Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
Cecilia Beverley, just short of her majority, is left ten thousand pounds by her father and an annual income of three thousand pounds by her uncle, the latter inheritance being restricted by the condition that her husband take her name. Until her coming of age, she is expected to live with one of her guardians, the fashionable spendthrift Mr. Harrel, husband of a girlhood friend. One who warns her against the evils of London is Mr. Monckton, her clever and unscrupulous counselor. His secret intention is to marry Cecilia; at present, however, he is prevented by the existence of an old and ill-tempered wife, whom he married for money.
The constant round of parties in London and the dissipation of the Harrels are repugnant to Cecilia. Kind but unimpressive Mr. Arnott, Mrs. Harrel’s brother, falls hopelessly in love with the girl, but Harrel obviously intends her for his friend, insolent Sir Robert Floyer, whom Cecilia detests. After vainly begging Harrel to pay a bill, which Arnott finally pays, Cecilia becomes so disgusted with the Harrels’ way of life that she decides to leave their household. However, she finds the abode of her miserly guardian, Mr. Briggs, so comfortless and is so repulsed by the pride and condescension of her third guardian, Mr. Delvile, that she decides to remain with the Harrels.
At a masquerade party, she is pursued by a man disguised as the devil. He is Monckton in disguise, attempting to keep others away from her....
(The entire section is 1444 words.)
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