Archive for March, 2017

Jane Austen’s estate

March 5, 2017
austen

There’s more going on here than agreement of verb with subject

A visit to the Jane Austen House Museum in Chawton raised some interesting questions, and not only about English grammar.

If there is a valid point being made in the picture above, I think it’s the corollary of the one stated: Due to her writings, she had some money of her own at a time when women generally didn’t. I wonder what Cassandra did with it? How much it was in today’s terms is an almost completely meaningless question–between £ 50,000 and £ 3,000,000 perhaps according to measuringworth.com.

In Capital in the Twenty-First Century Thomas Piketty states:  In Great Britain, the average income was on [sic] the order of 30 pounds a year in the early 1800s, when Jane Austen wrote her novels….She knew that to live comfortably and elegantly, secure proper transportation and clothing, eat well, and find amusement and a necessary minimum of domestic servants, one needed–by her lights–at least twenty to thirty times that much. The characters in her novels consider themselves free from need only if they dispose of incomes from 500 to 1,000 pounds a year.

So on that basis Jane Austen’s lifetime earnings of £ 800 wouldn’t have got her very far.  If she had bought land with the normal rental yield of 4-5% that would have given her the average and deeply insufficient annual income of £ 30-£ 40.  But the question is what the marginal cost of an unmarried sister or maiden aunt would have been–once you had the house, carriage, servants etc the marginal cost of an extra household member may have been comparatively small.

While it is true that nowadays many of us would be penniless without our jobs, Piketty’s point is that in Jane Austen’s day you might make 5x average income from a job or profession or even writing novels if the French didn’t pirate them, but it wasn’t enough–you needed to own lots of land or seize bling from the French like her brothers Charles and Francis, both of whom became admirals.

In Brief March 2017

March 1, 2017

The Tale of Januarie  GSMD 27 February

I was interested by the libretto in Middle English and it did not disappoint, being rather similar to Northumbrian dialect.  I bought a programme at the interval and so found out that we were supposed to regard the characters distantly, before that I had been quite sympathetic to may.  I thought the music in the ensemble passages worked best, there was nothing particularly striking in the individual declamations and I had the feeling that composer Julian Philips was trying to find a safe place between Machaut on one side and Benjamin Britten on the other.  Set, costumes and performance were all first class.  I don’t think the audience actually laughed at any point…

Cost:  £ 25  Rating: ****

The Importance of Being Earnest  Bridewell Theatre 28 February

It was interesting to see this finally, and there was more than sporadic laughter from the audience as the action progressed, interspersed with two intervals.  It all seemed to be played fairly straight, and Jack Worthing emerged as more human than I expected.  But what I enjoyed was Cicely producing to biscuit-tin of the letters to herself she had been forced to write on behalf of Algernon and showing him the diary entries reflecting the course of their engagement.  That was quite mad and also the kind of thing a young woman living in the country with her governess and strict guardian might well do.  This one must have more famous quotes per scene than anything else outside Shakespeare…

Cost:  £ 12   Rating:  ***