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Above Vulgar Economy: Jane Austen and Money

March 29, 2012 by Reader's Connection

Why is this labeled as the companion to the BBC version. It's a copy of Pride & Prejudice, for crying out loud.That´s the title of a program that Dr. Sheryl Craig will give in Central Library´s Clowes Auditorium on Sunday, April 15th at 2:00 p.m. Dr. Craig will almost surely read aloud the famous first sentence of Pride and Prejudice:

A sum of money is a leading character in this tale about people, just as a sum of honey might properly be a leading character in a tale about bees.

Hold up. That’s the first line of God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater. But Pride and Prejudice is about money, too.

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.

 

And P&P isn’t the only Austen novel in which money is a governing force behind the love matches and character conflicts. According to the program note in our Calendar of Events, Dr. Craig “will explore how Jane Austen’s career as an author in Regency England coincided with a series of economic recessions resulting in a major economic depression, a banking crisis, and the grudging public acceptance of paper money and debased coins.”

I have borrowed my mother-in-law’s DVDs of the first season of Downton Abbey, and I love the way that the entail–the weird inheritance arrangement that afflicts the Bennets in Pride and Prejudice because all the offspring are daughters–also afflicts the sonless Crawleys, but with different results. Come and hear Dr. Craig talk about how Austen understood the economic situations of her time and wrote them into her fiction.

 Given the nature of the program, April 15th–tax day–should be an easy date to remember.

 

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