When it comes to parenting their five daughters, Mr. and Mrs. Bennet aren't likely to…
Fitzwilliam Darcy’s wealth is a topic of interest throughout Pride and Prejudice. It is originally reported at his first Meryton Assembly that Darcy has an income of £10,000 a year. Ten thousand pounds would have been a very impressive annual income at that time, in The Annotated Pride and Prejudice, David Shapard writes that this income “places him among the one or two hundred wealthiest men in England then.”1 Shapard then speculates that Darcy’s wealth may be three times or more that of Bingley’s due to the other possessions that Darcy has inherited.2
Beyond that, there is another possible hint to the size of Darcy’s fortune, in Chapter 16 when Wickham is describing his many misfortunes to Elizabeth at the Phillips’ party he refers to Darcy’s income as “[a] clear ten thousand per annum.” As Wickham is the son of a former Pemberley steward, it is possible that this could be a hint that Darcy’s total annual income is actually greater than £10,000. Assuming that Wickham is telling the truth and not exaggerating, I think that could mean Darcy’s annual income could be £10,000 after taxes and the estate expenses that come from estate business (e.g. costs relating to farm buying and maintaining farm equipment and paying farm workers). What that means for the actual amount of Darcy’s gross income is hard to tell. We don’t have enough information. Taxes were considerably less than they are now in early 19th century England. The Complete Servant, a guide originally published in 1825, suggests that 12.5% of a large income should be budgeted for “Rent, Taxes, and Repairs of House and Furniture.”3 If we assume that this amount should not be included in Darcy’s “clear” £10,000, it would add approximately £1,250 to his purchasing ability.
It is also quite plausible, using The Complete Servant as a guide, to infer that as a single man the prudent and responsible Darcy could be saving a large amount of money every year. In the dedication, The Complete Servant states that “a respectable Country Gentleman, with a young family” had yearly expenses of £7,000 event though his net income was between £16,000 and £18,000 per year.4 This money could have provided some of Darcy’s ability to pay off Wickham as quickly as he did. These numbers could also be helpful after Darcy’s marriage considering that Elizabeth has little to no dowry, making it important for Mr. and Mrs. Fitzwilliam Darcy to consider the question of providing for their daughters and younger sons, something that I think (or hope) they would be better at than Elizabeth’s own parents.
1. Jane Austen, David M. Shapard, ed., The Annotated Pride and Prejudice. (New York; Anchor Books, 2007), 17. ↩
2. Jane Austen, David M. Shapard, ed., The Annotated Pride and Prejudice. (New York; Anchor Books, 2007), 144. ↩
3. Samuel Adams and Sarah Adams, Ann Haly, ed., The Complete Servant. (Sussex; Southover Press,  1989), 15. ↩
4. Samuel Adams and Sarah Adams, Ann Haly, ed., The Complete Servant. (Sussex; Southover Press,  1989), 17.↩