“The Camberwell Beauty” is told by a narrator looking back on his years in the antique trade and those years just following, when he was intimate with all the dealers in southern England. He first became involved with August, Pliny, and the other figures in this tale when he began searching for a rare piece of Staffordshire porcelain for one of his customers. In the process, he met Mrs. Price and her niece Isabel. Some time later, shortly after the death of Pliny’s aged mother, he accidentally meets August, Mrs. Price, and other dealers in a Salisbury pub. They repeat the rumors that Pliny used to lock his mother in her room to prevent her giving away his merchandise and that one night a month he visits his mistress in Brixton. This precipitates an outburst by Mrs. Price against August, during which she accuses him of trying to seduce Isabel.
On a visit to Pliny’s shop, the narrator again runs into August, Mrs. Price, and Isabel. He is fascinated to see the girl write her name, or rather part of it, ISAB, in the dust on an antique table. Later, he reflects that it is sad to see a young girl grow up in the eccentric world of antique dealers. During the following year, the narrator’s business fails, and he is forced to quit and take a job as a real estate agent. He remains sufficiently in touch, however, to hear that August has been sentenced to two years in prison for receiving stolen goods and that Isabel has run away. Passing Pliny’s shop one...
(The entire section is 600 words.)