Friday, July 11, 2008

The Cost of Living

All the recent talk about recession got me thinking about the cost of living in Regency times. In Venetia Murray's book, High Society in the Regency Period, she tells of Mary Berry who, upon her engagement to General O'Hara, prepared an estimate for their future expenses. They were not rich in comparison with the company they kept and could only just afford to sustain their role in society.

Mary's budget included every comfort necessary to a small establishment in London and deduced that an income of just over £2,000 a year was the absolute minimum upon which they could entertain agreeably all those friends who should prefer a neat plain dinner or supper, and our agreeable society, to a French cook and dull company.

The budget included the wages of seven indoor servants and a coachman and £800 for the general to spend on himself but she had cut off all your extravagancies, your saddle horses, your separate carriage and one of your men-servants. This is not as selfish as it sounds since she has allowed herself only £200 a year for personal expenses, including clothes - a fraction of the amount most women in their circle spent on dressing.

At the other end of the scale, a large proportion of families existed on an income of £50 a year or less, which equates to about £2,000 today - well below the poverty line - leading Murray to conclude that the dichotomy between rich and poor must have been infinitely greater two hundred years ago than it is today: a difficult argument to refute.

Wendy Soliman

2 Comments:

Anonymous Melinda Hammond said...

Fascinating, Wendy, lots of little detail that we can build on in our stories.

I shall look out for Murray's book.

Melinda

4:01 PM  
Blogger Jan Jones said...

Hmm - I wonder what the General thought of her dismissing his 'extravagances' just like that. I'd be inclined to wonder if the marriage survived. In fact, it would make a fascinating start to a novel...

10:47 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home




Follow us on Twitter @http://twitter.com/HRomanceUK




Readers outside the UK might like to know about

The Book Depository

which offers free delivery worldwide


Our books are also available from all Amazons

- see links to our websites

and our UK and US Amazon pages below -

as well as most book shops

depending on country

LOUISE ALLEN'S WEBSITE

UK       US


JO BEVERLEY'S WEBSITE

UK       US


LYNNE CONNOLLY WEBSITE

UK       US


NICOLA CORNICK'S WEBSITE

UK       US


CHRISTINA COURTENAY'S WEBSITE

UK       US


AMANDA GRANGE'S WEBSITE

UK       US


ELIZABETH HAWKSLEY'S WEBSITE

UK       US


ANNE HERRIES'S WEBSITE

UK       US


JANE JACKSON'S WEBSITE

UK       US


JAN JONES'S WEBSITE

UK


MELINDA HAMMOND / SARAH MALLORY WEBSITE

UK       US


JOANNA MAITLAND'S WEBSITE

UK       US


FENELLA JANE MILLER'S WEBSITE

UK       US


JANE ODIWE'S WEBSITE

UK      US



Cover art copyright the publishers