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Thursday, 1 December 2016

JANE AUSTEN: THE COST OF LIVING IN 1800

From Jane Austen's Letters, we can learn a little about prices, notably of clothes and dress materials, but also of animals sold to the butcher.

In June 1799, brother Edward, in Bath for the good of his health, bought 'a pair of Coach Horses' for sixty guineas. (Letter 22). When the family moved to Bath, much of their property, including cattle and furniture, was sold off. In Letter 36 Jane says how much some of it fetched: 'sixty one Guineas and a half for the three Cows gives one some support under the blow of only Eleven Guineas for the Tables. – Eight for my Pianoforte, is about what I really expected to get; I am more anxious to know the amount of my books, especially as they are said to have sold well'.

[A guinea, by the way, was one pound and one shilling - what today we would call in the U.K. one pound and 5p.]

Food prices in Bath are recorded in Letter 35: 'I am not without hopes of tempting Mrs Lloyd to settle in Bath; – Meat is only 8d per pound, butter 12d and cheese 9½d. You must carefully conceal from her however the exorbitant price of Fish; – a salmon has been sold at 2s: 9d pr pound the whole fish'.



['s' was a shilling (today's 5p) and 'd' was the old penny, of which there were 240 to the pound.]

We learn a little about the charges made by hairdressers. Jane paid the visiting hairdresser two shillings and sixpence when staying with her brother Edward's family at Godmersham Park in Kent: 'Mr Hall ... charged Eliz:th 5s for every time of dressing her hair, & 5s for every lesson to Sace, allowing nothing for the pleasures of his visit here, for meat drink and Lodging, the benefit of Country air, & the charms of Mrs Salkeld's and Mrs Sace's society. – Towards me he was as considerate, as I had hoped for, from my relationship to you, charging me only 2s. 6d for cutting my hair, tho' it was as thoroughly dress'd after being cut for Eastwell, as it had been for the Ashford Assembly. – He certainly respects either our Youth of our poverty'.