In this Essay, I will first outline the general development of different means used to hold property and keep it within a family in England. This discussion must of necessity be brief and schematic, and therefore readers should not rely on it as a completely accurate, nuanced, and detailed discussion of the historical development of English land law. I will then examine what Austen has to say about Longbourn, the principal property in Pride and Prejudice, which leads me to conclude that Austen probably conceived of Longbourn as being entailed and not secured under a strict settlement. I will also provide another novel, John Galt's The Entail, or the Lairds of Grippy,18 as a relatively contemporary point of comparison to demonstrate that Austen probably conceived of the arrangement for Longbourn similarly. Then, I will explore the implications of Austen's use of the entailment, whether or not she knew of the limitations of the entailment, and whether or not her audience knew of these limitations. My ultimate conclusion is that, whether or not Austen or her audience knew about the ins and outs of the entailment, we have much to learn about the relationship between a society and its law from this literary treatment of law.
Peter A. Appel,
A Funhouse Mirror of Law: The Entailment in Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice
, 41 Ga. J. Int'l & Comp. L. 609
Available at: http://digitalcommons.law.uga.edu/fac_artchop/959