I've been meaning to make this post as a follow-up to my post on Regency incomes for the gentry for awhile, and now am finally getting around to it. The driver was the excellent The Complete Servant, which was written by Samuel and Sarah Adams, who had worked for many years and in many positions in service, and it's absolutely packed with little tidbits. The tidbit I wanted to focus on, though, was some of the incomes listed, to give some context to what I'd posted earlier, which began at £100 and went up to £4,000+.
Interestingly, there were some salaries that went well up into that £100 range. Although a land steward is listed, a salary is not given, but the house steward's salary range was £100-250, and I think the land steward would be almost guaranteed to have a higher salary (even in this time, I've seen evidence of the house steward position going away and being replaced by a butler-steward, which I'm glad of, as it was my assumption). Depending on where old Mr. Wickham fell into this range, he might have had a mild claim to gentility, at least so far as income was concerned, but that he had to work for a gentleman, to earn his living (and not in one of the "genteel" professions), makes it a very tenuous claim. Still, though, I could see perhaps a poorer relation with an aptitude for the job being brought on as a land steward and quietly being given this salary, in some families, in the same way an unmarried niece or other female relation might serve as a housekeeper.
To give the best overview, here is the household staff listed for one household establishment that would have had profits of £9,000 to £11,000 per year. This book was published in 1825, so I don't think the figures should be too inflated from the time period we're more concerned with. The amounts were given in guineas, but I've converted them to pounds, and left the decimals to make them easier to understand for modern readers. To get the shillings, multiply the decimal amount by 20, as there were 20 shillings in a pound.
“We have been favoured with the following as the present Household Establishment of a respectable Country Gentleman, with a young family, whose Net Income is from 16,000£. to 18,000£. a Year, and whose expenses do not exceed 7,000£.; vis —
House-Keeper: 24 Guineas (£25.2)
Female Teacher: 20 Guineas (£21)
Lady’s-Maid: 20 Guineas (£21)
Head Nurse: 20 Guineas (£21)
Second Ditto: 10 Guineas (£10.5)
Nursery-Maid: 7 Guineas (£7.35)
Upper House-Maid: 15 Guineas (£15.75)
Under House-Maid: 14 Guineas (£14.7)
Kitchen-Maid: 14 Guineas (£14.7)
Upper Laundry-Maid: 14 Guineas (£14.7)
Under Ditto: 10 Guineas (£10.5)
Dairy-Maid: 8 Guineas (£8.4)
Second Ditto: 7 Guineas (£7.35)
Still-Room Maid: 9 Guineas (£9.45)
Scullion: 9 Guineas (£9.45)
A French Man-Cook: 80 Guineas (£84)
Butler: 50 Guineas (£52.5)
Coachman: 28 Guineas (£29.4)
Footman: 24 Guineas (£25.2)
Under Ditto: 20 Guineas (£21)
Groom: His Liveries and a Gratuity
Lady’s Groom: 12 Guineas (£12.6)
Nursery-Room Boy, Clothes and a Gratuity
Head Game-Keeper: 70 Guineas (£73.5) a year, and 13s per Week for Board-Wages;—a House and Firing
Assistant Ditto, 12s per Week.”
Viewing these salaries, it's impossible to ignore how much: 1. women were screwed; and 2. how tremendously large the wealth gap was. The story for the next century-plus after this is the rise of the middle class, beginning first with trade but then moving into industry. Factories provided workers with new options for earning, and made wages more competitive, although they also brought with them often-unhealthy working environments. This, in turn, made the great estates more difficult to keep staffed at the levels they had been.
Elizabeth Bennet, even if she had not married, would still have been making nearly the maximum wage for a female housekeeper, whose wages ranged from 25-50 guineas. Granted, the housekeeper had her room and board covered, which Elizabeth would not have. So a position as a companion might have been quite suitable for her, in giving her room and board and still some reasonable amount of money to spend on personal items. Granted, it's nothing compared to what she has as Mrs. Darcy, but neither is it starving in hedgerows. She would not have been qualified to be a governess, but Jane Fairfax would have had a salary of between £25 and £125 per year to look forward to.
One of the other interesting entries is the male cook, who may be presumed to be French, and who the Adamses note would earn two or three times the income of an experienced female English cook. When much of the French aristocracy was wiped out, their cooks all had to go elsewhere to earn a living. Some opened restaurants in Paris, while others fled to England. They were not tremendously common, though -- kept in 300-400 wealthy households, and 40-50 London hotels, by the Adams's estimation. I don't see Mr. Darcy as someone who has a French cook (although Mrs. Bennet supposes he has two or three French cooks at least). I think he's more traditional and has gone the more traditional route, particularly since it could be considered unpatriotic to keep a French cook -- and certainly if there was a female English cook on staff when he inherited the estate, he would have kept her on. So of the above salaries, I would see him as putting those savings into another housemaid, and an under-coachman and perhaps another groom for the stables.
Regardless of his cook, I think Mr. Darcy would have treated his servants well, and you can expect his servants' incomes would have been a bit higher than these, which tend to be on the lower end of the spectrum given by the Adamses for various roles later in the book.
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