Spoiler Alert--if you haven't finished the pair of novels, you may not want to read this until you do!
One of the reviews for Drawing Mr. Darcy: A Faithful Portrait, Book Two, mentioned the outlandish amounts of money that are revealed at the end of the tale, so I thought I'd write the reviewer a response, but it grew so long, I thought I'd be better off just posting it here.
In short--you are right--the Russell family was very wealthy--but they weren't the wealthiest in England, not by a long shot. The numbers may seem wildly high but the figures were not chosen at random. There was a lot of thought put into the amounts, and a lot of reliance upon the significant amount of time the money had to grow. (The miracle of compound interest).
I may still not convince you, of course, but let me explain.
First, I think we forget or don't realize how incredibly large the gap was between the income of the peerage and everyone else. Think about the net worth of Bill Gates ($81 billion) and Jeff Bezos ($67 billion) versus, say, Jerry Seinfeld, the world's richest actor at $820 million (these figures are from two 2017 Forbes articles). All incredibly rich, but there's still a huge disparity between the first two and the third. And then, of course, there are the rest of us who live, if not paycheck to paycheck, with not a lot of cushion. It's not THAT different today.
So, think of the Dukes as the Gates and Bezos of their time. Mrs. Bennet might say that Darcy is "as good as a lord" with his reputed 10,000 a year, and while that does put Darcy in, say, the top 10% of incomes (maybe he's not quite as wealthy as Seinfeld in this scenario, but he's plenty rich), the Duke of Bedford was in the top 1%--and the divide between the top 10% and the top 1% is huge.
According to newspaper accounts of the time (how accurate those are I cannot say, but it's what I had to go on), The Duke of Bedford's income was 100,000 pounds a year. He was eclipsed only by two other Dukes, The Duke of Northumberland, at 150,000 pounds a year, and the Duke of Devonshire, who had 120,000 pounds per annum. Bedford was also busy developing his real estate holdings--Bloomsbury sits on the family's land even today. So the rents from lease-hold were and are significant. Even the duke's father, with whom Phillip Russell would have been dealing, had tremendous amounts of money.
That 100,000 pounds, remember, is just interest income. So he has to have a significant fortune to earn that much on an annual basis. If he's shrewd, like Phillip in our story, he might be making 10% a year and thus have a personal fortune of a million pounds, but if it's all just in the five-percents (I don't believe that's likely), he could have up to two million pounds. All this at a time when a lady's maid (according to the Complete Servant, published in 1823) cost their employers about 20 guineas a year. (I presume that includes the tax employers had to pay on each servant, so the maid would not receive all of that money).
If we say, then, that Phillip has 50,000 pounds for 40 years (in my head, I decided the Duke would have "loaned" Phillip 25,000 pounds the first year, and seeing how well he was doing, loaned another 25,000 pounds the next, then refused to take it back)--even if Phillip does nothing more than invest it in the funds and let it sit at 5%, in 40 years, the fund will amount to 351,999.44 pounds.
If he invests and does slightly better, at 7%, he would have amassed: 748,722.89 pounds
I thought, being a pretty shrewd investor and adding some of his own earnings to the fund each year, Phillip might reasonably make 10% overall on his money--better in some years, worse in others, but an average of 10% (after all, why would he just leave it in the funds if he could himself do better)? When the economy was really cooking in the 1990s here in the US, even investors with basic amounts to invest were counseled to expect 12-15% returns each year, and there were some good economic years in Phillip's lifetime.
At 10%, the fund would have grown to 2,262,962.78 pounds. Of course, Phillip would have been using some of those funds each year to donate to various causes, so that money wouldn't be available to sit and gain interest. I settled, therefore, on 3/4 of a million pounds--10% minus the funds he'd be paying out annually to worthy causes. All those trips to silk factories to improve conditions for workers and bequests for schools and hospitals and such are discussed in the first Drawing Mr. Darcy novel.
Let's account for the 20,000 pounds the Russells settle on the Bennet girls, It's 4000 pounds each for dowries, initially. When they begin Elizabeth with her investing, they take her dowry and redistribute it to her sisters, so they each have 5000 pounds. Mr. Bennet thinks, in the end, that this money and the money used to relieve the debt on Longbourn upon his inheritance probably came from "the fund" (charity fund). If that's the case, it's not cost Phillip anything from his own income to supply it.
