Early life and educationEdit
He grew up in Wiltshire in the town of Fullerton. He is presumably the eldest of his nine siblings, and has two younger brothers before Catherine and Sarah Morland, the fourth and fifth respectively of the Morland children.
He attended school away from home and spent Christmas one year with the Thorpe family, as he was friends with John Thorpe, brother of Isabella Thorpe. The Thorpes were under the impression that James was the heir to a lot of wealth than he actually was, although not because he deceived them in any sort of way as they deceived themselves.
James went to Bath with his friend John at the same time Catherine was staying with Mr. and Mrs. Allen in their comfortable lodgings on Pulteney St. He ran into Catherine and Isabella, the latter of whom he met at Christmas, while driving gigs through the city. He drove Isabella, and John drove Catherine.
Throughout his stay in Bath, Isabella spent a lot of time with him, to try and snag him for marriage. Isabella would feign affection to Catherine in front of James in order to appeal to him. When Catherine refused to go on a few outings because she was invited to go walking with Henry Tilney and his sister, Eleanor Tilney, Isabella manipulated James into siding with her against Catherine.
James finally proposed to Isabella after going on a carriage outing without Catherine present. Isabella agreed to the engagement, and James wrote immediately to his father for his approval. Mr. Morland gave his heartfelt consent, but did not tell them about the particulars of the match until later—this was fine for Isabella who still thought she snagged a wealthy man. When he informed Isabella that they would receive £400 per year from Mr. Morland, on account of him having nine other children to look after, Isabella's devotion altered. It was almost unnoticeable except if one looked for it, because at first Isabella only asked for a long engagement of 2 to 3 years, which disappointed James a little, but he did not argue against it. James was finally fully alerted to Isabella's altered manner when he noticed how she openly flirted with Captain Tilney, and often gave the other man just as many smiles and as much attention as she gave James.
He, like Catherine, is easily taken in and manipulated by members of the Thorpe family—namely Isabella. His social gullibility is less excused than Catherine's, as he has had more time in the real world than his sister and would thus have had more time dealing with people like the Thorpes. However, he falls prey to them, perhaps because he has not had much practice with that level of cunning directed at him, being not a wealthy man. Throughout the book, he often fails as a brother when he sides with his love interest against his beloved sister, and bullies her into putting aside her happiness for Isabella's—when she did not really need Catherine to be present at all. In the Regency sense of propriety, he failed when he allowed the crass John Thorpe to have spent time alone with his sister on carriage rides. Even the Allens, who are not family members or related to the Morlands in any way, are more careful with Catherine's reputation and happiness than her brother is.
He also is continually manipulated even when all evidence points in that direction e.g. when Isabella extends the engagement to 2 to 3 years after hearing that they would only receive £400 per year from James's father. Even Catherine starts to have doubts of Isabella's affection for James after this occurs, but James keeps himself, for whatever reason, in the dark.