For very many years there had been Dashwoods living in Sussex, in the south of England. The family owned a large area of land around their country house, Norland Park. Recently the head of the family, an unmarried man of great age, had invited into his home his nephew, who was expected to inherit the house and land, with his wife and children. The nephew, Mr Henry Dashwood, and his wife behaved kindly and thoughtfully towards the old gentleman, not from interest in his fortune, but from goodness of heart, so that he was able to spend his last years comfortably with these pleasant and cheerful companions.
By his first wife Mr Henry Dashwood had one son, John; by his present wife, three daughters. John, a respectable, serious young man, had received a large inheritance from his mother, and had also added to his wealth by his own marriage. To him, therefore, the Norland fortune was not as important as to his sisters, who had very little money of their own.