Remember that Phillip has inherited his home in Yorkshire, and that for all their wealth, the Russells live well below their income--as most self-made millionaires do today (think Warren Buffet). Until very near the end of their marriage, they do not own or lease a property in London, instead being hosted by the Duke of Bedford in his home on St. James's Square. They do not partake in the season in any regular way, or at least never mention having done so after their marriage. In fact, Phillip has reasons to avoid town early on. They spend perhaps 100-150 pounds for Elizabeth's one year of schooling at a highly touted school for girls in London, and, as she is not "out" they have spent only for one round of clothing for her that would be really expensive and "season appropriate." She's still carting those gowns around with her, remaking them with small changes (okay, having them remade because she's no seamstress) so they don't appear to be out of fashion. She's not just gone shopping again, nor does she mention intending to do so when she arrives in London. Nobody has seen her gowns yet, as her come-out was canceled, so she plans to use the ones she already has. In the end of the second book, Elizabeth teases Georgiana about the younger girl's shopping expenditures.
The Russells [aid for a governess to reside at Longbourn, and would have paid for masters for Elizabeth and the other girls, but at least at first Aunt Olivia teaches Elizabeth most of her subjects with economic and political lessons coming from Uncle Phillip. This is the case until they remove to London and they hire a drawing master and a singing master--but some of those lessons would have been covered in the money already spent on school. So three masters for about a year or two to add the polish Elizabeth will need for her come-out. After the year of mourning, it's possible Elizabeth might have some local masters in Yorkshire come to the house, but they would be less expensive than those in London. So they make the most of their money even when spending on Elizabeth.
They do travel, but domestically and on business--to Pemberley to see Georgiana (which is often coupled with business), to see the locks in Bingley, to the ocean (to meet ships coming in), and to London so that Phillip can meet with his solicitor and Elizabeth can attend school. The Duke of Bedford hosts them in London, saving them a great deal of money, and even when they do purchase, it's in Kensington, outside of the city at that time, where land was freehold and also less expensive--because it was outside the city limits, it was not subject to the same level of taxation. When Elizabeth is thinking about pineapples, she's thinking she needs a high-cash crop to offset the window tax for the greenhouses. So the Russells are all very thoughtful about where and how they spend their money.
Here I'll just insert that this Darcy is also pretty careful with his money except when it comes to his sister. In town, he has inherited a lease on the cheapest townhouse in one of the nicest squares and the one next door, but because he's not in town more than three or four months a year, he keeps only a small number of servants there. Not only does this save him money, it may show any potential wives that he will not spend extravagantly (though he's still hotly pursued). The size of his lodgings also keeps his entertaining costs down, meaning he can focus on hosting only those friends he actually wants to see. Just the cost of the staff alone for a London townhome could run 500 pounds and up (board wages and taxes were very high in the city), and Darcy seems to see that as an unnecessary expense for a bachelor. He offers to open the wall between Darcy House and the townhome next door, on which he holds the lease, if Elizabeth wants to live in town, but she prefers Kensington. Darcy and Elizabeth seem to have been brought up with the same understanding that money is a resource, even a gift--not something to be squandered for appearance's sake.
As for Olivia's 10,000 pound dowry--Phillip makes it a point of honor not to touch it. Of course, they expected to have children of their own and he probably meant it to be used for them. But 10,000 pounds, just sitting in the funds for all those years, would end up being about 50,000 pounds. I figured he'd put more in at the start and perhaps less later, when he realized there would be no children, but let's say an equivalent of 150 pounds a year at 5%. That's about 89,000 pounds by the time Elizabeth inherits.
Then there's the fund for her sisters. Remember that Phillip makes a lot of money on his investments but he doesn't spend a lot. His staff at Weymouth House is probably his largest ongoing expense. The funds for both the charity fund and the dowry are primarily from sources other than his own earnings. He might add to them each year, but not that much, considering his total income. So he has these two funds growing quite large, but without much of his own income being required to sustain them.
And over 40 years or so, as Phillip's making far more than he's spending, reinvesting those funds, making more profit, it's not outlandish that a man of his business acumen and excellent connections to other wealthy men could put aside 100,000. This is the money that Olivia leaves to the remaining Bennet girls through Elizabeth. Charles Bingley's father, recall, had at least 140,000 pounds upon his death--100,000 at least for Bingley, who has "four or five thousand a year" and twenty thousand pounds each for Miss Bingley and Mrs. Hurst. While he may have inherited part of that fortune, he also presumably died much younger than Phillip, as his children are still quite young (we can't say for sure, but it's likely Mr. Bingley's father wasn't in his 70s).
I will add that I suspect there were a lot of fortunes being made quietly during the war and afterwards in trade and investments and many places other than in land. But you didn't always hear about them because it was to the benefit of each person that his or her wealth not be made public. Again--not unlike today...
