‘Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen nineteen and six, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and six, result misery.‘ is a quotation from David Copperfield (Chapter 12).
This quotation is said by the character Wilkins Micawber.
Mr. Micawber was modelled on Dickens’ father, John Dickens, who like Micawber was incarcerated in debtors’ prison after failing to meet his creditors’ demands. In real life, John Dickens was held in the Marshalsea although Dickens uses the nearby King’s Bench Prison in the novel for the confinement of Micawber.
‘My dear,’ said Mr. Micawber; ‘Copperfield,’ for so he had been accustomed to call me, of late, ‘has a heart to feel for the distresses of his fellow-creatures when they are behind a cloud, and a head to plan, and a hand to—in short, a general ability to dispose of such available property as could be made away with.’
I expressed my sense of this commendation, and said I was very sorry we were going to lose one another.
‘My dear young friend,’ said Mr. Micawber, ‘I am older than you; a man of some experience in life, and—and of some experience, in short, in difficulties, generally speaking. At present, and until something turns up (which I am, I may say, hourly expecting), I have nothing to bestow but advice. Still my advice is so far worth taking, that—in short, that I have never taken it myself, and am the’—here Mr. Micawber, who had been beaming and smiling, all over his head and face, up to the present moment, checked himself and frowned—’the miserable wretch you behold.’
‘My dear Micawber!’ urged his wife.
‘I say,’ returned Mr. Micawber, quite forgetting himself, and smiling again, ‘the miserable wretch you behold. My advice is, never do tomorrow what you can do today. Procrastination is the thief of time. Collar him!’
‘My poor papa’s maxim,’ Mrs. Micawber observed.
‘My dear,’ said Mr. Micawber, ‘your papa was very well in his way, and Heaven forbid that I should disparage him. Take him for all in all, we ne’er shall—in short, make the acquaintance, probably, of anybody else possessing, at his time of life, the same legs for gaiters, and able to read the same description of print, without spectacles. But he applied that maxim to our marriage, my dear; and that was so far prematurely entered into, in consequence, that I never recovered the expense.’ Mr. Micawber looked aside at Mrs. Micawber, and added: ‘Not that I am sorry for it. Quite the contrary, my love.’ After which, he was grave for a minute or so.
‘My other piece of advice, Copperfield,’ said Mr. Micawber, ‘you know. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen nineteen and six, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and six, result misery. The blossom is blighted, the leaf is withered, the god of day goes down upon the dreary scene, and—and in short you are for ever floored. As I am!’
To make his example the more impressive, Mr. Micawber drank a glass of punch with an air of great enjoyment and satisfaction, and whistled the College Hornpipe.
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