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A: H. J. Byron Pf: 1875, London Pb: 1880 G: Com. in 3 acts S: Country houses in Hertfordshire and lodgings in London, 1870s C: 6m, 4fOn a European tour Talbot Champneys befriends the son of a retired dairy manufacturer, Charles Middlewick. His father, the snobbish Sir Geoffry Champneys, ‘a county magnate’, thus finds himself compelled to join with the ebullient Perkyn Middlewick to greet their respective sons. When the sons arrive, it becomes clear that Charles, who has benefited from a good education, is charming and well spoken; by contrast, Talbot is a spoilt young man, whose indolence has left him an aristocratic oaf. Also come to greet the two young men are Talbot's intended bride, the heiress Violet Melrose, and her impoverished cousin Mary Melrose. To the dismay and confusion of the fathers, Violet falls in love with Charles, and Mary with Talbot. At first the fathers banish their sons into poverty, but, when they begin to miss them, they relent, and the families are happily reunited.

A: H. J. Byron Pf: 1875, London Pb: 1880 G: Com. in 3 acts S: Country houses in Hertfordshire and lodgings in London, 1870s C: 6m, 4f

Although the play is somewhat formulaic in its over-neat opposition of the aristocrat and the meritocrat, seen in both fathers and sons, the play, which originally ran for a record-breaking four years (1,362 performances) at the Vaudeville Theatre in London, remains a heart-warming experience in the theatre. As a social document, it stands as one of a whole series of Victorian plays, beginning with Bulwer-Lytton's Money and ending with Barrie's The Admirable Crichton, that reflected the triumph of industry and intelligence over aristocratic privilege.

Subjects: Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights).


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