Jacket for 'Gentlemen of Uncertain Fortune.  How Younger Sons Made Their Way in Jane Austen’s England'


UK - Yale University Press

Gentlemen of Uncertain Fortune.  How Younger Sons Made Their Way in Jane Austen’s England

By Rory Muir

Published Aug 2019



What is to become of a young man of one and twenty years old, who has neither profession nor money?  A pretty situation indeed…

The future William IV to his brother the Prince of Wales


A younger son, you know, must be inured to self-denial and dependence.

Colonel Fitzwilliam in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice



A fresh 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?

If they were to remain ‘gentlemen’, only a few options, such as joining the Church or the army, were available to them.  Each of these careers had its own attractions, drawbacks and peculiarities, and Gentlemen of Uncertain Fortune is the first exploration of the lifestyle and prospects afforded by these different professions.

Rory Muir weaves together the stories of many young men, both well known and obscure – including Austen’s brothers and Sydney Smith – while shedding a great deal of light on Regency society.  Life for these ‘privileged’ young men was not particularly easy and success was often elusive, whatever career they pursued.