Sunday, July 26, 2015

What happened to Mrs. Bennet's money?

Usually when I post about things in this blog, I have at least some sort of theory about them, and this is my place to expand on that theory (outside of working it into my stories). I have no theory on this one. I'm curious whether anyone else does -- so if you do, please chime in within the comments.

Mrs. Bennet's daughters get their share of four thousand pounds after she dies, and Elizabeth's fortune is later indicated to be one thousand pounds, in the four per cents, while Mr. Gardiner indicates in his letter to Mr. Bennet of Lydia's portion of the five thousand pounds divided among the sisters after the decease of Mr. and Mrs. Bennet.

I suppose I always thought that the four thousand pounds grew to five thousand pounds because the interest had been reinvested. Lately, despite an abhorrence of math, I did the math (well, actually a spreadsheet did the math, but I did the formula!), and was surprised at what I found.

If it had been in the five per cents, by the time of the novel, it should have turned into at least 11,000 pounds. Even in the four percents, the safer assumption as it is what was indicated by Mr. Collins, it would have been more than 9,000 pounds. What's more, if Mr. and Mrs. Bennet lived another 10 years, it would have been 13,493 pounds (in the five per cents, more than 18,000 pounds -- I have no idea why one would invest in the four per cents when the five obviously brings more money...perhaps it was more risky?). Obviously, after Mr. Bennet died, Mrs. Bennet and any remaining daughters would have begun living off of the interest.

Each of the Bennet daughters should likely have had at least two thousand pounds, unless both Mr. and Mrs. Bennet die before 1816. Which doesn't sound like much compared to Georgiana Darcy's 30,000 pounds, but it could have brought each of them one hundred pounds a year in the five per cents, which is the very base level of genteel living. If all of them had remained unmarried, they would have had something like five hundred a year, which puts them in range with the Dashwoods -- come down from where they had been, but not by any means living in hedgerows.

So this leaves me with the question -- what happened to the money?

Did it form Mrs. Bennet's pin money, and she spent it all on ribbons? Were they instead taking the interest and including it as part of Longbourn's income? Was there some great expense in the past that required them to dip into the savings? Perhaps Mr. Bennet purchased more land or used it to fund improvements to the estate?

Regardless, it makes the negligence of the Bennet parents even more egregious, to me. I think more lowly of Mr. Bennet, particularly, now, for not taking what should have been a comparably simple step to keep growing his wife's fortune.

I don't think this is going to have any bearing on the Constant Love series, but I'm going to file it away for possible future use. What will make the series is my conjectures on the financial status of the Fitzwilliams: namely, why did both Lady Anne and Lady Catherine not marry noblemen, as would a have been expected, and why was a colonelcy all that could be done for Colonel Fitzwilliam? It's going to be awhile before we get to my theories on these, but get to them we shall!

PS: Today (7/26) is your last day to enter to win an ebook copy of A Constant Love, over at Babbling of a Bookworm. And while you're there, you can read my guest post on Regency London.

Writing Elizabeth as a widow

There's one final Mistress blog post out today! I'm at Catherine Curzon's blog talking about writing Elizabeth as a widow.