Saturday 22 January 2011

For Those Reading Historical Novels (Or Mr Darcy Was Loaded)

I'm reading Wilt by Thomas Sharpe at the moment. It's terribly good fun so far but I have been troubled, dear reader, sorely troubled by prices. Money is terribly important in Wilt. The novel is all about class and budgets and careers. Henry Wilt himself earns £3,500 a year and his wife secretly spends seventy pounds on clothes and the starter in a restaurant costs 95p.

Trouble is, I've no idea what that means in today's green and folding. It's only thirty-five years since Wilt was published, but inflation is such that I can make neither tail nor head of these (terribly important) details.

I get the same thing reading Pride and Prejudice. People are always described as having an income of so many hundred or thousand a year, and the girls go wild (or don't); but the modern reader is left scratching his head and furrowing his brow and wondering whether to go down to the library with a slide-rule and work everything out in compound inflation.

Nevermore, dear calculating reader, nevermore. Use this:

It's so damned handy that I've installed it as a permanent widget on the right of the blog. I'm afraid that I couldn't find one that would go straight to dollars and all those other funny foreign currencies that don't have a picture of the Queen on them and are therefore worthless. But if you're American (are you, dear reader? I'd so like to know), you can continue on to a site like this and find out that Mr Darcy's £10,000 a year in 1813 is:

£520,000 in modern Britain

$831,869.95 in the USA

$827,134.49 in Canada

$841,250.62 Down Under

€612,635.63 in those amusing countries beyond the English Channel

And the rest of you can work it out for yourselves. The general point is that Mr Darcy is even richer than I am, and it's no surprise that Miss Bennett fell in love with him.

The Inky Fool returns from the cash point


  1. An excellent device! ... although it does show that poor old <a href=">Mr Micawber</a> had to scrape by on a mere £2000 a year in 1850

  2. well that link didn't work - I've lost my knack! but you get the gist...

  3. I'm one of your avid American readers. I love this blog, it's one of my favorites and I always look forward to each new entry. This particular post is especially enlightening. I've never sat and read any Austen books but I've seen several movies based on them, and could never really get excited about the money they mentioned. Now I know Mr Darcy's 10k a year is definitely something to get excited about.

    Thanks for all your posts, past and future!

  4. Another American reader here. Don't worry - I'm fluent in British English, as well.

  5. That's handy for making us all feel good about the numbers in our salaries.

  6. I think I mentioned it before, but I'm an American reader. I try to convert as many friends as possible to your wonderful blog.

  7. I'm American, and from the comments it seems that a good deal of your readers are as well.

  8. The Antipodean's accountant side of the brain24 January 2011 at 15:55

    It's a little difficult to work back, since he probably got his income from his tenants and so on, but assuming his capital made around 5%, if that were his income his capital would be worth at least ten million pounds. Pemberley would take a bit of upkeep: I wonder if that came out of the £10,000 or not?

  9. I, too, am American, however, I will have to add that either in reading or watching beloved Jane the money issue has never been one to catch my eye. I mean, really, how could it when you have Collin Firth walking around the English country side in a wet shirt I ask you?