Put out to nurse when he was a baby, Henry Clinton, second son of the earl of Moreland, sees little of his noble parents and their favorite older son. At the age of five and a half, young Harry, as he is called, makes the acquaintance of Mr. Fenton, an old man of the neighborhood. The old gentleman is so impressed by the innate goodness of Harry’s nature that he steals the boy away from his nurse, after leaving a note for the parents telling them that he will one day return their son. It is Mr. Fenton’s purpose to train young Harry to become the most accomplished and perfect of men. The parents grieve for a short time but soon forget the boy in favor of his older brother.
Mr. Fenton takes Harry to a mansion at Hampstead. With them they take Ned, a beggar lad whom Harry befriends. There, Harry’s education begins. Mr. Fenton, a very wealthy man, gives Harry large sums of money and hundreds of garments to distribute to the deserving poor. It is Harry’s task to learn to distinguish the deserving from the rascals. At the same time, the boys are instructed in academic subjects, bodybuilding, and other suitable lessons. Ned has irrepressible spirits, and he constantly torments his teachers. Sometimes Harry joins in the fun, but he is such a good boy that he immediately performs a favor for anyone who may suffer because of Ned or himself.
Harry is so tenderhearted that he frequently brings whole families to live at the mansion and gives them money, clothing, and work. Mr. Fenton is highly pleased with the boy, who has purity of heart and a willingness to be instructed in all phases of life. The old gentleman teaches him theology, principles of government, moral rules, and many other forms of philosophy.
Harry becomes the champion of all those who are tormented by bullies, even though the ruffians are often larger and stronger than he. He soundly thrashes many boys and men and then immediately helps them to their feet and becomes their friend. Once he trounces the son of a nobleman. The mother, not knowing Harry is also an earl’s son, would have him severely punished, but the father sees Harry’s good character and defends the lad. Most of the people Harry thrashes become his devoted servants, seeing and loving the nobility of character he possesses.
One day, Mr. Fenton calls on a lady who has issued several invitations to him. He is delighted to learn that the woman, now Lady Maitland, is his cousin Fanny Goodall. In their youth they loved each other, but he was many years older than Fanny. Recognizing Mr. Fenton, Fanny now calls him Harry Clinton. He is the brother of young Harry’s father, the earl of Moreland; thus, he is Harry’s uncle. Cast out with a small inheritance as was the custom with younger sons, he made his fortune as a merchant, married a wealthy woman, and prospered still more, but his beloved wife, his children, and his dear father-in-law all died, leaving him bereft of any emotion but sorrow. Although he gained a great fortune on the death of his father-in-law, he considers himself the poorest of men. Fanny is also a...
(The entire section is 1262 words.)