Little Lord Fauntleroy
By
Frances Hodgson Burnett

Review of Book
It's almost Christmas and as every year you'll listen to the traditional songs and, yes, you will be going to watch "It's a wonderful life" with James Steward. Most naturally tears will well up in your eyes and you'll thank Frank Capra for this little movie-wonder. And yup, there are tearjerkers all over the place, and you'll be watching most of them, although you know them by heart - why? Because there's simply no getting out of their way. Want more? Try this one - you might not yet be familiar with Little Lord Fauntleroy written by Frances Hodgson Burnett, published in 1886 in New York.

There must have been half a dozen movies made out of this novel. I remember the one with Sir Alec Guinness best. Rick Schroder played little Cedric and you'll also find a very familiar TV face in it: Patrick Stewart (yes, our dear Captain Jean Luc Picard from Star Trek TNG). Mr. Stewart, BTW has also started his very own Christmas tradition on Broadway where he impersonates all characters of "A Christmas Carol" by Charles Dickens live on-stage in a one-person play around the Holiday season. I am starting to become tedious here, it's just that time of year, alright?

The story itself has been written and published in the USA and it tells us a touching story about a small boy who grew up in New York, not knowing that his family origins are (from his father's side) aristocratic - or 'ristycratic as Cedric, our hero, would pronounce it. His father, who died and left his small family in poverty, was the third and youngest son of a British Earl. Cedric's grandpa disliked the marriage with a common American girl and so disowned his father even before he was born.

Dramatic things start happening when his Lordship loses his elder sons in two tragic accidents and decides to take care of the last male heir to his title: Cedric, the American born Lord Fauntleroy. He decides to bring up this eight-year-old, who he thinks is nothing but a common ill bred lad from the States. But Cedric turns out be quite different from what his grandfather in his prejudiced mind thinks he is. This little fellow wins his heart almost in an instant. The grandfather is somewhat like Mr. Scrooge from "A Christmas Carol", who'll regain his humaneness with the help from his grandson's unselfish and light-hearted naiveté. Cedric cannot see any wrong in is beloved grandpa, and so leaves him no other choice but prove to his grandson that he really is the generous man who has the power to change the fate for his poor tenants and acts accordingly. Knowing virtually nothing about "importance" nor "status", Cedric sweeps his Lordship off his aristocratic and gouty feet.

Everything seems to be going well - and of course there will be a dramatic crisis when a scammer drops into that newly found harmony and puts everything into question. He and his mother apply as legitimate heirs to one of the elder brothers of Cedric's father. Since this is a Christmas story, we will get to learn that the honest, naïve and well-bred American family and their friends will show the British locals that their natural way of solving problems is superior to the old aristocratic way of blindly respecting long overcome rules.

The production itself seems a bit old-fashioned to me. The subject really isn't up-to-date. It remains a nice Christmas story, probably not the best there is. The is a harsh lack of a "real" message, because the whole story is a nice fairy tale - whereas "A Christmas Carol" shows us what we (as a grown-up) have in our power to change once we've decided to do so. The good message is: a child can alter the mind of a stubborn old man. Arguably not the cleverest of all messages there can be, but a rejoicing one, nonetheless. All in all this novel reminds me of an early first try of writing "Mister God, this is Anna" by Fynn - without the sad parts.

"Oh! Dearest!" he said, "I should rather not be an earl. None of the boys are earls. Can't I not be one?"


Nat's reading
The version I was able to listen to was a slightly abridged one with 2 ¾ hours running time. Nat's reading all characters. It is much fun listening to him while indulging himself in mocking both the American as the English accents this novel is offering him. I especially liked Mr. Hobbs (the grocery man), he is reasoning about English gentry without knowing them himself, but he sure is sure that they are a pest in his eyes. Each character has it's own style and Nat animates them all with much delight. It occurs to me that he liked little Cedric best. Not too surprisingly so, because Cedric bears the weights of the miserable world he's been put in with a mixture of eagerness and acceptance that only a good-natured small boy would show. And by being the way he is, he changes his small part of the world into a better place without ever thinking of his own needs or that the world he lives in is cruel or even ignorant towards the misfortune of the poor and needy. Cedric is a fellow who likes to be liked, without any pretence or making any kind of fuss about himself and his new status. Playing this child must have been a pleasure and one is able to hear that in-between the lines.

 


Published by
Published by Penguin Books,1998
ISBN 1-57815-270-4
Abridged
Running time 2 hours 40 mins. approx

 

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