Last year, I spent a little time in Scotland. While I was there, I learned about the Scottish Tobacco Lords of the 1700s. Ever since, they often pop into my mind.
The Tobacco Lords were a select group of merchants based in Glasgow. Due to ocean currents and trade winds, Glasgow was a better port for importing from the colonies than other ports in the United Kingdom. This gave the Tobacco Lords an advantage, which they used to become the lead buyers of colonial tobacco. They then leveraged the power that gave them into a scheme for putting the tobacco farmers into debt to them, which they in turn used to negotiate very good prices when they purchased colonial tobacco.
It’s all a little more economics than I usually care for, but the long and short is, the Tobacco Lords were actually a big part of why the colonies revolted. It wasn’t just the taxes the British government was levying that sparked the American War of Independence, but also the Scottish Tobacco Lords. For example, George Washington (who wasn’t president yet, obviously) was in debt to the Tobacco Lords for nearly £2,000. Overall, colonial tobacco farmers were in debt to the Tobacco Lords for a staggering £1,000,000. To make matters worse, they’d been tricked and manipulated into that dept and had no good way to get out from under it.
So, what does all of this have to do with Pride and Prejudice inspired writing? Well, the Tobacco Lords of Glasgow were exceedingly wealthy. So much so that they bought their way into the world of the aristocracy. While some of them lost their wealth in the American War of Independence, some did not (those who didn’t, many of them, changed to trading cotton from the British West Indies). This brings me to the character I would like to include.
Undoubtedly, some of these very wealthy nouveau riche Scotsmen had children. Sons and daughters (or, depending on how the time frame is planned out for the book, grandchildren) who could be of marrying age at the same time as our favorite characters. How would Darcy react to a super-wealthy Scottish Tobacco Lord’s son? What sort of sort of strain would that put on his and Bingley’s relationship? Yes, Bingley’s family is touched by trade, but he and is sisters are circumspect about that connection. I have the notion a Scotsman might not be so reticent, and that lack might reveal some of Darcy’s biases. Furthermore, would the wealthy son of a Tobacco Lord have any qualms about the quality of Elizabeth’s relatives? I imagine him as easy going, entertaining, and very interesting to Elizabeth and her sisters.
At this time, Renata and I have no plans for such a character, but one of these days, we’ll find a place for him. All he has to do is show up, and we’ll have a new and interesting adventure. He will, of course, flirt with Elizabeth. In the end, though, I bet he’ll be married to Lydia.
What about you? What character would you like to include, and who would they most dismay?