1893—Oscar Wilde spends three months of the summer with his lover, Alfred Douglas, at a house at Goring-on-Thames at a total cost of £1,340 [£111,000 in today’s money]. As Wilde later wrote to Alfred from prison in 1897 in the long letter of self-recrimination and reproach, “De Profundis”:
“Though it may seem strange to you that one in the terrible position in which I am situated should find a difference between one disgrace and another, still I frankly admit that the folly of throwing all this money at you, and letting you squander my fortune to your own hurt as well as mine, gives to me and in my eyes a note of common profligacy to my bankruptcy that makes me doubly ashamed of it.”
1897—Arnold Bennett notes in his journal:
“At a City branch of a certain bank yesterday morning two golden-haired girls, with large feathered hats, presented a piece of paper bearing a penny [35p] stamp and the words ‘Please pay the bearer £2 10/- [£212]. Henry T Davies.’ The cashier consulted his books and informed the ladies that Henry T Davies had no account there. ‘I don’t know about that,’ said one of them, ‘but he slept with me last night, and he gave me this paper because he hadn’t any cash. Didn’t he, Clara?’ ‘Yes,’ said Clara, ‘that he did, and I went out this morning to buy the stamp for him.’ The cashier commiserated with them, but they were not to be comforted.”
1967—Richard Burton writes in his diary:
“I bought Elizabeth [Taylor, his wife] the jet plane we flew in yesterday. It costs, brand-new, $960,000 [£4m]. She was not displeased. I think we can operate it at a reasonably practicable rate—perhaps with luck almost nothing. This may sound like famous last words but I feel safe in it. It can, in 12 to 15 hours, and with one or two stops depending on the weather, cross the Atlantic. It can land on any small airfield including unpaved ones. It can land at Abingdon when we go to Oxford next month. It can land at Saanen [the Burtons’ home in Switzerland]. It also means that we will never have to land at that horrible London airport [Heathrow] ever again!”
1985—Charles Nicholl publishes “The Fruit Palace,” an investigation into the cocaine trade in Colombia: “[My publisher] Malcolm said he wanted to know ‘the who, the how and the why’ of the cocaine racket… The ‘why’ is money. It is important to remember that buying cocaine, down at the end user’s market, is a mug’s game. In London today a gram of cocaine, Standard Punter’s Toot, might cost between £50 [£114] and £70 [£159]. Prices fluctuate according to supply… Why is it so phenomenally expensive? There are two obvious answers. First, because it is illegal…[second], it costs that much because people will pay that much. The market will stand it, even up to £70 [£159] for 0.33gm. In a sense people like it expensive. The price is all part of its ritzy mystique.
All sums here were converted using the consumer price index