(Critical Survey of Literature, Revised Edition)

Victor, alias Monsieur Beaucaire, the barber of the French ambassador to England, gambled with the socially elite of Bath for any amount. It was the early eighteenth century, when Bath society was under the leadership of Beau Nash. One night, M. Beaucaire caught the English Duke de Winterset cheating at his table. Instead of hush money, however, Beaucaire exacted Winterset’s promise to take him, a barber in disguise, to Lady Malbourne’s ball, and there to introduce him to the young and beautiful Lady Mary Carlisle.

Winterset was disgusted beyond words, for he was sure the barber would be recognized and he himself shamed before his acquaintances. Beaucaire then shed the disguise he wore and appeared before Winterset as an entirely different person. He declared that he would be Monsieur le Duc de Chateaurien.

It was dawn when the ball ended. The gallant M. de Chateaurien, assisting Lady Mary to her sedan chair, begged her for a rose. She refused but managed to drop a flower to the ground for him to retrieve. Within a short time, M. de Chateaurien became, along with Winterset, the cynosure of Bath society. Yet Winterset planned revenge for the way in which this upstart barber had blackmailed him. Unable to expose Beaucaire without ruining his own reputation, Winterset had a captain in his debt provoke M. de Chateaurien by insulting French womanhood. In the ensuing duel, Chateaurien was victorious; he sent Winterset a basket of roses. Another of Winterset’s minions then daringly suggested that M. de Chateaurien was an impostor. The Frenchman, avowedly fighting to defend the honor of his sponsor, Winterset, was victorious a second time.

All the while, M. de Chateaurien gained favor with Lady Mary. After a grand fete, he was granted the privilege of riding beside her coach. As they talked,...

(The entire section is 745 words.)