Volume II Chapter IX – Inheritance

Setup from Persuasion

While in Bath, Anne Elliot met a Mr. William Elliot, her cousin, who began making amends wit Sir Walter Elliot, since he was to inherit Sir Walter’s wealth and title. He begins a courtship with Anne until Mrs. Smith speaks to her, revealing a more reprehensible side of his character in the process.


“This was the light in which it appeared to those who knew the family, long before your return to it; and Colonel Wallis had his eye upon your father enough to be sensible of it, though he did not then visit in Camden-place; but his regard for Mr. Elliot gave him an interest in watching all that was going on there, and when Mr. Elliot came to Bath for a day or two, as he happened to do a little before Christmas, Colonel Wallis made him acquainted with the appearance of things, and the reports beginning to prevail. -Now you are to understand that time had worked a very material change in Mr. Elliot’s opinions as to the value of a baronetcy. Upon all points of blood and connexion, he is a completely altered man. Having long had as much money as he could spend, nothing to wish for on the side of avarice or indulgence, he has been gradually learning to pin his happiness on the consequence he is heir to. I thought it coming on, before our acquaintance ceased, but it is now a confirmed feeling. He cannot bear the idea of not being Sir William. You may guess therefore that the news he heard from his friend, could not be very agreeable, and you may guess what it produced; the resolution of coming back to Bath as soon as possible, and of fixing himself here for a time, with the view of renewing his former acquaintance and recovering such a footing in the family, as might give him the means of ascertaining the degree of his danger, and of circumventing the lady if he found it material. This was agreed upon between two friends, as the only thing to be done; and Colonel Wallis was to assist in every way that he could. He was to be introduced, and Mrs. Wallis was to be introduced, and every body was to be introduced. Mr. Elliot came back accordingly; and on application was forgiven, as you know, and re-admitted into the family; and there it was his constant object, and his only object (till your arrival added another motive) to watch sir Walter and Mrs. Clay. He omitted no opportunity of being with them, threw himself in their way, called at all hours – but I need not be particular on this subject. You can imagine what an artful man would do; and with this guide perhaps, may recollect what you have seen him do.”

In Relation to Present Day

A lot has changed since the 1800s in respect to the topics of inheritance. According to law, there is an agreement that having children sets a requirement to raise them, which in turn means that a portion of the parents’ wealth should be entrusted to the child as an extension of this support. This ideal breaks the rule of inheritance as a family ownership and preserving the whole instead of breaking it up. At the same time, few national laws have this set in stone, taking the option for a parent to cut out children of their choice. Is it really better to have looser laws, or do strict laws avoid a lot of issue with legality and make inheritance more straightforward?

About Author

Daniel Kaiser is a student at PLU, expected to graduate  in 2020 with a major in Computer Science and a minor in Mathematics.


Austen, Jane. Persuasion. Edited by Linda Bree, Broadview Press, 2004.

–Vinogradoff, Paul. Anthropology and Early Law. Selected Writings of Paul Vinogradoff. Edited by Lawrence Krader, Basic Books, 1967.

Pages 173-229 provide an insight into royal law regarding inheritance and primogeniture in England as a backdrop to its use in the novel.

–Brashier, Ralph C. Inheritance Law and the Evolving Family. Temple University Press, 2004.

An objective insight into current American societal practices and laws that enforce them.

–Ackerman, Bruce A. We the People Transformations. The Belknap Pr. of Harvard Univ. Pr., 1998.

A source talking about modern US views of inheritance, as a contrast to England.

–Britannica, The Editors of Encyclopaedia. “Baronet.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 29 June 2017.

A definition of the role of Baronet, including its power and the way it had been attained.

–“The Law of Inheritance.” Mapping the Medieval Countryside: Places, People, and Properties in the Inquisitions Post Mortem, www.inquisitionspostmortem.ac.uk/contexts/the-law-of-inheritance/.

A good summary of inheritance, with sources, that helps grasp the time period and

–Pierson, C. Allyn. “Myth Busting: Inheritance Law in the Regency Era.” Semi-True Stories, 19 Jan. 2016,      callynpierson.wordpress.com/2011/07/14/myth-busting-inheritance-law-in-the-regency-era/.

A source explaining how the laws of inheritance and primogeniture are alterable by the owner if a need arises.

–“Statute of Wills.” The Free Dictionary, Farlex, legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/Statute+of+Wills.

An explanation of the law that allowed landowners to write their own wills and divide their land as they wish.

–Britannica, The Editors of Encyclopaedia. “Primogeniture and Ultimogeniture.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 22 Dec. 2010.

An explanation of the custom of primogeniture and its utility in the time period and in the story.