Sat 11 Jul, 2015 06:38 am
C.S. Forester has Hornblower receive in the post multiple sums of six and eight-pence and three and four-pence, apparently as tokens of esteem or as rewards for his exploits (Flying Colours, chap. 17). I can discover that 6/8, a third of a pound or 80 pence, was once a gold coin called a Noble but these would have been very rare and valuable by Hornblower's time. The sum was also a common fee for a lawyer and possibly for other professional services and fines.
Is there any record of a custom of giving 6/8 or 3/4 in this context? Any citations would be welcome.
The word "noble" could just denote a sum of money amounting to six shillings and eightpence composed of any mix of coins, not necessarily a rare one-noble coin, just as a guinea did not necessarily (or even very often) mean a guinea coin, often just the sum of one pound and one shilling. It was very common to give fractions of one pound as gifts or rewards.
@Tes yeux noirs,
Thanks for your response. I should have been clear that the text I'm interested in mentions only "innumerable six and eightpences and three and fourpences" and I discovered the term "noble" only after my own research. Clearly you're correct about mixes of coins being used. I'd really appreciate finding any reference to a custom of giving amounts of a third or a sixth of a pound in the context of a reward for success.
The problem with a particular sum being traditionally offered is inflation. Back in Hornblower's time a noble was a lot of money, now you wouldn't be able to get a cup of coffee with it.
This is a link to seaman's annual salaries during the Napoleonic wars. (The money has been converted to decimal just to confuse things.)