tutorial, commentary, study resources, plot, and web links
Lord Beaupre first appeared in Macmillan’s Magazine in April—June 1892. It was first called Lord Beauprey but then given its new title when the tale was reprinted in the collection The Private Life published in London by Osgood, McIlvaine in 1893.
Wakehurst Place – West Sussex
Lord Beaupre – critical comment
The main dramatic interest in this tale is supplied by the bogus engagement between Guy and Mary. Despite the fact that Mary is reluctant to join in the scheme, and despite Guy’s cavalier attitude to its possible consequences, the reader is given every reason to believe that it will eventually turn into a sincere commitment and lead to marriage.
Mrs Gosselin believes that Guy is in love with her daughter, but that he does not yet realise it. Mary on her part believes that once the charade has served its purpose of keeping away marriageable young women, Guy will feel his way to make her a new and this time genuine proposal.
Other characters in the story are of the same opinion: they explain the peculiarity of an engagement without any declared dates by the idea that Mary is trying to ‘snare’ Guy, or that given time they will come to genuinely love each other.
This is exactly what happens. Guy certainly does come to realise how much Mary means to him – but only when it is too late, and she has accepted Bolton-Brown’s offer of marriage.
Lord Beaupre – study resources
The Complete Works of Henry James – Kindle edition – Amazon UK
The Complete Works of Henry James – Kindle edition – Amazon US
Complete Stories 1892—1898 – Library of America – Amazon UK
Complete Stories 1892—1898 – Library of America – Amazon US
The Complete Tales of Henry James – Volume 8 – Digireads reprint – UK
The Complete Works of Henry James – Kindle eBook edition
Lord Beaupré – eBook formats at Project Gutenberg
The Cambridge Companion to Henry James – Amazon UK
Lord Beaupre – plot summary
PartI. Guy Firminger is a young man with no occupation and no prospects. In conversation with old friends Mrs Gosselin and her daughter Mary, he discusses marriage and the condition of the young bachelor, bemoaning the fact that young men are seen as prey by mothers with daughters to marry.
Part II. Following three deaths in his extended family, Guy inherits the title Lord Beaupré and the wealth that goes with it. He then complains that as predicted he is being pursued by mothers and their daughters – especially by his plain eldest cousin, Charlotte Firminger. He suggests to Mary a scheme of pretending to be engaged in order to deflect the attention of would-be fortune hunters.
Part III. At a weekend party at his newly acquired estate at Bosco, the Gosselins coincide with just such a predatory mother and daughter, the Asburys. There is undeclared rivalry between Maude Asbury and Mary Gosslein for Guy’s favours, which culminate in an embarrassing scene – the outcome of which is that May Gosselin becomes engaged to Guy.
Part IV. However, this bogus engagement has been organised by Mrs Gosselin who claims she merely wishes to help Guy as an old family friend – though she is actually hoping that the engagement will lead to a sincere wish to marry. Mary herself disapproves of the deception, and points to its weaknesses and social unfairness.
Part V. Her brother Hugh also disapproves and thinks his American colleague Bolton-Brown is a more suitable candidate for Mary. Whilst Guy basks in the freedoms and comfort of his sham engagement, Hugh and Bolton-Brown return to America where they both work. Hugh tells his friend about the deception, and urges him to return to England.
Part VI. When people in society seem to suspect that something is not quite right about the engagement, Mary asks Guy to go away for three months. Guy goes to Homburg, where his is followed by his aunt and her daughter Charlotte. Bolton-Brown meanwhile arrives back from America and takes up residence close to Mrs Gosselin’s country house in Hampshire. He proposes to Mary.
But at this very point Guy returns from Germany. He and Mary go through the formalities of breaking off their engagement – even though it becomes clear that they now both have strong feelings for each other.
Mary agrees to marry Bolton-Brown, and Guy goes abroad again. Mrs Gosselin is disappointed that her plan has failed, and she prophecies difficulties ahead when Mary realises that she made the wrong choice. But in the meantime, Guy has married Charlotte, completing the symmetry of disappointments.
|Guy Firminger||a young first cousin to Lord beaupré, who inherits his title|
|Mrs Ashbury||a socially ambitious mother|
|Maude Ashbury||her daughter|
|Mrs Gosselin||a socially powerful and ambitious woman|
|Mary Gosselin||her daughter (23) an old friend of Guy|
|Hugh Gosselin||her brother, a banker (30)|
|Frank Firminger||Guy’s uncle|
|Charlotte Firminger||his plain eldest daughter, Guy’s cousin, who he eventually marries|
|Mr Bolton-Brown||a well-to-do American banker friend of Hugh, who Mary eventually marries|
|Lady Whiteroy||a married admirer of Guy’s|
Henry James – portrait by John Singer Sargeant
Henry James’s study
Theodora Bosanquet, Henry James at Work, University of Michigan Press, 2007.
