Another book review by Matthew, with an unusual take on a classic. Enjoy and consider:
“You know you always remember people who are kind to you”
– Little Lord Fauntleroy
Little Lord Fauntleroy was first issued as a serial between 1885 and 1886 in the
children’s publication St. Nicholas Magazine and later the same year in book form.
The author, Frances Hodgson Burnett, wrote this serial for children but it quickly
became a favorite for mothers of little boys—much to their youthful chagrin.
The tale features a young boy and chronicles the significant events and people
influencing the course of his life from his birth to his 8th birthday. Cedric happens to
be beautiful, wise, winsome and charming beyond his years. His long curly hair,
black velvet suit and lace collar are frequently commented upon throughout the
story. The outfit quickly became popular among mothers which may give some
insight into the pains inflicted upon young boys whose mothers’ fancy was caught
by the little lord.
The cringe-worthy “morality tale” vibe is emblematic of the literary era during the
height of Victorian vapidity and easily leaves a reader with a sticky, cough
syrupy feeling. That said, I still found the story rich in the descriptions of
interpersonal relationships. Having spent some time recently in the book of
Ecclesiastes I was struck by the correlation between the “preacher” and Fauntleroy’s
grandfather. The connection between the two books assisted the general palatability
of Little Lord Fauntleroy and allowed me to observe the story from a much healthier
moral framework. The story’s contrast between limitless resources spent upon
one’s own appetites and the joy of spending on the needs of others is a strong one.
As much as one may object to the combination of innocence, goodness, and naiveté
in one character Burnett entwines the qualities quite charmingly.
The ability of the little lord to see the good in everyone or to project good upon
those who do not possess their own is curious and invites incredulity – an
invitation best left unanswered. He is also adept at choosing contentment in any
circumstance, and showing rapturous gratitude for any perceived kindness. Cedric
is more than willing to prove a loyal friend to anyone. The sheer number and
consistency of these characteristics did eventually wear down my cynicism and I
would gladly see them embodied.
This book seems best read by ages 8-10, or read aloud to a younger audience. I
would warn against any commentary from adults – allow a child to observe,
consider, and come to their own conclusions. Caveat: I would not call the book a
classic. Little Lord Fauntleroy does, however, highlight its era of literature. Some
little phrases here and there may require explanation, as they have been somewhat
lost to history. The references to historical events and ways of life may offer an
excellent opportunity for investigation into British and American history.