated about 200 pounds a year, though there were some possibility of renegotiation with the parishers (so that they would perhaps reach the figure of 250 in the quote).

350 pounds would perhaps have been possible to live on, but it would not have been strictly genteel. For comparison, this is less than what the Price family had in Mansfield Park.

However, things do get better. The passage you quote essentially says that Robert was given a thousand pounds a year of the income of the elder Ferrars, while Edward, when Robert now also had what was seen as an objectionable choice, had risen in the graces. Thus, he had been promised to be given the same amount (10000 pounds) that had been set as Fanny's dowry. This would more than double their income.

So, to summarize their economy: They own 1000 pounds that came with Elinor, 2000 that Edward owned when he was disowned, plus the 10000 from above.

Their income was thus:

  • about 200-250 pounds from Edward's living.
  • 50 pounds of interest from Elinor's money.
  • 100 pounds of interest from Edward's money.
  • 500 pounds of interest from Edward's "new" money.

Remember chapter 17, when Elinor and Marianne discussed what money they hoped for after their marriages? Marianne thought 2000 pounds a year would be sufficient. Elinor thought that 1000 pounds would be "wealth". Well, she didn't quite reach that, but she did get almost there.

Sources

The answer owes a lot to John Mullan's What matters in Jane Austen?, which reminded me of details and gave some useful comparisons.

  • Thank you. This is very much clarify my question. – TBBT Jan 8 '18 at 23:05

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