Friday, March 25, 2011

Guest Kara Louise: The Dreaded Entail

Today I welcome Kara Louise, whose latest book is the Pride and Prejudice retelling Only Mr. Darcy Will Do. Here she explains the mystery of that most dreaded of property entanglements, the entail.

Leave a comment with your email address for a chance to win the copy of Only Mr. Darcy Will Do which Sourcebooks has generously provided. Kara will select the winner. Check the comments to see who won, and how to contact me to claim your book. If I cannot contact the winner within a week of the selection, I will award the book to an alternate. Note, Sourcebooks can mail to USA and Canada addresses only.

And the winner Kara selected is Kaye Manro! Congratulations to Kaye, and thanks to all who participated.

Welcome, Kara!

Thanks for inviting me to share with you today. Linda asked me to share a little about the dreaded entail that had Mrs. Bennet so easily vexed. In fact, I attribute most of her episodes of flutterings and vexations of nerves to Longbourn’s entail and what it meant. If you do not fully understand what an entail is, you are not alone. Mrs. Bennet did not understand it either. Here is an excerpt from “Pride and Prejudice” concerning the subject:

“Jane and Elizabeth attempted to explain to her (Mrs. Bennet) the nature of an entail. They had often attempted it before, but it was a subject on which Mrs. Bennet was beyond the reach of reason; and she continued to rail bitterly against the cruelty of settling an estate away from a family of five daughters, in favour of a man whom nobody cared anything about.”

Even though she did not fully understand it, she knew it could mean the loss of her home to her and her daughters. Mrs. Bennet had every reason to fear what would become of them if Mr. Bennet died. Longbourn was entailed to the male heir, and since they had no sons, the closest male heir was the odious Mr. Collins, who, as Mr. Bennet teasingly suggested, “may turn you all out of this house as soon as he pleases.”

In my newest book, “Only Mr. Darcy Will Do,” Mrs. Bennet’s fears do come to pass and Mr. Bennet dies after Elizabeth returns from Kent. While Mr. Collins waits several months before taking his rightful ownership of Longbourn, he does eventually move in with Charlotte. He does extend the courtesy of allowing the Bennet ladies to remain, but none of them choose to do so.

Mrs. Bennet could not bear to live under the same roof with Mr. Collins, so she and her three youngest daughters move to Meryton to live with her sister and brother-in-law. Elizabeth and Jane both take governess positions in London. Jane becomes a governess in her aunt and uncle’s home, (the Gardiners) and Elizabeth becomes governess to six year-old Emily Willstone.

Elizabeth soon comes to learn that the Willstone’s have a long-time acquaintance with Mr. Darcy. When Mrs. Willstone’s sister, Rosalyn, comes to visit, Elizabeth learns that this young lady has had a secret affection for Mr. Darcy for a long time. Elizabeth fears that their paths might cross, but has a greater fear that someone will discover that he proposed to her and she turned him down. When the Willstone family is invited to Pemberley, Elizabeth cannot escape being in his company. And being in a much lower position, when she begins to see him in a new light, she regrets that he will likely never renew his offer since she is much more beneath him.

Now, what exactly is an entail?

An entail was a legal stipulation put on a home and land to ensure it would be kept in the family on the male line. One of the reasons for doing this was that if the property was given to all the children of the owner, it would have to be divided up between them. Eventually there would not be enough for all future generations.

In the particular case of the entail of Longbourn, someone back in Mr. Bennet’s family line drew up this entail, which stipulated that the male heir would inherit. Mr. Bennet could do nothing about it now, but he could have ended the entail if he had a son.

In P&P we are told, “When Mr. Bennet had married, economy was held to be perfectly useless; for, of course, they were to have a son. The son was to join in cutting off the entail, as soon as he should be of age, and the widow and younger children would by that means be provided for.”

From the text above, Mr. Bennet could have, and probably would have, broken the entail in agreement with a son, when he had come of age, if he had one. The son would be the prospective heir, and only the two of them could break the entail legally. Without a son, the entail went to the nearest male relative in his family line, and that was Mr. Collins. Mr. Collins could do nothing about the entail, even if he wanted to, because he was merely the heir presumptive. An heir presumptive means just that. You are only presumed to be the heir until or unless a direct heir (son) is born. That could be either through a ‘surprise’ (and possibly a miracle) if Mrs. Bennet were to bear a son, or if she died and Mr. Bennet remarried and then had a son with his new wife.

