Lord Clonbrony is an absentee landlord who owns large but encumbered Irish estates. He lives in England because his wife, an extravagant, ambitious woman, will have nothing to do with Ireland or the Irish. People of wealth and position laugh at her and the silly determination with which she apes English manners and speech, and they totally ignore Lord Clonbrony. A respected peer in Dublin and a good landlord when he lived on his own estates, he is a cipher in his wife’s fashionable world. As a result, he associates with such questionable and dissipated companions as Sir Terence O’Fay. Little is known about their son and the Clonbrony heir, Lord Colambre, except that he is a student at Cambridge and a young man of considerable expectations from a distant relative. A cousin, Grace Nugent, is well thought of because of her beauty and good manners.
Lady Clonbrony is anxious to have her son marry Miss Broadhurst, a young woman of much sense and large fortune. Although Lady Clonbrony and Mrs. Broadhurst do their best to promote the match, the young people, while friendly, are not drawn to each other. Lord Colambre is attracted to Grace’s amiability and charm, and Miss Broadhurst respects his feelings for his cousin.
In execution of a commission for Arthur Berryl, a Cambridge friend, Lord Colambre goes to the establishment of Mr. Mordicai, a coachmaker and moneylender. There he overhears that his father’s financial affairs are not in good order. When questioned, Lord Clonbrony admits that his situation is grave but that he relies on Sir Terence, often his intermediary with his creditors, to prevent legal action against him. The father reflects with some bitterness that there would be no need for such expediency if landowners would live on their own estates and kill their own mutton.
Lord Colambre sees for himself the results of reckless borrowing when Sir John Berryl, the father of his friend, is taken suddenly ill. Mordicai, demanding immediate payment of a large debt, attempts to have the sick man arrested and thrown into prison. Only Lord Colambre’s presence and firm words of rebuff keep the moneylender from carrying out his intention. Mordicai leaves with threats that Lord Colambre will someday regret his insults. Sir John Berryl dies that night, leaving his family almost penniless.
Deeply concerned for his family’s welfare, Lord Colambre decides to visit Ireland to see for himself the state of his father’s affairs. Lady Clonbrony uses every possible argument to dissuade her son, and Sir Terence suggests that the young man can best help his father by marrying a woman as wealthy as Miss Broadhurst. When Lord Colambre leaves suddenly for Ireland, his mother, refusing to give up her matrimonial plans for her son, allows her friends to believe that he went to attend to private business in connection with his marriage settlement. Since many people expect him to marry Miss Broadhurst, that story satisfies the Clonbrony creditors for the time being.
Arriving in Dublin, Lord Colambre meets Sir James Brooke, a British official well informed on Irish affairs, and the two men become good friends. The young nobleman, pleased with everything he hears and sees, is unable to understand his mother’s detestation of the Irish. He tries to meet Nicholas Garraghty, his father’s agent, but the man is away on business. Instead, he is entertained by the agent’s sister, a silly, affected woman named Mrs. Raffarty.
He also meets Lady Dashfort, who sees in him a possible husband for her widowed daughter, Lady Isabel. Although he hears no favorable reports of Lady Dashfort or her daughter, he becomes a frequent visitor in their home. At last, interested in securing an alliance for her daughter, Lady Dashfort proposes that he accompany her to Killpatrickstown, where she is going to visit Lord and Lady Killpatrick. It is her intention to show him Irish life at its worst so that he will have no desire to live on the Clonbrony estates after his marriage to Lady Isabel. Aware of his affection for Grace, Lady Dashfort arranges matters so that Lady Killpatrick asks her to exhibit her genealogical table, which was prepared as evidence in a lawsuit. She does so with seeming reluctance, on the grounds that she is ashamed of her remote connection with the scandalous St. Omars. She then reveals that Grace’s mother was a St. Omar.
Lord Colambre writes to his mother to...
(The entire section is 1809 words.)