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Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Pride, prejudice and property law

For you Jane Austen fans out there, there is a post on the Volokh Conspiracy blog discussing the interplay between property law and the plot of Pride and Prejudice. As the blog points out, the whole reason the five daughters have to get husbands is the ancient doctrine of fee tail, requiring property subject to such a restriction (such as their father's) to pass only to male heirs. Find your prince or wind up penniless in the streets -- not much of a choice, is it?

Quite fortunately, the esteemed and eminently wealthy Mr. Darcy happens by and saves the day for the heroine of that book. I suspect in a more modern version of the story, Elizabeth Bennet would take her sizable smarts to Wall Street or at least some Big Law firm, dispensing with the need of the plot device of Mr. Darcy altogether. Not quite as romantic, perhaps, but much more fair to women. In any event, we are lucky the abominable custom of the fee tail has been relegated to the history books.

For more on Jane Austen and property law, click here.

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