Gentlemen of Uncertain Fortune How Younger Sons Made Their Way in Jane Austen's England Rory Muir

Publication date:
27 Aug 2019
Yale University Press
384 pages: 235 x 156mm
8 pp color illus.
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A portrait of Jane Austen’s England told through the career paths of younger sons—men of good family but small fortune

In Regency England the eldest son usually inherited almost everything while his younger brothers, left with little inheritance, had to make a crucial decision: what should they do to make an independent living? Rory Muir weaves together the stories of many obscure and well-known young men, shedding light on an overlooked aspect of Regency society. This is the first scholarly yet accessible exploration of the lifestyle and prospects of these younger sons.

Rory Muir is a visiting research fellow at the University of Adelaide and a renowned expert on British history. His books include Britain and the Defeat of Napoleon and his two-part biography of Wellington, which won the SAHR Templer Medal.

“Energetic and scholarly” — Paula Byrne, The Times

“Muir gives us plenty of detail — numbers recruited at different periods, premiums paid and salaries earned — he illuminates the hard facts with vignettes of actual lives lived” —Richard Francis, Spectator

“A readable book”— Jonathan Guthrie, Financial Times

 “Meticulously researched and eminently readable”—Fergus Butler-Gallie, Literary Review

“Jane Austen's brothers are among the examples considered here, as the options are explored in fascinating detail” — Discover Britain

“[Rory Muir] writes eloquently and entertainingly about his subject matter, giving anecdotal detail alongside the financial, and so brings these men and their careers to life”Matilda Harden, The Georgian

“Written with the light, engaging style, and deft balancing of detail, analysis and anecdote...Muir has achieved an admirable mastery of a wider-ranging topic, offering a ground-breaking comparative study of the career options that faced younger sons of the gentry.”—Zack White, Romance, Revolution & Reform