Sunday, November 18, 2012

The Victorian England Personal Economics of David Copperfield

I just finished reading David Copperfield. Before I began reading, I decided to take notes on the economics, mostly to give myself a feel for the monetary magnitudes involved whenever money was mentioned.

My first step was to make a digest of the basic Victorian monetary terms and quantities. I expressed all the quantities in farthings, as shown below:

Term and my abbreviation Common equivalent Equivalent in Farthings
Farthing, f



Penny or pence, d 4 Farthings 4f
Tanner 6 Pence 24f
Shilling or Bob, s 12 Pence 48f
Florin 2 Shillings 96f
Crown 5 Shillings 240f
Pound, p 20 Shillings 960f
Guinea About 1 pound 960f

Then as I read, I jotted down all the references to money, as shown below:

Chapter
Narrative Order
Reference
Value in farthings
1
1
D.C.'s caul was advertised for 15 guinea
14400
1
2
D.C.'s caul finally sold at raffle to 50 members at half a crown (120f) a head, the winner to pay an additional 5 shillings (120f). The winner paid her 5 shillings (120f) all in half pence (2f) coins, though she was actually 2 ½ pence (10f) or 5 coins short.
6110
1
3
Murdstone, as a lesson, asked D.C. To calculate 5000 double Gloucester cheeses at 4 ½ pence each. Value for one cheese:
18
5
4
Pegotty gave D.C. 3 shillings for school.
144
5
5
D.C.'s mother gave him two ½ crowns for school.
240
5
6
Waiter charged D.C. 12 farthings for a sheet of paper.
12
5
7
D.C. paid the waiter in total 9 pence including tip and (?) paper.
36
5
8
D.C. wondered if he'd be stuck at the Blue Something long enough to spend his 7 shillings remaining.
336
5
9
D.C. bought a nice little loaf of brown bread.
12
5
10
One egg and bacon probably around 4-7 pence (16f-28f)
16
6
11
Steerforth suggested spending a couple of shillings on a bottle of currant wine,
96
6
12
another shilling in almond cakes,
48
6
13
another in biscuits,
48
6
14
another in fruit,
48
6
15
In all, Steerforth's suggestions spent all D.C.'s remaining 7 shillings on a feast, which troubled 8-yr-old D.C.
84
6
16
There was a 7s, 6d ink bottle on the schoolroom mantelpiece.
360
6
17
Mr. Mell had not a sixpence to bless himself with.
24
11
18
D.C. was paid 6s per week at the age of 10 at Murdstone and Grinby bottling,
288
11
19
then D.C.'s weekly pay was increased to 7s per week.
336
11
20
D.C. paid sixpence for his dinner of meat pie and a turn at a pump.
24
11
21
D.C. breakfast was penny loaf
4
11
22
and penny worth of milk
4
11
23
Special currant pudding was 2d (8f) for same amount as 1d (4f) of another pudding.
8
11
24
D.C. often had a penny loaf,
4
11
25
or a 4d plate of red beef.
16
11
26
D.C. gave halfpenny to a waiter, and wished he hadn't taken it.
