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Frances Hodgson Burnett – Little Lord Fauntleroy

October 27, 2010

124. Little Lord Fauntleroy by Frances Hodgson Burnett (1886)

Length: 269 pages
Genre: Children’s Classic

Started: 09 October 2010
Finished: 10 October 2010

Where did it come from? The library booksale / Free ebook from Amazon.
Why do I have it? A Little Princess is my favorite book from my childhood, if not ever, and I’d always heard this referenced but never read it – or even knew what it was about.
How long has it been on my TBR pile? Since 16 December 2006

Fauntleroy’s so good
and sweet, it’s enough to give
you diabetes.

Summary: Cedric Errol was for the most part a normal seven-year-old boy. His British father died when he was young, but his American mother and he live a happy, comfortable life together. One day, a lawyer arrives from Britain with some startling news: Cedric’s uncles (whom he’s never met) are dead, which leaves Cedric as Lord Fauntleroy, and standing to inherit an Earldom. His grandfather, the current Earl, is a nasty, cantankerous, selfish old man, who is still upset about Cedric’s father marrying an American. The Earl sends for Cedric to come live with him in England, not for the boy’s benefit, but for his own sense of pride. Cedric has been brought up to be unfailingly good, kind, and trusting, but how will such an innocent fare when given the privilege and power of nobility?

Review: Well, color me misinformed. For some reason I had in my head that to be called “a little Lord Fauntleroy” was a disparagement, meaning you were acting like a spoiled brat. Turns out, the reality is pretty much the exact opposite. Cedric is almost preternaturally wonderful: kind, cheerful, giving, attractive, selfless, strong, trusting, and only ever seeing the best in people. He’s essentially a male version of Sara Crewe from A Little Princess, but even more wonderful; even Sara was allowed one fit of temper. Cedric’s extreme naivetë actually makes it somewhat hard to believe him as seven-year-old; in some places, four or five would have seemed to be a better fit. Regardless, this book – and Cedric himself – did charm me. Similarly to A Little Princess, the story is mostly one of the magic that being a good person can work in the world, and as morals go, that’s not a bad one. My only real complaint is that Burnett transcribed her dialogue pretty literally, and gave all of her servants and rural people such thick country accents that some of their lines were almost unreadable. Apart from that, though, it’s a sweet little story, predictable as all get out, of course, but not overly facile in its resolutions. Not quite as engaging as A Little Princess or The Secret Garden, but a charming little book all the same. 3.5 out of 5 stars.

Recommendation: Best for fans of Burnett’s other books, or British children’s lit in general.

This Review on LibraryThing | This Book on LibraryThing | This Book on Amazon

Quote:

“But only be good, dear, only be brave, only be kind and true always, and then you will never hurt any one, so long as you live, and you may help many, and the big world may be better because my little child was born. And that is best of all, Ceddie, — it is better than everything else, that the world should be a little better because a man has lived — even ever so little better, dearest.” (Location 1214)

Other Reviews: Jen Robinson’s Book Page
Have you reviewed this book? Leave a comment with the link and I’ll add it in.

First Line: Cedric himself knew nothing whatever about it.

Vocab: (see the whole list)

  • Location 1159: “Mrs. Dibble had been kept so busy attending to customers who came in to buy a pennyworth of needles or a ha’porth of tape and to hear what she had to relate, that the little shop bell over the door had nearly tinkled itself to death over the coming and going.” – contraction of “half-penny’s worth.”
    .
  • Location 1481: “Often as he watched the little fellow lying upon the hearth, conning some big book, the light shining on the bright young head, his old eyes would gleam and his cheek would flush.” – studying attentively or learning by heart.
    .

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12 Comments leave one →
  1. October 27, 2010 7:27 am

    According to Wikipedia, “little Lord Fauntleroy” is an insult inspired by implicit self-righteousness and taking wealth and privilege for granted–and, personally, I also think it’s used as an insult because aristocracy is perceived as feminizing.

    I had never realized there was a book behind the name!

    • October 27, 2010 2:21 pm

      That Wikipedia page is great, partly for reassuring me that I wasn’t totally crazy that it is used as an insult (although I don’t necessarily buy their reasoning about how/why it got turned into an insult, since it is SO OPPOSITE of the character as written)…

      …but also because where else would I learn that Donald Duck’s middle name is Fauntleroy? :)

      Also, you’re on to something with the feminizing thing, since the other way that Fauntleroy gets used as a descriptor is in terms of long golden ringlet curls and velvet suits with short-pants and floppy shirts, so…

  2. October 27, 2010 8:04 am

    I thought the same thing about Little Lord Fauntleroy! I do think kids were less sophisticated back then, so the age might be appropriate.

    • October 27, 2010 2:22 pm

      bermudaonion – I see where you’re coming from with the “less sophisticated” thing, but I think there’s also an argument that some kids were more sophisticated, out of necessity… and Cedric wasn’t particularly sheltered.

  3. October 27, 2010 3:25 pm

    There’s a lovely bit in one of Elisabeth Enright’s Melendy books (I think it’s ‘Spiderweb for Two’) where Cuffy tells the story of a cousin of hers who was made to dress like Cedric Fauntleroy – it being a fashion then – and how he confessed that he hated his long curls, and how Cuffy managed to get rid of them for him.

    So I think it’s the velvet suits and long curls which pointed the insult, rather than Cedric’s behaviour.

    • October 29, 2010 10:33 am

      Ela – I’ve never heard of Elisabeth Enright, but I would totally believe that the insult started with the prissy suits and hair.

      Although Fauntleroy suits were apparently largely responsible for the change of little boys being dressed in short pants rather than dresses, so that’s something…

      • ela21 permalink
        November 2, 2010 1:45 pm

        Surprised you haven’t heard of Enright – she was an American writer of children’s books – and the ones I’ve read are delightful. There are four books about the Melendy family – ‘The Saturdays’, ‘Four Storey Mistake’, ‘And Then There Were Five’ and ‘Spiderweb for Two’ – and I’ve also read ‘Thimble Summer’. They were written, I think, pre and post WW2, but are quite nostalgic.

      • November 3, 2010 9:45 am

        Ela – Hmm, I’ll have to check them out. Thanks for the recommendation!

  4. October 27, 2010 5:22 pm

    I enjoyed The Secret Garden and especially A Little Princess, so I’d like to read this at some point even if it’s not quite as good. Loved the discussion about the origins of the name in the comments, btw.

    • October 29, 2010 10:35 am

      Nymeth – When I was searching for free stuff for my Kindle, it turns out that Frances Hodgson Burnett has written roughly eleventy million books, but only the two of them (three, if you count this one) are at all well-known. I downloaded the rest of them, and will maybe get to them someday. :)

  5. October 29, 2010 10:12 pm

    Ceddie makes me puke, but somehow I still find Little Lord Fauntleroy touching. Darn you, Frances Hodgson Burnett, and your emotional manipulation!

    • November 1, 2010 9:22 am

      Jenny – Hee hee hee! Impressive how she can elicit the eyeroll and the “aww” at the same time.

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