Wealth, or lack thereof, plays a major role in Jane Austen’s novels. The author was scrupulous about detailing exactly how much money her characters made: Mr. Bennet makes £2000. Mr. Darcy makes £10,000. But what would those figures mean in today’s economy?
Austen published Sense and Sensibility in 1811, Pride and Prejudice in 1813, and Emma in 1815. Using monetary values from 1810 as a reference point, The Telegraph calculated exactly how much characters like Mr. Darcy and Emma would have at their disposal in terms of contemporary money.
Darcy would make about £796,000 per year (in 2013, about $1.2 million), according to the paper’s calculations. A pretty sweet salary, for sure. Unfortunately for him, Darcy’s fortune wouldn’t be enough to live comfortably on while running his Derbyshire manor in modern times, with the rising costs of vital manor-running expenses like paying servants. Running Chatsworth House, the estate filmmakers used as a backdrop for the 2005 version of Price and Prejudice, costs £4 million per year.
However, since the life of an aristocrat came a bit cheaper in the early 19th century, Darcy’s money would have stretched a bit further. Given the realities of income inequality at the time, his £796,000 would probably buy the equivalent of £12 million a year. So, maybe not such a disappointing life for a modern-day Mr. Darcy.
Austen herself, meanwhile, made £110 off the publication of Pride and Prejudice, giving up the copyright and any royalties in the process. That’s just a bit more than the annual cost of Lizzie Bennet's upkeep in the Bennet household.
Compare more of Austen's characters' incomes at The Telegraph.