People sometimes ask me what Nathaniel’s day job is. He does have one, you know, even though it’s never directly mentioned in the text. It’s important because the Hawkings are supposed to be quintessentially middle-class people. The Victorian period was the first time in Western history that the middle class were becoming an important demographic, a group with a lot of their own money and growing political influence. Still, the old class system that prioritized the nobility still hadn’t totally been overcome, so there is an interesting conflict between those with titles and all the hereditary powers associated with them, and increasingly significant professional class that was growing richer and more numerous than they. I want this conflict to have a presence in and effect on the story, as classism is a major theme I want to engage with.
So Nathaniel, as it happens, is what would have been called back in the day a speculative financier– or in modern terms, a venture capitalist. They find promising business ventures, which in this time tended to be resource acquisition in the colonies, and lend them the startup money to get going. His father Ambrose is the head of the firm and Nathaniel has recently become a partner. I am leaning toward Ambrose being the founder, and having him be the first generation of the Hawking family to attain significant wealth and social prominence. Nathaniel’s elder brother Justin may be part of this as well, I haven’t decided yet. The Colonel was not so much, as he was pursuing his military career, but I do think he had a financial stake in the operations. This would enable him to have, as they say, “incomes” from investments. Mrs. Hawking inherited these as his widow, and they provide her with a very significant return.
I like to think that Mrs. Hawking doesn’t think about them, or any money, very much at all. She is the daughter of a prominent, high-ranking military official and went from there to be the wife of another one, so she has never had to worry about such things. I don’t think she’s particularly materialistic, but I also think she’s pretty used to never being limited by money. Again, I want classism to be a big theme in these stories, so this part of her needs to come into conflict with the characters around her that haven’t been so fortunate.
Moreover, she’s in control of her money. As a widow, nobody has power over it but her. That is a MAJOR feminist issue– women with financial resources of their own have a great deal more agency and independence than those who don’t. This casts her in sharp contrast to most women in her society, and those are the sorts who will need her help the most. Her lack of strong consciousness about the privilege that gives her could be an interesting source of drama when she encounters those not as fortunate as her. This could even include Mary, who despite her closeness and growing importance to her mistress, is still her maidservant, still massively less privileged and in a strongly subordinate position.