In Part I of Mr. Bennet and the Entailment, I discussed some of the flaws in Mr. Bennet’s plan to provide for his family through fathering a son. Today in Part II, I am going to discuss some of the steps that could have been taken to mitigate the Longbourn entailment’s effect on his family.
After Mr. Bennet married, economy was considered “perfectly useless” on the assumption that he would have a son.1 Of course this means that they didn’t save anything while hinting that it would have been possible for them to do so if he and Mrs. Bennet had gone to the effort of economizing.
Ideally speaking, Mr. and Mrs. Bennet should have been joint partners in this economizing, unfortunately however, Mrs. Bennet is not much use in these sorts of things. However, Mr. Bennet was capable of reigning in her spending to the point where they did not go into debt and I take his wishing that he had not spent his whole income, mentioned in chapter 50 to indicate that it would have been possible for him to save, if he had troubled himself to do so. His income was certainly very high for the time period when a person with one-twentieth of his yearly income might afford to hire a servant.
In fact if Mr. Bennet had gone to the trouble of saving one-twentieth of his income he would have added an additional 2,300 pounds to the 5,000 whose interest was supposed to support his wife and children. This isn’t a lot, but the potential situation is such that any additional funds would be useful.
The result of all this is that the daughters are lacking in the accomplishments that most young gentlewoman had as part of their husband-catching arsenal or the level of education that might encourage more distant relatives to invite one or more daughters to live with them in exchange for assistance with the children (for reasons I will go into in a later post, I do not think paid employment is in the cards unless things get really, truly desperate).On another education note, all five daughters are also unfamiliar with the tasks that they would need to complete if they were to live on 250 pounds per year. Instead, Mrs. Bennet takes pride in the fact that her servants take care of all the housework and her daughters do not have to assist with any of the chores. This may be a mark of social standing for them, but it could mean a much more difficult transition to a much lower standard of living. Something that we know Lydia had to do and probably Mary and Kitty as well even though they did marry before their father died.1 Chapter 50. See also Mr. Bennet and the Entailment, Part I for further discussion of Mr. Bennet’s hypothetical son.