(Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

The elder Thomas Newcome marries his childhood sweetheart, who dies after giving birth to their son, who is named for him. Thomas remarries, and his second wife has two sons, Brian and Hobson. Young Thomas proves to be a trial to his stepmother and when he is old enough is sent to India, where he later becomes a colonel. He marries and has a son, Clive, whom he loves with a passion far beyond the normal devotion of a father. Having lost his mother, little Clive is sent to England to begin his education.

Brian and Hobson Newcome inherit their mother’s wealthy banking house. Brian marries Lady Ann, who is well known in London for her lavish parties. After little Clive spends about seven years in England, his impatient father crosses the ocean to join him. He expects to receive a warm welcome from his two half brothers, Brian and Hobson. Much to his bewilderment, the bankers receive him politely but coldly and pass on the responsibility of entertaining him to young Barnes, Brian’s son, a social gadfly and a familiar figure in London’s clubs.

Colonel Thomas Newcome’s late wife has a sister and a brother. The sister, Miss Honeyman, runs a boardinghouse in Brighton, where little Alfred and Ethel go with their mother, Lady Ann, for a vacation; Colonel Newcome and Clive also arrive for a visit. The brother, Mr. Honeyman, also lives in Brighton, where the keeper’s young son, John James Ridley, delights in drawing pictures from the storybooks that he finds in Mr. Honeyman’s room. Clive, who aspires to be an artist, delights in Ridley’s drawings; Ethel becomes extremely fond of the colonel and his unaffected manner. The colonel’s great love for children causes him to be a favorite with all the Newcome youngsters, but it is fair-haired little Ethel who wins his heart with her simple, adoring ways and her sincerity.

Colonel Newcome buys a house in London, where he lives with Clive and Mr. James Binnie, the colonel’s friend. Clive is given a tutor, but the young man neglects his studies to sketch. If the colonel is disappointed by Clive’s choice of career, he says nothing and allows Clive to attend art school with his friend, Ridley. Clive is becoming a kind, generous, and considerate young man, and the colonel himself is satisfied that his son is growing up to be a fine man. He spends a considerable amount of money setting up a well-lighted studio for Clive in a house not far from his own. Meanwhile, Mr. Binnie fell from a horse and now is laid up in bed. Binnie’s widowed half sister, Mrs. Mackenzie, and her daughter, Rosey, comes to stay with the bedridden Binnie in the colonel’s house.

After a time, the colonel finds himself financially embarrassed. Realizing that he can no longer live on his income in London, he plans to return to India until he reaches a higher grade in the army. With a higher pension he will be able to afford to retire in London.

Ethel Newcome grows into a beautiful and charming young lady, and the colonel dreams of a match between Ethel and Clive; Lady Ann, however, places an early prohibition on such a match. She tells her brother-in-law that Ethel has been promised to Lord Kew, a relative of Lady Kew, Lady Ann’s mother. The other Newcomes believe that Rosey Mackenzie would be a fine wife for Clive.

After Colonel Newcome returns to India, leaving Clive with a substantial income, Clive and Ridley, now a successful...

(The entire section is 1397 words.)