It’s also interesting that even if one of the Bennet daughters were to marry and have a son, it could not go to him. It had to go through the male heir. I think we can see why Mrs. Bennet was so concerned. In “Pride and Prejudice” she does marry off at least two of her daughters to men who are wealthy enough to help out if they were to require their financial assistance.

In “Only Mr. Darcy Will Do,” however, we see what may have happened to the Bennet ladies if Mr. Bennet had died. I hope you will be curious enough to read the book and find out exactly what happens between Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy.

Thanks for letting me share!

Only Mr. Darcy Will Do by Kara Louise
In this fresh and original retelling of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, Mrs. Bennet’s greatest fear comes to pass—Longbourn is entailed to Mr. Collins. Elizabeth finds work as a governess in London, widening the social divide between her and Mr. Darcy and making it more difficult than ever for them to find their way to each other...

Kara Louise grew up in the San Fernando Valley and moved to the Midwest in 1991, where she enjoys the relaxed pace of the country. She began writing about nine years ago, first with a story inspired by her genealogical research. But that took a back seat when she discovered the writings of Jane Austen. She has written six novels based on Pride and Prejudice, including Darcy’s Voyage, answering the “what happened next” and the “what ifs” in Elizabeth and Darcy’s story. She lives with her husband outside Wichita, Kansas. Visit her at


Jakki L. said...

Kara, I recently read that entailments typically lasted for three generations and that Mr. Bennet would have been the 2nd generation. I just had a thought. Have you or any of the AA thought of making a variation where the Bennets did have a son? I know it would change Mrs. Bennet's actions drastically, as well as other events. I would be curious to see how all the characters act in the same situations and how the story would play out if there was a son. Hm?

Jakki L. said...

Oh, my email address is jakki36(at)yahoo(dot)com. Thanks!

Sheila said...

Oh, I would love to read and own this book! I loved Darcy's Voyage and this too sounds like a book I would enjoy. :)

Thanks for wonderful interview and giveaway!

showcasesisters (at) gmail (dot) com

Kaye Manro said...

Kara, you book sounds very interesting to me!

Good luck and many sales!

kayemanro at yahoo dot com

catslady said...

I too have to say how much I enjoyed your Darcy's Voyage so I know this book will be just as enthralling. I didn't know the term "entail" and I think it all very sad that it at least wouldn't go to the oldest daughter. Maybe that would make a different variation? Since I found out about variations on P&P I've been totally fascinated with it all!


Linda Banche said...

Everyone takes potshots at Mrs. Bennet for her flutterings, but I always felt sorry for her. She knew exactly how her world worked, and she could do nothing to provide for her daughters unless the girls married well.

I think Mr. Bennet got off scott-free. When he realized he would never have a son, he could have economized, but he didn't. He also didn't even try to find husbands for his daughters. He hid in his library and let his wife do all the work, and then blamed her for her preoccupation with marriage. The fault for his family going penniless after his death belongs squarely on him.

Kara Louise said...

The entail is one of those things that if you're reading P&P and see it mentioned, chances are you won't know what it is. I agree, Linda, with your assessment of Mr. Bennet. He may have had the insight to like Lizzy the best, but did little to nurture his family (which he realizes after Lydia runs off, but I doubt he changed his ways). I know, Jakki, that there are stories on the fanfic sites where there is a son. It would have changed things drastically. Maybe Mrs. Bennet would have been a little more sensible. Good luck to you all in the giveaway!

Melissa A said...

Mrs. Bennet is so... I can't think of the proper word. She fears losing her home and not having a support, but why hasn't she saved her "pin money" for the last 14 years. If she had saved 17 or 18 pounds per quarter she would have an extra 1000 to earn the interest off of. Even if she only managed half that amount it would have made a big difference. Especially since she would have learned economizing while she was doing it. Oh well. We don't know Mrs. Bennet as an intelligent woman!

I look forward to reading Kara's book.

Linda Banche said...

Melissa, Mrs. B couldn't do what you said. Her pin money was for her personal use only, to buy clothes or fripperies (includes jewels) and maybe a few inconsequential things for the home. If she invested it as you suggested, the money would belong to Mr. B, even though she used her own money. Everything a married woman owned belonged to her husband. Marriage was a pretty rotten deal for Regency women. That's why they were so aggressive when it came to marriage settlements. Yes, Mrs. B had her faults, but when it came to money, she had little choice.

So, the girls' welfare was Mr. B's responsibility and he shirked it. Yet he's a hero and Mrs. B is a villain. The double standard is alive and well in P&P.