(Critical Survey of Literature, Revised Edition)

Frank Cowperwood, nearing age sixty, had just lost his long struggle to gain a fifty-year franchise to control the transportation system in Chicago. In addition, he and Aileen, his second wife, had failed to achieve the social prominence to which they felt their wealth entitled them. At the time of Cowperwood’s defeat, Berenice Fleming, an attractive young woman whom he had loved for eight years, quite unexpectedly agreed to become his mistress. Berenice knew that Cowperwood intended to stay married to Aileen; Cowperwood agreed to continue to support Berenice and her mother.

Cowperwood, a vital man impatient for something to do, was interested in the proposition of two English engineers, Philip Henshaw and Montague Greaves. The proposition involved Cowperwood’s help in financing the construction of the London underground. Henshaw and Greaves were interested in the line that ran from Charing Cross to Hampstead (each of the lines was originally planned by different organizations). Cowperwood, hoping to coordinate the separate lines, planned to go to England, with Berenice, to organize the financing and attempt to gain the controlling interest in the project.

On his way to England, Cowperwood stopped in New York to see Aileen in the palatial mansion he had built for her. First, he invited her to go to Europe; then he decided that he needed to keep her occupied socially so that he would have time for Berenice, and so he found an improvident artist, Bruce Tollifer, whom he hired to pursue and amuse his wife. Tollifer was to receive two hundred dollars a week plus expenses and was to meet Aileen in London. Not knowing of the arrangement and thinking of Tollifer as a friend, Aileen felt that, by asking her to come to Europe, her husband was finally settling down to one woman. The party left for Europe.

In London, Cowperwood discovered that he also needed control of the Central Loop line in order to solidify his interests. He met Lord Stane, a British financier, who helped him in both his business dealings and personal arrangements. Berenice rented a country house from Lord Stane. In the meantime, Tollifer persuaded Aileen to take a trip to Paris with him. He tried to make her more attractive (once pretty, Aileen had become middle-aged and overweight) by renewing her interest in clothes and exercise.

While Tollifer and Aileen were in Paris, Cowperwood and Berenice were free to live at Berenice’s country house and tour the cathedral and university towns of England.

As Cowperwood’s business interests expanded, he found it necessary to return to the United States to find more capital. He took Aileen and left her in New York while he toured the country raising money. In Baltimore, a beautiful young dancer named Lorna Maris came to his hotel room claiming that she was a distant Cowperwood relation. Lorna and Cowperwood began an affair, and he stayed in the United States longer than he had...

(The entire section is 1202 words.)