Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Half a Crown Here and There

The inattention of the two brothers and the aunt to Julia's discomposure, and their blindness to its true cause, must be imputed to the fullness of their own minds. They were totally preoccupied. Tom was engrossed by the concerns of his theatre, and saw nothing that did not immediately relate to it. Edmund, between his theatrical and his real part, between Miss Crawford's claims and his own conduct, between love and consistency, was equally unobservant; and Mrs. Norris was too busy in contriving and directing the general little matters of the company, superintending their various dresses with economical expedient, for which nobody thanked her, and saving, with delighted integrity, half a crown here and there to the absent Sir Thomas, to have leisure for watching the behaviour, or guarding the happiness of his daughters.
[Jane Austen, Mansfield Park, Chapter 17]

If there's any sign of Mrs. Norris's lack of sensible priorities. Sir Thomas Bertram is fantastically wealthy. Not only does he have a top-tier estate, Mansfield Park, and any income from that, he also owns plantations in the West Indies. In Regency England this makes him one of the wealthiest people imaginable. It's true that most of his wealth is probably tied up in assets; but there is simply no imaginable situation in which Sir Thomas is hurting for a half a crown; saving him that amount is like saving a multimillionaire money by shopping for presents at the Dollar Store.

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