Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Jane Austen and Money

Of course, another author with a high regard for the value of a unit of currency, was Jane Austen. During her lifetime genteel women could not work, and could only inherit or marry it. And genteel men had very limited ways of earning a living as well: the law, the church, the army (which would cost money, to obtain a commission), or inheritance. Money was too grubby to earn, so your whole life was engineered to acquiring it by accident.
'Good' characters do earn money in Dickens, but they seem to be pitied by the author, and the end of the story usually has them inheriting enough not to have to do so again. And he always emphasises the pitiable state of the employed versus the employer.
So: I think Trollope is the first nineteenth century author I have read who sees earning a living as a sustainable and honourable thing, and that earning it should occupy at least some of the thoughts of decent people.
What he would have thought of an entrepreneur, I don't know.

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