Tag Archive | proper conduct

Regency Coin — What Did it Cost?

Proper ConductIn Proper Conduct, the heroine spends a good deal of time worrying about money that is not there, particular after her father spends nearly 1,000 pounds on a horse.  Not an excessive sum to someone such as the Prince Regent, whose racing stud farm cost him 30,000 pounds a year.  But all these numbers seemed to need a bit perspective.

We also have to remember that back in the 1800′s England was not on a decimal system–you had to know your farthings, pennies, and shillings. And coins were far more common for use than any paper money. Banknotes–slips of paper that promised payment for a set amount–were initially issued by individual banks. In the late 1600′s the Bank of England was established and by the late 1700′s their notes were viewed as being as good as gold (or silver). But Scottish banks issue their own notes until the mid 1800′s, and other private banks o issue their own notes until the mid 1800′s, and the last English private banknote was issued in the early 1900′s.

Banknotes began to be standardized in the mid 1700′s, with ten and five pound notes appearing. These were all hand-lettered and signed–and 1821 banknotewere viewed by many with deep suspicion. A coin, after all, was to hold the value of itself within it’s metal. And for many, a bit of gold or silver in hand was better than any promise given in a bit of paper. Banknotes were much easier to forge than any coin–another good reason for anyone to prefer payment in solid coin.

So we look to coinage as the most common form of currency.

In the Regency, we have as the main coins denominations:

  • Farthing – four farthing made a penny
  • Penny or Pence – twelve pennies (or twelvepence) made a shilling
  • Shilling – five shillings made a crown
  • Crown
  • Pound – twenty shillings made a pound
  • Guinea – twenty-one shillings made a guinea

In ledgers, a pound is often written with the pound mark–£. Shilling is written as an “s” or a slash mark, as in 6/ is six shillings. And a penny is written up as “d” for denarius, a Roman silver coin that had the same value as the English penny. So 4d is four pence.

Coinage in use in the Regency included:

  • Gold for one, two, five and half-guinea coins
  • Silver for one, two, three, four, and six penny (or pence), shilling, and crown coins
  • Copper for half-pence and farthing coins

Two-penny coins were called tuppence. And there were all sorts of slang names for coins including a quid (pound), a bob (shilling), and a goldfinch (guinea).

Due to a shortage of copper and silver coins in the late 1700′s, firms began to use tokens to pay wages.  There was also a growth in payments by foreign coins at this time.

The annual expenses of a great house could run between 5,000 and 6,000 pounds a year including housekeeping, repairs, stables, parklands, gardens, home farm costs, servants, and taxes.

Mrs. Whitney’s  Boarding School for Young Ladies at Buckingham cost twelve guineas a year, and one guinea extra if tea and sugar were required to be served.

In Bath, one paid two guineas were paid for subscription balls, five shillings for concert tickets, and ten shillings sixpence for a subscription to the booksellers.

With an income of 400 pounds a year, one could employ two maids, one groom and keep one horse in London.  On 700 hundred a year, one could have one manservant, three maids and two horses.  With an income of 1,000 pounds a year, one could have three female servants, a coachman, a footman, two carriages and a pair of horses in London.

There were three to four hundred families whose income was over 10,000 pounds a year, due to vast land holdings (hence, these were called “The four hundred” — it was a small world at the top).

During the London season, the lease on house in the West End could cost as much as 1,000 pounds.

Anyone with a debt of twenty pounds or more could be sent to debtor’s prison.  However, a member of Parliament could not be imprisoned while Parliament was sitting.

The capital to secure an estate was approximately thirty times the desired income–so, if you want to make 1,000 pounds a year, you need 30,000 to secure the amount of good land that could produce such an income.

The Earl of Egremont saw a rise in income due to land rentals from 12,976 pounds in 1791 to 34,000 pounds in 1824.

In Somerset (where Proper Conduct is set) 30 acres for let went for 35 pounds per annum, with the tenant paying all taxes except land tax.

In 1801, a 100-acre estate in Sussex sold for 3,500 pounds.

In 1804, due to the silver shortage, the Bank of England issued light-weight token silver coins for one shilling, three shilling and six pence coins.

From 1811 to 1812, an estimated 250,000 people lived comfortably on more than seven hundred pounds a year each.  A half million shopkeepers made a hundred and fifty pounds a year each, two million artisans lived on the edge of poverty at 55 pounds per annum, and one and one half million laborers earned only 30 pounds a year each.

In 1813, a cow fetched about 15 pounds at the market, while a ewe went for 55 to 72 shillings.

In 1816, a new British one pound coin made of gold, the sovereign, began to be produced.

In 1820, 1,100 years after the first English silver pennies were minted, the last British silver pennies were minted.

Edits and Revsions – When is Enough Enough?

Proper ConductWhen I set out to bring my books into e-format, I’d first thought I wouldn’t edit them. Then I did the first book, and I did edit. With Proper Conduct done and coming on sale now in electronic format, I’ve gone a step beyond that. I’ve revised the ending.

Now, there’s a story about JRR Tolkien, author of Lord of the Rings, that he was very late with delivering the manuscript for one of the books and someone finally showed up, boxed it up, took it from him, but as it was being carted off for publication, he called out the window that there was one more edit he needed to make. I don’t know if it’s a true story, but I suspect there’s truth in it in that we all want to correct our mistakes, and if you’ve grown up with that urge to perfectionism, you really want to go back and edit. The joy of electronic media is that we can now do so. It’s also the curse.

This doesn’t mean the book I’ve edited ends differently–the hero and heroine still get together, there still is a happy ending. However, when the book came out in print I had the restriction of paper, meaning a hard physical budget. My choices were a longer book and smaller type font, or keep it under 80,000 words, and I was already pushing that.  So I ended the book with the heroine and hero together, but I did read the reviews and I had to agree with a few of those who wanted a bit more.

Sometimes you just need that extra bit of afterglow, that emotional wrap-up that goes with the story to show that these two characters actually have done more than make that leap into love–they’re also going to be able to maintain the relationship. Sometimes you just need to show them getting along as they’re going to be getting along.

Now there are times I’m impatient with a book that drags on a bit much–none of us care for those guests who stay and stay and keep on until dawn. But there is such a thing as an end that comes too soon which leaves you wanting that extra bit more. I’m hoping I’ve erred on the side of enough without too much (or maybe it’s still not enough–it’s so hard to tell when you get that close to the work).  But there it is.  I’ve added edits, now, I’m revising myself.  And I’m already thinking about a couple of books where I wanted those extra scenes and just didn’t have the page count for it (or the time on the deadline).

But I do see the danger here, where one can revise and revise and never get to anything new. So I’m going to have to learn to balance this. For now, Proper Conduct is out on Smashwords with a fine new cover by Albert Slark, who also did the original cover, but I love the new cover.  It should also be showing up soon as well on Amazon.com for Kindle and BN.com for Nook.

I’m bringing out A Proper Mistress next, and while I don’t anticipate changes there, as I convert the book for electronic formatting, I wonder if I’ll find that I need a new scene, or an extra bit somewhere in the book.  It’s actually more fun to go back to these characters than I’d thought it would be, and now I can see why folks return to their old schools and go back to hang out at the old playground. The really interesting thing will be to find out if I have made the work better–or if I’ve just made it different.