Friday, April 20, 2007

Welcome Jane Austen Fans!: Austen's Money Obsession

Welcome Jane Austen fans, including visitors from the Austen Blog and Austen-tatious.

Jane Austen -- my favorite author -- cared about words and money. Money, marriage and society are major themes in Jane Austen novels such as Pride and Prejudice, Emma and Sense and Sensibility. Earlier I wrote about Five Frugal Lessons From Pride and Prejudice.

Beyond the world of fiction, Jane Austen was savvy about money and as a financial writer, I continue to learn about money management from the Great Jane. In the notes about Emma (Penguin Classic version), critic Ronald Blythe comments about Jane Austen and finance:

Here are some lessons I learned from his essay on Jane Austen.

1. It's possible to have a full life on limited means:

"[Jane Austen] is a realist and as a person who managed to live a very full life on very small means, she could scarcely be expected to depict a society which lived on air." (P. 468). --Ronald Blythe

2. Money is a tool that allows us to measure other areas of our life.

"There is a hard fiscal outline to Emma; the references to money are frequent and telling....But her use of income is a device to anchor her society and in Emma it is also used as a moral test."
(p. 468 )--Ronald Blythe

3. Money matters. We should all carefully monitor our financial profiles. As a writer, Jane Austen carefully tracked her book profits. She pushed for better financial arrangements with her publishers and ultimately landed a profit-sharing arrangement for the publication of Emma.

"...towards the end of her life, Jane Austen made a note of the profits of her first three novels...When she described herself as a 'mercenary' author, in this respect, she had good reason to."-- Ronald Blythe

4. Keep the Faith. Jane Austen kept writing. She continued to create characters and pages of text, despite the initial lukewarm reaction from publishers.

"None of her publishers was generous to her or showed real faith in her." --Ronald Blythe

5. Marry for love. Despite her emphasis on the financial security, Jane Austen's main characters all marry for love, albeit to either wealthy or comfortable partners.

"In her own life, the unmarried Austen decided against a practical marriage based on money alone....."Her attitude is consistent: "Marriage without love is wrong. In 1802, she herself suffered a great agitation through accepting a proposal of marriage from a well-to-do man and then the next day withdrawing her acceptance."

-- notes from D.W. Harding in the Penguin Classics edition of Persuasion by Jane Austen.



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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

As to marrying for love, I think it's great if one finds that. I still believe it's what we hope for. But at the same time, just because I married for love doesn't mean that I will settle to subject myself to a life of struggle/juggle and lower economic means. If anything, financial success should be more easily obtainable especially with a loving and supportive partner. This is not necessarily about having lots of zeros and commas, but about being able to build sufficient financial security and comfort for one's family. Being frugal, no matter what one's income, is being smart. Even our neighbor over on Star Island, Rosie O'Donnell, shops at Target.

OT, love the literary classics? Dover Publications has many of them at value prices. Many starting at a buck. Books-a-Million stores carries the Dover editions. Or you can order them online at their website:

I have even filled a gift basket with the Dover literary classics which was well-received.

They also have tons of children's books in the dollar range.

If you are comfortable reading books online or on the computer, there are 10,000 titles, many classics and others, available for free from Project Gutenberg. Here's a link for the Top 100:

(Austen's Pride and Prejudice ranks #18!)

I have found great buys on used books on ebay but it seems the sellers often jack up the shipping costs.

Garage sales and charity thrift stores are also another great place to get books.

But the best deal seems to be a Library Card. I think a rite of passage for children is getting issued their first public library card. And many libraries now carry DVD movies.