The story of Sense & Sensibility (without spoilers)
Henry Dashwood was a wealthy landowner and master of Norland Park, a beautiful estate in Somerset. His first wife died, leaving him with a son, John. His second marriage produced three daughters, Elinor, Marianne and Margaret. Henry’s unexpected death after 20 years of marriage results in John Dashwood, now married with a child, inheriting Norland Park and the whole Dashwood fortune, through a legal contract known as an ‘entail‘. An entail means that the property can only pass from father to son, not to daughters. If no son were living, the nearest male relation would inherit. (This is the device that drives the plot of the popular BBC drama, Downton Abbey.)
Although the dying Mr. Dashwood pleads with his son to “provide for” his step mother and three half-sisters, John’s wife, Fanny, persuades him to offer them only some minor assistance in moving out of Norland. Meanwhile, Fanny’s brother, Edward Ferrars, visits and he and Elinor develop a warm friendship. When Fanny makes it clear that her mother, Mrs. Ferrars, will never allow Edward to marry a woman without dowry (money from her family which goes to the man she marries) and station, Mrs. Dashwood hastily removes herself and her daughters to a cottage in Devonshire, on the estate of her cousin, Sir John Middleton.