In Drawing Mr. Darcy, Phillip Russell is nearly always working--both he and Olivia meet with their solicitors at least once and often several times a week (Elizabeth notes early in the first novel that it's strange to see her uncle and aunt out of the study at that time of the morning and knows there must be a reason). I wanted it to be clear that he works consistently and tirelessly to manage his money--after his "reversal," he is, as Olivia terms it, "driven." While Phillip teaches Elizabeth and she too, is successful, she's more conservative with her investments than her uncle. The real genius here is Phillip, and Elizabeth knows that--but she is proud of what she's been able to accomplish even just as his student. The point is really not that Phillip expects Elizabeth to become the same kind of investor that he is--but that he has prepared her to take stewardship of the funds he and Olivia have worked so hard to earn and manage.
When I began developing this plotline for the Drawing Mr. Darcy books, I thought about how family fortunes are made--how families become dynasties--and it's generally not because every member of the family is a financial genius, but that an initial fortune continues to be handled prudently--that there's no overt excess in terms of spending down the principal, etc. So in that sense, a more conservative Elizabeth is not at all a poor choice as the next steward of the family's holdings.
Yes, I will admit that all of this does presume that things mostly went very well for Phillip after he returned from the East Indies. But as the author, I decided that after what he did there, wiping himself nearly out financially to do the right thing, it was poetic justice that he be able to not only recover his fortune, but build a much larger one. This is just how I charted it out.
I'd love to hear your comments!
A few weeks ago, I offered an excerpt from my first novel, Courage Rises. The companion novel, Courage Requires, finds the Darcys together at Pemberley awaiting the birth of their first child. They are hosting the Fitzwilliam family and the Hawke sisters for Christmas, but what a strange holiday it has been. Sophia Hawke has a history with the Colonel, and he is pursuing her hand despite his father’s disapproval. At the same time, Evelyn Hawke seems determined to cause problems for her older sister. After a bit of trouble on the ice and seeing to everyone’s needs back at the house, William and Elizabeth steal a moment together.
Excerpt, Courage Requires
“Was it only a few days ago,” Darcy pondered, “that our most pressing concern was you going out to collect greenery?”
“Oh,” she replied with an arched eyebrow and steely resolve, “I will still be doing that.”
“Elizabeth,” he began, a growl beginning to build in his throat. He glared at his wife, only to see her lips begin to tremble. For the briefest of moments, he believed her about to cry, something he dreaded and yet had come to expect. Instead, as she struggled for composure, a choked laugh escaped and he shook his head at her, relieved and annoyed.
“Oh, William,” she said lovingly, leaning in to kiss his cheek. “Your face, dear. Like a great forbidding grizzly.”
“I knew I should not have taken you to the Menagerie,” he grumbled, and she laughed again. A deep breath helped clear her melancholy, and she moved to stand.
“Thank you, William,” she said with a chuckle, “I always feel better when I speak with you.”
“So I need not send the carriage to collect Jane?” he joked, offering his hand to assist her from the bed.
“Not yet,” she replied saucily, “but I shall require a substantial donation to the fund for expresses. I cannot be expected to wait even a week between letters.”
“Yes, my dear,” he said, sounding put upon, but ruining the effect with a warm smile. “I know you must speak with the maids, but please, after that, you must rest before dinner. Even I am tired and I have not your burden to carry.”
“I will,” she promised, for as many trips up and down the stairs she had been required to make today, she was already craving her bed.
Her husband peered at her suspiciously.
“What is it?” she asked.
“I am not one to question my good fortune,” he began, “but you are being rather agreeable. I cannot help but wonder what you have done with my wife?”
“You should take full advantage while you may,” she retorted tartly, with a tilt of her chin. Just as quickly she leaned against him, placing a hand over his heart, and said softly, “I am still heartily ashamed of myself for my actions yesterday, William.”
Darcy hesitated. “For going out when I asked you not to do so?” He wanted to be clear to which infraction she referred. Her mouth twisted in irritation and he quietly berated himself. Wrong again, apparently.
“No, I am not apologizing for going out of doors, William. I have had quite enough of being held prisoner inside, even in such a large and lovely home as Pemberley.”
He groaned inwardly. The conversation had been going so well. One question and they were returned to the quarrel. “Elizabeth. . .” he began
“No,” she said determinedly, wrapping her arms around him as she had in the hall. “I am sorry for thinking, even for a moment, that I could help on the ice. It was a completely selfish, foolish notion, to think that I must always be the best one to help. It lasted but a moment, but it was wrong. It delayed Sophia and I would have done nothing but make more work for everyone.” She placed a hand on her stomach and said wryly, “I am not particularly buoyant just now.”