2
11
27
A pub's very best ale was 2 1/2 pence a glass.
10
11
28
If D.C. were given a shilling at any time, he spent it in a dinner or tea.
48
11
29
Micawber said if you had 20p annual income....
19200
11
30
(D.C. had 18p annual income),
17500
11
31
then Micawber borrowed 1s for a porter.
48
12
32
D.C. asked Pegotty for 1/2 guinea to escape to Aunt Betsy.
480
12
33
D.C. paid a young man 6d to take his trunk to the coach station.
24
13
34
D.C. sold his waistcoat for 4d.
36
13
35
D.C. sold his coat (almost) for 18d,
72
13
36
but settled for 1s 4d,
66
13
37
then D.C. refreshed himself completely for 3d.
12
13
38
D.C. was given a penny and bought a loaf of bread with it.
4
15
39
Mr. Dick gave D.C. 10s for school.
480
15
40
D.C. says in the hard days he had scraped 6d together for his daily saveloy (sausage) and beer or pudding.
24
17
41
D.C. returned 1/2 guinea to Pegotty.
480
18
42
D.C. aunt sent him 1 guinea in celebration of school progress.
960
18
43
D.C. paid 1/2 crown for a pink camellia japonica flower.
120
19
44
D.C. paid 1/2 crown to book-keeper in hopes of being considered a gentleman.
120
18
45
D.C. pictures Mr. Larkins saying, “Here are 20,000 pounds. Be happy!”
20000000
20
46
Rosa Dartle had a couple of thousand pounds and saved the interest each year.
2000000
21
47
Barkis produced a guinea for Pegotty to get a dinner.
960
22
48
Steerforth paid Miss Mowcher 5 bob to groom him.
240
23
49
Barkis likely would have sacrificed a guinea if it would have kept D.C. and Steerforth 48 more hours in Yarmouth.
960
23
50
The cost of apprenticeship at Doctor's Commons was 1000p
960000
26
51
D.C. 's aunt gave him 90 pounds yearly plus rent and misc.
90000
26
52
Mr. Spenlow said the best professional business was a disputed will of 30 or 40 thousand pounds.
30000000
26
53
Tommy Traddles said the payment of 100 pounds for the bar was “a great pull”.
96000
26
54
Tommy Traddles got a 50 pound inheritance from the uncle he had lived with.
48000
28
55
Tommy Traddles co-signed for 23p 4s 9 1/2d with Micawber.
22310
35
56
D.C. dreamed he wanted to sell Dora six bundles of matches for half penny.
2
35
57
Mr. Dick earned 10s 9d on his first short week as a copyist.
516
38
58
A “scheme of the noble art and mystery of stenography” cost D.C. “ten and sixpence”
504
43
59
D.C. apparently has an “income” of 3 1/3. Pounds? Per week? “Well off”
3360
48
60
D.C. and Dora engaged a page at six pounds ten per annum.
6260
52
61
Heep paid Micawber 22s 6d per week base pay.
1080
52
62
Heep embezzled twelve (thousand?) six (hundred) fourteen (pounds?), two (shillings?) and nine (pence?).
12109572
64
63
Rev. Horace was living at 450p per year.
450000

