Little Lord Fauntleroy

Fauntleroy redirects here. For other uses see Fauntleroy (disambiguation).

Little Lord Fauntleroy is a still popular children's novel by American (English-born) author Frances Hodgson Burnett, serialized in St. Nicholas Magazine in 1885. It was a runaway hit for the magazine and was separately published in 1886. The book was a commercial success for its author, and its illustrations by Reginald Birch set fashion trends. Little Lord Fauntleroy also set a precedent in copyright law in 1888 when its author won a lawsuit over the rights to theatrical adaptations of the work.

Plot introduction

Little Lord Fauntleroy opens in mid 1880s Brooklyn, New York. Cedric Errol is a poor American boy from New York City who at an early age finds that he is the sole heir to a wealthy British earldom. Cedric is now Lord Fauntleroy and someday will be the next Earl of Dorincourt.

There, Cedric must join his grandfather, the Earl, in Dorincourt Castle. His American mother lives nearby, but the bitter, selfish old Earl must change before Cedric's mother is allowed to live with them at the Dorincourt estate.

The old Earl is at first impressed by the appearance and intelligence of his young American grandson. Later, the old Earl states that he is gratified that Cedric, by befriending and caring for the poor and needy around him, will be a better earl than he was.

A crisis shames the Earl into asking Cedric's mother to forgive him. With the help of Cedric's loyal American friends, the crisis is resolved.

The Earl of Dorincourt intends to teach his grandson how to be an aristocrat. However, Cedric inadvertently teaches Grandfather that an aristocrat should practice compassion and social justice towards humans in his care.

Through Cedric's belief in his grandfather's goodness, and through his own good example, the old Earl is becoming the kind and good man Cedric always believed him to be.

Impact on fashion

The Fauntleroy suit, so well-described by Burnett and realized in Reginald Birch's detailed pen-and-ink drawings, created a major fad for formal dress for American middle-class children:

"What the Earl saw was a graceful, childish figure in a black velvet suit, with a lace collar, and with lovelocks waving about the handsome, manly little face, whose eyes met his with a look of innocent good-fellowship." (Little Lord Fauntleroy)

The style was modelled upon the so-called "Van Dyke", a standardized fancy dress of the 18th century that was loosely based on children's costume in court circles of Charles I. Thomas Gainsborough's "fancy picture" The Blue Boy epitomizes the "Van Dyke". Until the onset of Romanticism towards the end of the 18th century, small children had been dressed as miniature versions of their elders. Clothing Burnett popularized was modeled on the costumes she tailored herself for her two sons, Vivian and Lionel.

In the generation before World War I, when all boys under the age of ten were in short pants, under the influence of Birch's illustrations for Little Lord Fauntleroy many middle-class American boys were dressed in velvet suits with lace collars and sashes and short knee-pants, and to have their hair curled into long ringlets like Cedric, a mode that was considered aristocratic. (Upper-class American boys were in school uniforms modelled on British ones; the upper-class "fancy dress" counterpart of the Fauntleroy suit was a sailor suit with short pants.)

After revivals of the fad connected with Mary Pickford's film and the 1936 classic with Freddie Bartholomew, the onset of World War II consigned such outfits to attics.

Film, TV or theatrical adaptations

There have been several movie versions of the book produced throughout the years:

Modern usage

"Little Lord Fauntleroy" is now most often used as a term of derision. It describes a pompous spoiled brat, usually a young male, who takes his wealth and privilege for granted (though this is obviously not consistent with the original character). An early example of this insult is used in Richmal Crompton's Just William books. However, another common use of the term is an affectionate nickname, often given by parents who grew up with the story.


Aphex Twin also used Little Lord Fauntleroy in his remix of Come To Daddy, on his 1997 EP of the same name.

"Little Lord Fauntleroy" was also referenced in a song of the same name by The Upper Crust.

In season four, episode twenty-two of Two and a Half Men, Charlie calls Jake "Little Lord Fart-leroy"

In the pilot episode of Firefly, "Serenity", Malcolm Reynolds refers to runaway doc (and federal fugitive) Simon Tam as "Lord Fauntleroy".

External links

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