Darcy took a quick look at the door. He wanted to speak with Waters to see how Miss Hawke fared, and he particularly wished to check on Richard. Still, there was something that he needed to explain to his enchanting, infuriating wife, and she had just provided him the best opportunity he was likely to have. He returned his gaze to her and took both of her hands in his.
“Elizabeth,” he said, swallowing hard and suddenly very serious, “when I heard that scream, I knew immediately it was you.” He grimaced before continuing. “I did not know where you were or what had happened, but I immediately thought the worst.” He took in a very deep breath and released it slowly, his head dropping. “I think that scream may have taken ten years from my life.” He met her apologetic gaze with his own steady, appraising one.
He moved one hand to her abdomen and said, “I could not bear it should anything happen to you or our child.” Elizabeth felt the warmth of his hand and placed hers over his, but did not try to look away. His voice was hoarse as he continued to speak, staring straight into her eyes, “Everything I need most in the world stands before me.”
His other hand came up to cup her cheek before he said, earnestly, “I may appear overbearing to you, my love, and I daresay I am, but please, I beg of you,” his eyes remained locked with hers, and in them she saw vulnerability, pain, “have mercy.”
Courage Requires, and the first book in the series, Courage Rises, are available in ebook and paperback versions at Amazon.
So, it occurs to me that I haven't posted anything about my first two books, Courage Rises and Courage Requires in quite awhile. I've been busy working on Headstrong, which is turning into quite a long project, and plotting out the stand-alone novel that will follow it. Headstrong is a modern JAFF with an E&D pairing, and you can follow the draft (it will be revised for publication this spring) at A Happy Assembly. The regency story that will follow it is still in the planning stages.
In the meantime, please take a look at the Courage series (really a pair of books with a strong CF presence, but which is also E&D-centric).
Description: Colonel Richard Fitzwilliam, recently returned from the battlefields of Spain, calls on his cousin Darcy to help him fulfill a troublesome debt of honor. In her husband's absence, Elizabeth is faced with a crisis at Pemberley, and she must make a dangerous decision to keep everyone alive.
Excerpt from Courage Rises:
Elizabeth took her candle to the small writing table she had asked be placed in Georgiana’s room. Sliding one sheet of paper to her, she propped Fitzwilliam’s miniature up before her and began to write.
As I cannot know when I should expect to see you, I will write what I wish you knew, to explain what I intend to do and why I have done it. It is a relief to the press of my thoughts to release them here, where my doubts can cause no mischief. I miss you terribly and only wish I could speak with you and ask your advice.
Georgiana is very ill. Her fever is high, and her sleep is broken. She is attended by Mrs. Reynolds and myself. There is still no word from Mr. Waters, and I fear that he may have been taken ill as well. John has returned from town with no news of him, but can tell us that the illness has not spread to Lambton. Of course, the townspeople now know they should not directly approach Pemberley until we send word, and that is some comfort.
As to Pemberley itself, the ill are spread all about the estate. I know that you would tell me to send food and medicine out to the afflicted, my dear, but the truth is that there are not enough of us well to tend to those who are not.
I have had to make a decision, William, one which I daresay will not please you but that I hope you will come to accept. In the morning, if there is a break in the rain, we will strip the ballroom down, set up cots, and make it our sickroom. We will bring the sick to us so that we may offer proper care to each patient. Georgiana will remain upstairs and the others downstairs, and in this way I may be able to better manage both our resources and their care. I pray that I will soon be joined in this task by Mr. Waters.
I know that this exposes us, William, and I have struggled, knowing you would not have me do such a thing, but it is certain that we have already been exposed. We must have been, or Georgiana would not be ill. John takes your position admirably and tells me with his stoic manner and disapproving looks that this is not something a proper Mistress of Pemberley should undertake. He believes that it should be left to the families to do the nursing and that this is what you would wish. You know your stubborn wife and will not fault him for my actions, indeed, when you return you must thank him for taking your part. He has seen I am determined to do this with or without his help, and has promised to assist me if only to keep me safe, an office it is clear you have asked him to perform.
Dearest, I am convinced that while this may not be the proper course it is yet the correct one. The staff at Pemberley may not be our blood, but they are both our family and my responsibility.
If we can care for those who are now ill, I hope that no one else will be stricken. If I am wrong, I can only beg your forgiveness.
Your devoted Elizabeth