From The Duchess and The Jeweller, what was Oliver's childhood like?
The Duchess and The Jeweller is a short story by Virginia Woolf which explores the lengths people may go to in order to attain a level of perceived success. Oliver Bacon is fairly smug in his recognition of his own accumulated wealth. The mention of tapestry, silk, hide, the mahogany sideboard and all " the right brandies, whiskeys and liqueurs" immediately create an atmosphere of indulgence and privilege.
However, life for Oliver, the Bond Street Jeweller who has invitations from "duchesses, countesses, viscountesses and Honourable Ladies" and even has the capacity to keep the "daughter of a hundred Earls" waiting at his "pleasure," has not always been so glamorous.
On measuring his success, Oliver often recalls his childhood, where he "began life in a filthy little alley." The same successful jeweller once aspired to "selling stolen dogs to fashionable women in Whitechapel." Oliver has taken any opportunity; he even "dodged in and out among the crowds. He was slim, lissome, with eyes like licked stones" and has been able to raise himself from his humble beginnings, proving to his mother that he could do better and becoming the "richest jeweller in England."