Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Get That Look: Pride & Prejudice: Decorating the Bennett's house

I've been thoroughly enjoying the PBS/Masterpiece series of Jane Austen's classic novels, especially Pride & Prejudice. Even though I own the DVD set, I'm still watching it on television. Since I own the dvd, I figured it would be fun to pull out some images of the different styles of decorating to be found in these Regency England interiors. There are three distinct levels of society profiled in Pride and Prejudice.

The first we see is the Bennet's family home. As those who know the story are aware, the Bennets are a family of seven - Mr. and Mrs. Bennet, a gentleman and his silly wife. They have five daughters, all of whom are in want of wealthy husbands due to the fact that Mr. Bennet's property will be "entailed" away from his family after his death - leaving them quite poor and without their home. Hence the need for the daughters to all marry as well as possible.

My blogging friend Ms. Place, Jane Austen expert par excellence, has done a post on the income levels of the various characters' and putting their income in today's dollars. Check it out here on Jane Austen's World. Mr. Bennets' annual income (for his family of seven) was £2,000, which is £67.9k in todays currency ($132k US). In his time, this was a comfortable income and it affords the family a nice, if not luxurious, lifestyle that includes a large house and small staff. Their country home is filled with quality furnishings and accessories that are beautiful, but standard and practical. One notices in the set decor that there is a prevalence of slipcovers and tablecloths, which may indicate the need to hide the well worn nature of their furnishings.

Just for fun, I did a little window shopping at 1st Dibs and pulled out the following English Regency antiques that one might have found in a home such as the Bennet's.

Queen Anne style side chairs at Adams & Comer

Mahogany dining table at Florian Papp
18thC/19C Secretary at Parc Monceau Antiques
King George III mahogany chair back settee at Carnegie Hill Antiques

Queen Ann card table at Carnegie Hill Antiques
Silver tea service at Belvedere Antiques
Scroll window seat at Timothy Corrigan Antiques

Inlaid mahagony Pembroke table ca. 1810 at William Word Fine Antiques
Satinwood Writing Slope at Drum & Company

According to Jane Austen Today, upon Mr. Bennet's death, Mrs. Bennet's entire "marriage portion" would have been £5,000 which would have had to support her and her daughters for the rest of their lives, or until the daughters married. Clearly, this would have devastated their lives.

On the next level of wealth, we have the Bingley's - a brother, sister, and a married sister and her husband. A young single man, Mr. Bingley's annual income was £4,000 a year, or double that of Mr. Bennet. This made Mr. Bingley a very eligible bachelor, whom Mrs. Bennet sets her sites on when he leases the local mansion, Netherfield Park.

Click here to read my post on the Bennet House.
Click here to read my post on Netherfield Park.
Click here to read my next post on Pemberley.

Pride and Prejudice is currently airing on PBS, Sundays at 9:00PM.

This post and comments originally appeared on ::Surroundings::

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