One of the most interesting aspects of Jane Austen’s novels is that she always makes sure you know how much money the characters have–only how much is it, really? I recently caught up with a posting on the Web site of an economist that poses, and answers, this question in one celebrated case:
So how rich is Fitzwilliam Darcy, anyway? What does ten thousand (pounds) a year in the aftermath of the Napoleonic War mean, really?
I have two answers, the first of which is $300,000 a year, and the second of which is $6,000,000 a year….
Read the whole thing here.
While I’m at it, kindly allow me to plug one of my favorite Web sites, Inflation Calculator, an on-line form which (in the words of its inventor) “adjusts any given amount of money for inflation, according to the Consumer Price Index, from 1800 to 2002.” That may sound dry as dust, but spend just 30 seconds playing with Inflation Calculator and I bet you’ll have it bookmarked in 35. I used it frequently in writing The Skeptic: A Life of H.L. Mencken, and I commend it wholeheartedly to any writer–novelist, journalist, whatever–who ever has occasion to compare what things cost in 1865, or 1925, or five years ago, to what they cost now.