four or five thousand a year

Category: Money | Type: Historical | Title: Pride and Prejudice (in Context) | Author: Jane Austen | Ch: Chapter 1

To convert £ in 1815 into 2010 $ is sketchy but multiplying by about 90 will give an approximation. Bingley has an annual income of between $360,000 and $450,000. Though there were taxes on everything from income to servants, carriages, horses, windows, and dogs, Bingley's income is large for the time. Moreover, he has few expenses. Renting Netherfield Park indicates that he himself does not have a country estate.

But the conversion of £ to $ is only part of the difficulty. There are the relative costs of labor and of individual items, such as food, clothes, transportation, and entertainment. The average income was a fraction of Bingley's. A farm laborer in the south of England, which paid higher wages than the Midlands and the North, earned about 7 shillings or slightly more a week (20sh to a £), or about £18 a year ($1620). A scullery maid would earn £4-6 per year, with room and board. A person on poor relief would receive something close to the same, without room and board. 

Sex was a taboo subject in public conversation whereas money in the form of income, net worth, and dowry a matter of open, frequent discussion. Knowing how much a person was worth rapidly winnowed out unsuitable or unlikely partners. 

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