Of all the family, Mary was probably the one most immediately gratified by the circumstance. It was creditable to have a sister married, and she might flatter herself with having been greatly instrumental to the connexion, by keeping Anne with her in the autumn; and as her own sister must be better than her husband’s sisters, it was very agreeable that Captain Wentworth should be a richer man than either Captain Benwick or Charles Hayter. She had something to suffer, perhaps, when they came into contact again, in seeing Anne restored to the rights of seniority, and the mistress of a very pretty landaulette; but she had a future to look forward to, of powerful consolation.
Persuasion, Chapter 24
Typically, in one small passage, Jane Austen gives us a lot of information about Anne Wentworth (as she now is), her husband’s essential nature and that of her sister Mary.
Frederick Wentworth is shown to be a man of a generous and practical nature, but not without a certain wicked style.
For he gives his wife a very pretty Landaulette to enable her to be driven around the country and be independent when it came to travel.
This is what William Felton, London coachmaker has to say about this type of vehicle in his Treatise on Carriages etc (1797):
A Landaulet or Demi-Landau.
This carriage has the same advantage as the landau only that the number of passengers are proportionally less; but, for convenience, where only one carriage is kept, none exceeds it for country use.
This was quite an expensive two-seater vehicle and a rather impressive gift on Captain Wentworth’s part.
Mr Felton gives the cost of a new one, fitted out with all the top level furnishings and finishes, at £156, 10 shillings and 3 pence. In addition to the purchase cost, it also required the services of a coachman,
and perhaps also a groom( though the two jobs could be combined) and a footman, if he was employed by the Wentworths, could also stand on the back to accompany his mistress on her journeys.
Note that this is also a rather grand gesture by Frederick Wentworth. Employing male servants at the time incurred an extra tax: they were therefore a ‘luxury’ for from 1777 onwards an annual tax of a guinea was imposed on households that employed one male servant. The rate increased with the number of make servants one kept. This tax remained in force( thought it was modified occasionally) until 1937.
And of course, in addition to the cost of male employees, the Wentworths would have to factor in the cost of stabling the horses which would draw the carriage.
Sandy Lerner, the chatelaine of Chawton House, in her article in The Female Spectator Volume 4 number 1 has this to say about Wentworth’s gift:
This light four-wheeled conveyance gained popularity as it was well suited to England’s uncertain climate in that it could be converted from an open to a closed carriage with little trouble. The landaulette was a smaller version of the landau, a very formal postillion driven vehicle. The landaulette was also known as a demi-Landau with only a rear seat. Again this is a lady’s vehicle, and its inclusion denotes Captain Wentworth’s extreme generosity to his wife as well as a remarkable concern for her independence
William Bridges Adams in his book English Pleasure Carriages (1837) remarks that these vehicle ,along with their close-cousins landaus, were rather expensive to maintain in good order:
This is an expensive carriage to build and very liable to get out of order as the leather and wood work of the head is affected by cold and heat, damp and dryness. The expense of repairs is considerable.
So, this gift on Wentworth’s part to his wife of a very pretty landaulette was one made with much consideration for her ability tot ravel independently, in safety, and in some considerable style at no little extra cost to himself.
A much more practical carriage than Charles Musgrove’s curricle, being an all weather vehicle. Small- only a two-seater- but very stylish,with its moveable roof, perfect for summer driving.
In effect, Wentworth has given Anne the equivalent of a luxury convertible sports car.
And it rankles with Mary because she (and we !) know that she only has the services of Charles’s rather masculine and impractical curricle to call upon. No wonder she sees Anne’s gift through the green eyes of jealousy.
And now to Extravagant Monsters. We know that Sir Walter Elliot has to retrench and leave Kellynch Hall, tenanted out to the far superior ( in every way)Admiral and Mrs Croft, but does he leave Kellynch for Bath in any penitent style?
Of course not.
The last office of the four carriage-horses was to draw Sir Walter, Miss Elliot, and Mrs. Clay to Bath. The party drove off in very good spirits; Sir Walter prepared with condescending bows for all the afflicted tenantry and cottagers who might have had a hint to shew themselves: and Anne walked up at the same time, in a sort of desolate tranquillity, to the Lodge, where she was to spend the first week.
Persuasion, Chapter 5
Four carriage horses draw Sir Walter’s coach, note. Not two…four.He could never be expected to retrench that far….And can you imagine what sort of coach it might be? Not a serviceable comfortable coach like the Musgrove’s might own, I fear, but one like this, again from William Felton’s Treatise.
An Elegant Crane Neck Coach
Which would cost at least £337 pounds (gasp!) fitted with every conceivable luxurious extra…
In addition no doubt the panels of the coach were emblazoned with Sir Walter’s arms and emblems, as garish as his servant’s livery…..
Oh, yes, I’m sure his tenants and cottagers were impressed as he rode away, in his grand extravagant coach pulled by four horse with coachman and footmen galore, retrenching like mad….Don’t you think?