Persuasions #6, 1984 Page 34
THE FORTUNE OF THE MISSES ELLIOT
“[Sir Walter Elliot] could give his daughter
at present but a small part of the share of ten thousand pounds which
must be hers hereafter.” (P,
Does this mean, as Chapman says in his Index of Characters (P. 314), that each of the Elliot daughters had a fortune of £10,000, payable on his decease? Or does it mean that each received a portion (probably a third) of that sum?
I think, the latter. We have the professional authority of Miss Maria Ward’s uncle, attorney of Huntingdon (MP, 3) that the minimum price of a baronet was £10,000. Elizabeth Elliot, so beautiful, so well-born, with the men all wild after her, could have achieved “baronet-blood” well before the story started. The Musgroves do not marry for money, bless them. Why Charles married Mary Elliot is a mystery, but it wasn’t for her fortune. A few thousand pounds, cash down, would have enabled her to have a carriage of her own.
Most important: if Anne had known that she would have ten thousand pounds “hereafter,” she would almost certainly have persisted in her engagement with Captain Wentworth. Money was not needed for groceries. Captain Wentworth was doing very well in the Navy. Life insurance had been invented – while the Captain, as a serving officer in time of war was not a “good life,” a policy could have been purchased to ensure support for Anne in the event of her husband’s demise.
Had Anne been certain of as much as ten thousand pounds in the future, her children would have had adequate provision. £3,333, ten or twenty years down the road, was not a good bet.