F.W. Dupee, Henry James: Autobiography, Princeton University Press, 1983.
Leon Edel, Henry James: A Life, HarperCollins, 1985.
Philip Horne (ed), Henry James: A Life in Letters, Viking/Allen Lane, 1999.
Henry James, The Letters of Henry James, Adamant Media Corporation, 2001.
Fred Kaplan, Henry James: The Imagination of Genius, Johns Hopkins University Press, 1999
F.O. Matthieson (ed), The Notebooks of Henry James, Oxford University Press, 1988.
Ian F.A. Bell, Henry James and the Past, London: Palgrave Macmillan, 1993.
Millicent Bell, Meaning in Henry James, Cambridge (MA): Harvard University Press, 1993.
Harold Bloom (ed), Modern Critical Views: Henry James, Chelsea House Publishers, 1991.
Kirstin Boudreau, Henry James’s Narrative Technique, Macmillan, 2010.
Daniel Mark Fogel, A Companion to Henry James Studies, Greenwood Press, 1993.
Jonathan Freedman, The Cambridge Companion to Henry James, Cambridge University Press, 1998.
Roger Gard (ed), Henry James: The Critical Heritage, London: Routledge, 1968.
Tessa Hadley, Henry James and the Imagination of Pleasure, Cambridge University Press, 2009.
Richard A. Hocks, Henry James: A study of the short fiction, New York: Twayne Publishers, 1990.
Colin Meissner, Henry James and the Language of Experience, Cambridge University Press, 2009
John Pearson (ed), The Prefaces of Henry James, Pennsylvania State University Press, 1993.
Richard Poirer, The Comic Sense of Henry James, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1967.
Ruth Yeazell (ed), Henry James: A Collection of Critical Essays, Longmans, 1994.
Other works by Henry James
Washington Square (1880) is a superb early short novel, It’s the tale of a young girl whose future happiness is being controlled by her strict authoritarian (but rather witty) father. She is rather reserved, but has a handsome young suitor. However, her father disapproves of him, seeing him as an opportunist and a fortune hunter. There is a battle of wills – all conducted within the confines of their elegant New York town house. Who wins out in the end? You will probably be surprised by the outcome. This is a masterpiece of social commentary, offering a sensitive picture of a young woman’s life.
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The Aspern Papers (1888) is a psychological drama set in Venice which centres on the tussle for control of a great writer’s correspondence. An elderly lady, ex-lover of the writer, seeks a husband for her daughter. But the potential purchaser of the papers is a dedicated bachelor. Money is also at stake – but of course not discussed overtly. There is a refined battle of wills between them. Who will win in the end? As usual, James keeps the reader guessing. The novella is a masterpiece of subtle narration, with an ironic twist in its outcome. This collection of stories also includes three of his accomplished long short stories – The Private Life, The Middle Years, and The Death of the Lion.
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The Spoils of Poynton (1896) is a short novel which centres on the contents of a country house, and the question of who is the most desirable person to inherit it via marriage. The owner Mrs Gereth is being forced to leave her home to make way for her son and his greedy and uncultured fiancee. Mrs Gereth develops a subtle plan to take as many of the house’s priceless furnishings with her as possible. But things do not go quite according to plan. There are some very witty social ironies, and a contest of wills which matches nouveau-riche greed against high principles. There’s also a spectacular finale in which nobody wins out.
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Henry James – web links
Henry James at Mantex
Biographical notes, study guides, tutorials on the Complete Tales, book reviews. bibliographies, and web links.
The Complete Works
Sixty books in one 13.5 MB Kindle eBook download for £1.92 at Amazon.co.uk. The complete novels, stories, travel writing, and prefaces. Also includes his autobiographies, plays, and literary criticism – with illustrations.
The Ladder – a Henry James website
A collection of eTexts of the tales, novels, plays, and prefaces – with links to available free eTexts at Project Gutenberg and elsewhere.
A Hyper-Concordance to the Works
Japanese-based online research tool that locates the use of any word or phrase in context. Find that illusive quotable phrase.
The Henry James Resource Center
A web site with biography, bibliographies, adaptations, archival resources, suggested reading, and recent scholarship.
Online Books Page
A collection of online texts, including novels, stories, travel writing, literary criticism, and letters.
Henry James at Project Gutenberg
A major collection of eTexts, available in a variety of eBook formats.
The Complete Letters
Archive of the complete correspondence (1855-1878) work in progress – published by the University of Nebraska Press.
The Scholar’s Guide to Web Sites
An old-fashioned but major jumpstation – a website of websites and resouces.
Henry James – The Complete Tales
Tutorials on the complete collection of over one hundred tales, novellas, and short stories.
© Roy Johnson 2013
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