(Masterpieces of British Fiction)

Corinthian Tom, as he was later known, had been born into a rich family with loving parents, who watched after his welfare and provided for his every want. As he grew older, he was a little uneasy at their solicitude, for the carefree life in the capital appealed to him; and he would have liked to savor life without restrictions of any kind. Gradually, instances of the many different facets of London life came under his observation: the hungry man who counted the trees in St. James’s Park to while away the dinner hour; the rake who crossed the street to avoid his tailor; and the pawnshop customers. As Tom’s knowledge increased, his impatience to savor the whole of life became keener.

He became very friendly with Bob Logic, a one-time student at Oxford. A merry fellow with a comical face and an aptitude for puns, Bob was rich and had already been orphaned. With no strictures of purse or parents, Bob’s life was one long prank. For a time, Tom envied him.

Tom’s mother died first, and when his father also passed away, Tom’s grief was genuine. With rare tact, Bob left him to face his sorrow alone, but after a decent wait, he turned up again with his usual jests and puns. Tom then embarked on the life he most desired under Bob’s shrewd tutelage. In short order, Corinthian Tom was known at boxing matches, the society parades, the opera, and in slum dens. His career was crowned by the acquisition of the most desirable mistress in town, lovely and talented Catherine. As their connection became known, inevitably she was called Corinthian Kate.

His merry life was temporarily halted when Tom fell ill. He called in Doctor Pleas’em, a knowing doctor with the perfect approach for reckless young blades. Doctor Pleas’em prescribed a country rest for his weary patient. Searching through his invitations, Tom found one from an uncle who lived at Hawthorn Hall, and he set out to visit him immediately.

At the hall, Tom met his young cousin Jerry, a strong and quick lad who was dazzled by his city relative. Soon, country life worked its wonders, and on the last day of his stay, Tom accompanied Jerry on a twenty-six mile fox hunt. Both young men were in at the kill. That afternoon, when an agreeable party met to say their farewells to Tom, it was decided that Jerry should return to London with his cousin to acquire a city polish.

Jerry was impressed by the appointments of Corinthian House and was a willing pupil in learning social graces. The first step was to call in a good tailor. Tom’s man was Mr. Primefit, who was the most accomplished tailor in town. Mr. Primefit had built up his vast clientele by never pressing for a bill; in return, the young blades never questioned the amount of a bill when they finally paid it. In his new clothes, Jerry saw his first panorama of society when Tom took him riding in Rotten Row and Hyde Park.

With Tom and Bob as guides, Jerry saw the gambler, the tradesman, the sharper—all decked in finery well beyond their purses. The lively Lady Wanton and her sister, Miss Satire, were attracted by Jerry’s fresh face and manly bearing. When Miss Satire made an unkind remark about Jerry’s lack of polish, Lady Wanton warmly...

(The entire section is 1313 words.)