Hi friends! I’m always so happy when authors come and pay a visit to Austenesque Reviews, especially when they are new authors! 🙂 Today I am very happy to have author Eliza Shearer as my guest! Her new Pride and Prejudice sequel Miss Darcy’s Beaux was just released recently and I am so excited to read it because it is a continuation for Pride and Prejudice, Persuasion, and Mansfield Park! Plus I really like it when Miss Darcy has a little excitement with her romantic life and given the title it sounds like she has more than one suitor at least! 😉 We hope you enjoy Eliza’s post about heiresses in Jane Austen!
Show Me The Money: Jane Austen’s Female Characters and Their Settlements
The Regency was a time of dramatic socio-economic changes, and Jane Austen’s novels reflect their historical context through the ups and downs of their characters. Her books are full of details that show this upheaval, and she certainly doesn’t shy away from discussing money. References to wealth or a lack thereof are constant in her novels, and in many cases, we know a lot about the fortunes of those who pepper her pages.
An excellent example of Austen’s attention to what is happening around her is Anne Elliot from Persuasion. The Elliots are a textbook case of an old family in financial difficulties relative to their usual standard of living; although Anne and her sisters are the daughters of a baronet, their settlements are just £3,000. At the other end of the spectrum, we have the Misses Bingley from Pride and Prejudice. Their family has amassed a large fortune through trade, enough to provide each girl with a very generous dowry of £20,000.
Georgiana Darcy, Mr Darcy’s youngest sister, falls somewhere in the middle in the social continuum. Her family has an old name and a large estate in Derbyshire, comfortably placing the Darcys as members of the landed gentry. If Mr Darcy is wealthy, Georgiana is the very definition of an heiress, with a settlement of £30,000 – a far cry from the £1,000 of each of the Bennet sisters. Georgiana is, in fact, the wealthiest young woman in Pride and Prejudice, except for her cousin Anne, whose fortune as heiress of Rosings Park we do not know.
At all events, we can safely establish that £30,000 is a considerable sum. Incidentally, it is the same amount of Emma Woodhouse’s settlement; you may remember from the opening lines of Emma that she is “handsome, clever, rich”. It is also the fortune of Sense and Sensibility‘s Miss Morton, the young woman Edward Ferrars’ mother wishes him to marry. All in all, a perfectly suitable settlement to marry a wealthy and perfectly respectable member of the gentry, such as Mr Bingley, whom many in Pride and Prejudice believe to be a good match for Miss Darcy of Pemberley.
But I figured Lady Catherine de Bourgh, Georgiana’s aunt, would shriek at the thought of her niece marrying a man whose fortune comes from trade. After all, Lady Catherine herself is the daughter of an earl. So, what if Lady Catherine took Georgiana to London and decided that her niece should join the ranks of the aristocracy thanks to a most eligible match? This is the premise behind Miss Darcy’s Beaux.
In fact, the question would not be whether Lady Catherine wants her niece to marry a Marquis, but whether Georgiana’s settlement is juicy enough to tempt a man from the higher echelons of society. Elizabeth Bennet gives us the answer to this question when she jokingly remarks to Colonel Fitzwilliam after he admits that he will have to marry for money to be able to continue to enjoy his current standard of living:
And pray, what is the usual price of an earl’s younger son? Unless the elder brother is very sickly, I suppose you would not ask above fifty thousand pounds.”
Pride and Prejudice, Chapter 33
If £50,000 is the very least that a minor nobleman might expect as a settlement from a potential wife, Georgiana’s dowry simply isn’t enough for her to marry into the aristocracy. Her only option would be to catch the eye of a wealthy man and make him fall in love madly with her and gain a title in the bargain (I’m looking at you, Lady Bertram), but her natural timidity makes it very unlikely.
But Lady Catherine is rather determined, as we know. To get around this issue, in Miss Darcy’s Beaux she states that she intends to make Georgiana the heiress of Rosings Park which, unlike Longbourn, is not entailed and therefore can be inherited by whoever the rightful owner chooses. With the move, Georgiana effectively replaces her cousin Anne’s place. Miss Darcy is now a fabulously rich heiress, and Lady Catherine’s matchmaking efforts can proceed unencumbered.
The stage is set, and Lady Catherine may now roll out her London matchmaking plans to marry Georgiana to the best possible suitor.
If you would like to know what happens next, check out Miss Darcy’s Beaux at Amazon,
Thanks for reading!
About the Author
Eliza Shearer is a long-time an admirer of Jane Austen’s work and writer of Regency fiction and Jane Austen variations. She can often be found enjoying long walks and muddying my petticoats, or re-reading Jane Austen’s novels by the fireside. She is very partial to bread and butter pudding, satin slippers and bonnets and ribbons, but has never cared much for cards. You can find her on Twitter @Eliza_Shearer or at https://elizashearerblog.wordpress.com.
Thanks so much, Eliza! I can’t wait to see what happens next with Georgiana! Her paired with Lady C isn’t something you see very often! Should be interesting! 🙂 All the best with your new release!
Today Eliza generously brings with her ONE copy of Miss Darcy’s Beaux (ebook) for me to give away to ONE lucky winner!
To enter this giveaway, leave a question, a comment, or some love for Eliza below!
- This giveaway is open worldwide. Thank you, Eliza!
- This giveaway ends July 18th