To the best of my judgement, it looks like a a 2012 dollar is equal to about two farthings. There are some interesting variances in the values described by Dickens that apparently are intended to highlight human inconsistencies and injustices.

The same table is shown below in order of values:

Chapter
Narrative Order
Reference
Value in farthings
11
26
D.C. gave halfpenny to a waiter, and wished he hadn't taken it.
2
35
56
D.C. dreamed he wanted to sell Dora six bundles of matches for half penny.
2
11
21
D.C. breakfast was penny loaf
4
11
22
and penny worth of milk
4
11
24
D.C. often had a penny loaf,
4
13
38
D.C. was given a penny and bought a loaf of bread with it.
4
11
23
Special currant pudding was 2d (8f) for same amount as 1d (4f) of another pudding.
8
11
27
A pub's very best ale was 2 1/2 pence a glass.
10
5
6
Waiter charged D.C. 12 farthings for a sheet of paper.
12
5
9
D.C. bought a nice little loaf of brown bread.
12
13
37
then D.C. refreshed himself completely for 3d.
12
5
10
One egg and bacon probably around 4-7 pence (16f-28f)
16
11
25
or a 4d plate of red beef.
16
1
3
Murdstone, as a lesson, asked D.C. To calculate 5000 double Gloucester cheeses at 4 ½ pence each. Value for one cheese:
18
6
17
Mr. Mell had not a sixpence to bless himself with.
24
11
20
D.C. paid sixpence for his dinner of meat pie and a turn at a pump.
24
12
33
D.C. paid a young man 6d to take his trunk to the coach station.
24
15
40
D.C. says in the hard days he had scraped 6d together for his daily saveloy (sausage) and beer or pudding.
24
5
7
D.C. paid the waiter in total 9 pence including tip and (?) paper.
36
13
34
D.C. sold his waistcoat for 4d.
36
6
12
another shilling in almond cakes,
48
6
13
another shilling in biscuits,
48
6
14
another in fruit,
48
11
28
If D.C. were given a shilling at any time, he spent it in a dinner or tea.
48
11
31
then Micawber borrowed 1s for a porter.
48
13
36
but settled for 1s 4d,
66
13
35
D.C. sold his coat (almost) for 18d,
72
6
15
In all, Steerforth's suggestions spent all D.C.'s remaining 7 shillings on a feast, which troubled 8-yr-old D.C.
84
6
11
Steerforth suggested spending a couple of shillings on a bottle of currant wine,
96
18
43
D.C. paid 1/2 crown for a pink camellia japonica flower.
120
19
44
D.C. paid 1/2 crown to book-keeper in hopes of being considered a gentleman.
120
5
4
Pegotty gave D.C. 3 shillings for school.
144
5
5
D.C.'s mother gave him two ½ crowns for school.
240
22
48
Steerforth paid Miss Mowcher 5 bob to groom him.
240
11
18
D.C. was paid 6s per week at the age of 10 at Murdstone and Grinby bottling,
288
5
8
D.C. wondered if he'd be stuck at the Blue Something long enough to spend his 7 shillings remaining.
336
11
19
then D.C.'s weekly pay was increased to 7s per week.
336
6
16
There was a 7s, 6d ink bottle on the schoolroom mantelpiece.
360
12
32
D.C. asked Pegotty for 1/2 guinea to escape to Aunt Betsy.
480
15
39
Mr. Dick gave D.C. 10s for school.
480
17
41
D.C. returned 1/2 guinea to Pegotty.
480
38
58
A “scheme of the noble art and mystery of stenography” cost D.C. “ten and sixpence”
504
35
57
Mr. Dick earned 10s 9d on his first short week as a copyist.
516
18
42
D.C. aunt sent him 1 guinea in celebration of school progress.
960
21
47
Barkis produced a guinea for Pegotty to get a dinner.
960
23
49
Barkis likely would have sacrificed a guinea if it would have kept D.C. and Steerforth 48 more hours in Yarmouth.
960
52
61
Heep paid Micawber 22s 6d per week base pay.
1080
43
59
D.C. apparently has an “income” of 3 1/3. Pounds? Per week? “Well off”
3360
1
2
D.C.'s caul finally sold at raffle to 50 members at half a crown (120f) a head, the winner to pay an additional 5 shillings (120f). The winner paid her 5 shillings (120f) all in half pence (2f) coins, though she was actually 2 ½ pence (10f) or 5 coins short.
6110
48
60
D.C. and Dora engaged a page at six pounds ten per annum.
6260
1
1
D.C.'s caul was advertised for 15 guinea
14400
11
30
(D.C. had 18p annual income),
17500
11
29
Micawber said if you had 20p annual income....
19200
28
55
Tommy Traddles co-signed for 23p 4s 9 1/2d with Micawber.
22310
26
54
Tommy Traddles got a 50 pound inheritance from the uncle he had lived with.
48000
26
51
D.C. 's aunt gave him 90 pounds yearly plus rent and misc.
90000
26
53
Tommy Traddles said the payment of 100 pounds for the bar was “a great pull”.
96000
64
63
Rev. Horace was living at 450p per year.
450000
23
50
The cost of apprenticeship at Doctor's Commons was 1000p
960000
20
46
Rosa Dartle had a couple of thousand pounds and saved the interest each year.
2000000
52
62
Heep embezzled twelve (thousand?) six (hundred) fourteen (pounds?), two (shillings?) and nine (pence?).
12109572
18
45
D.C. pictures Mr. Larkins saying, “Here are 20,000 pounds. Be happy!”
20000000
26
52
Mr. Spenlow said the best professional business was a disputed will of 30 or 40 thousand pounds.
30000000

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