Invariably when someone waxes lyrical about how unimportant they think money is, how he’d/she’d be happy to live anywhere and that money doesn’t matter, you can be pretty sure they may profess too much or have never faced a shortage of it. Anyone who has struggled with insufficient money to pay their bills or rent knows that money does matter. Accumulating wealth may not, but paying for necessities does. In the Austen world of the Austen Six it certainly seems to hold true.
In the Austen Six there are a variety of characters who are mercenary to the extreme but profess the opposite. My favourite, New-Best-Friend-Isabella Thorpe, from Northanger Abbey has managed to catch Nice-Guy-but-Stupid-in-Love-James Morland. She thinks he is richer than he actually is and is disappointed when his parents can only give a small amount to the couple on their marriage. She makes such grandiose statements about how little she cares for money, matched only by the grandiose statements she makes about the intensity of her love, but alas both are proved to be hollow. She says to Catherine, “Had I command of millions, were I mistress of the whole world, your brother would be my only choice.” In no time at all she ditches James for a richer man.
Many times over in the Austen Six there are characters that profess to be happy to live in a cottage and New-Best-Friend-Isabella is one of them. She says, “My wishes are so moderate, that the smallest income in the world would be enough for me. Where people are really attached, poverty itself is wealth: grandeur I detest: I would not settle in London for the universe. A cottage in some retired village would be extasy (sic)”. Yet her actions tell us a cottage would not do at all.