Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
Nicholas Dormer, a handsome young bachelor politician and amateur portrait painter, is vacationing in Paris with his formidable mother, Lady Agnes, the impoverished widow of a Liberal politician, and his two younger sisters, “spinsterish” Grace and lively, lovable Biddy. At an art exhibition, Nick meets an old Oxford friend, Gabriel Nash, an aesthete and dilettante but sufficiently a gentleman to be introduced to the ladies. Another visitor in Paris is the Dormers’ cousin, Julia Dallow, a rich and politically minded young widow, whose brother, Peter Sherringham, is at the British Embassy there. Nick’s fondness for Julia, her devotion to his political career, Biddy’s friendship with Julia and unrequited affection for Peter, and Peter and Nick’s congeniality unite the family group with particularly close ties. While they are together in Paris, they hear that the member of Parliament for the constituency where Julia’s estate and influence lies died suddenly. Guaranteeing her financial as well as political support, Julia wants Nick to stand for election.
This moment of great promise and family solidarity is threatened unobtrusively by Nash’s introduction of Mrs. Rooth and Miriam. They are, respectively, a widow of limited means and vague claims to aristocratic connections in England, and her beautiful daughter, who was brought up in a succession of continental pensions where living is cheap, superficially cultivated, and multilingual. To...
(The entire section is 1502 words.)
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