Given what you say, it's quite likely that currency values had changed
substantially between 1922 and 1929. The Great War had a tremendous
impact on currency value both in the US and Europe, and by 1929 that
situation would have both stabilized in some countries and been
threatened in others by the massive and growing depression in Germany
and elsewhere (by the time Hitler rose to power in 1933, for instance,
I believe that the mark was almost worth less than the paper it was
My main point is that Eliot's salary, whilst it allowed Vivien[ne] not
to work, was barely enough for the Eliots. I don't believe they had a
motor car, and they lived in a rented flat (or two) with a servant
(charwoman)who did not live in; in fact, in some of Eliot's letters he
mentioned he would not have retained her, but for Vivien[ne]. Eliot's
main concern from 1917 on was money, as evidenced in his letters.
Vivien[ne]'s various medical bills were quite high, and even the
cottage in Marlow was a stretch. The Eliots borrowed funds from friends
and family (and Eliot received some money from his parents from time to
time), and holidays were either local or rare. Moreover, Eliot
certainly did not feel he could leave his job at Lloyds, or take
anything for less pay.
So whilst Eliot's salary was rather a handsome one (recognised in his
loyalty to the bank), the Eliots were not living, I think, the
upper-class life in the early 20s, though they were of course better
off than some. Virginia Woolf, on the other hand, had the benefit of
coming from a very upper-class family: her father being Leslie Stephen
and her uncle being James Fitzjames Stephen.
Others on the list who have better memories of Ackroyd's biography
would, however, know more about the facts of this than me.
On Saturday, July 30, 2005, at 09:36 AM, Nancy Gish wrote:
> In 1929 Virginia Woolf said that to write women would need £500 and a
> room of their own. I think I recall that that is the income of the
> Schlegel sisters in _Howard's End_. So that was a very upper class
> income on which one could have servants, travel, go to concerts, have
> leisure to write.
>>>> [log in to unmask] 07/30/05 11:55 AM >>>
> Tom Gray wrote:
>> John Kenneth Galbraith was interviewed once and described his life at
>> Harvard in the 1920s when he like most others was paid only a few
>> dollars a year (something over $300 if my memeory serves). He said
>> that the
>> salary was low even for the times but that he could afford to run a
> In 1936, as a (rural) elementary school teacher (Life Certificate
> than a bachelor's degree) my mother earned $55 a month (9 months). At
> the time she got her degree & a new job (1943) that had increased to
> per month.
> Probably one way to get a feeling for income levels would be to look up
> statistics for the pay of GS-5s in federal civil service. I assume
> figures are available someplace. (GS-5 was/?is the usual starting level
> for employees with a bachelor degree.)