The Dashwood family had long lived in a respectable manner in Sussex on their large estate in Norland Park. The last owner had lived a long life there with his sister, who was both a friend and housekeeper. When she died, he invited his nephew’s (Henry Dashwood) family to come live with him. Henry Dashwood was to be his heir. Mr. Dashwood Sr. was very attached to his nephew’s family. The couple was good-hearted, and their children were cheerful.
Henry Dashwood was on his second marriage. The first produced a son and the second three daughters. The son had received a large inheritance from his mother, half which he inherited when he reached adulthood. His fortune increased with a profitable marriage.
The daughters were in more need of their father’s inheritance. Their mother had no fortune, and their father only had 7,000 pounds without his uncle’s inheritance. When the uncle died, though, his will was disappointing—though not meant in spite. He left the girls a thousand pounds each. However, his main heir was Henry Dashwood’s grandson.
Henry Dashwood tried to save his fortune so he could leave his family well off, but he did not live long thereafter. At his death, he only had 10,000 pounds. He begged his son to take care of his family. John Dashwood readily agreed. Though proper and dutiful, he tended to be cold-hearted and selfish. His wife did not encourage him to become a better person, being pig-headed and even more selfish than her husband. Originally, he planned to give his sisters a 1,000 pounds each.
His wife arrived unannounced after the funeral, which was considered rude even if it was now her house. She treated her relatives so badly that Mrs. Henry Dashwood was tempted to leave. Her daughters counseled her to not have a rift with their brother. Elinor was the soundest in judgment of her daughters and often counseled her. She alone could govern her emotions, unlike her mother and sister. Marianne was much like her mother. She had some of the same virtues as her sister Elinor, but she was also imprudent. Mrs. Dashwood cherished what caused Elinor to be concerned. Marianne and her mother fed each other’s emotions. The youngest child, Margaret, had Marianne’s romantic views but none of her sense. There was not much expectation she would blossom into a better woman.