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Literature / Little Lord Fauntleroy

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A children's novel by Frances Hodgson Burnett, originally serialized in St. Nicholas Magazine in 1885, and published on its own in 1886.

Poor American boy Cedric Errol is a fatherless child growing up in New York City in the 1880s. It's revealed that he is, in fact, the sole remaining heir to the Earl of Dorincourt in England and has the title of Lord Fauntleroy. So Cedric is taken to England to live with the Earl, his grandfather, so that he can learn to be a proper noble. Cedric's mother settles nearby, but the selfish and bitter Earl refuses to acknowledge the commoner his son married.

Over time, Cedric's compassion, intelligence and devotion to social justice capture the Earl's heart, and the old man softens, eventually asking Cedric's mother to forgive him during a crisis that Cedric's friends help solve.

The novel was especially popular with women with small children, since Cedric's fine qualities are explicitly shown to be caused not by his heredity, but the loving relationship he has with his mother. It was quickly adapted for the stage, and Ms. Burnett's successful lawsuit over her rights in regards to theatrical performances established a precedent in copyright law.

It's been adapted for film several times (once with Mary Pickford in dual roles) and into an Anime series as part of the World Masterpiece Theater.

Tropes associated with this book include:

  • Adorably Precocious Child: Cedric. Not only is he physically cute, but he's very well-behaved, polite, responsible, is very attached to his mother etc. Basically every mother's dream son, which is not surprising considering it was written by a Victorian era middle class lady. On stage, and in the early movies, he was often portrayed by a girl or young woman to get the cuteness factor right. Mary Pickford, in fact, doubled in the 1921 film adaptation the roles of Cedric and his mother. The 10-year-old Buster Keaton played Cedric on stage. How cute could it be?
  • Aristocrats Are Evil: The Earl isn't evil, but he does start the novel as a stuffy, narrow-minded and cold-hearted man. He acknowledges that Cedric will be a better Earl than he ever was.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: The Earl spends much of the novel resenting that Mrs Errol is the mother of Lord Fauntleroy - only for the possibility to come up that her son might not be the next Lord Fauntleroy after all, when it appears that one of his elder sons may have also had a child.
  • Big Fancy House: The Dorincourt estate is either this or a Big Fancy Castle.
  • Dead Guy Junior: Cedric is named after his late father.
  • Disappeared Dad: Cedric's father dies before the beginning of the book.
  • The Dutiful Son: Cedric's father was this in comparison to his very disappointing older brothers Beavis and Morris. However, he also fell from grace when he married a commoner from US.
  • Flanderization: In the novel, the author is careful to show Cedric's masculine athleticism and love of sports. But for many boys of the time, who had mostly seen the less active theatrical versions, what they remembered was a vain, sissified mama's boy.
  • Gossipy Hens: The servants and the woman of the village.
  • Grande Dame: Uppah-uppah crust Englishwoman Lady Costanza Lorridale is the kindlier version of this.
  • Hair of Gold, Heart of Gold: Cedric's golden curls reflect his inner goodness and devotion to doing the right thing.
  • Have a Gay Old Time: Cedric's father is described as someone who "had a bright smile and a sweet, gay voice". One of the things he liked about his life in America was that "everything was so gay and cheerful".
  • Irony: Cedric's father was the son who seemed the least likely to be rich or inherit the Earl's title but he was very obviously the best suited for it compared to his two older brothers.
    It was very bitter, the old Earl thought, that the son who was only third, and would have only a very small fortune, should be the one who had all the gifts, and all the charms, and all the strength and beauty.
  • Little Brother Is Watching: The Earl of Dorincourt becomes less selfish and more considerate, because his grandson Cedric thinks about him as a kind-hearted, generous man and looks up to him, and the earl doesn't want to disappoint the boy.
  • Mama's Boy: Cedric, to the point of calling his mother "Dearest".
  • Non-Idle Rich: Cedric's mother could live off the money the Earl offers her, but she prefers to work as a seamstress and give the money to the poor.
  • Ojou Ringlets: A Rare Male Example thanks to Cedric being the closest thing you can be to a Long-Haired Pretty Boy at his age.
  • Outliving One's Offspring: The three sons of the Earl of Dorincourt are dead.
  • The Patriarch: The Earl, albeit not a very nice one.
  • Precocious Crush: Cedric has one on a young lady called Miss Vivian Herbert, whom he declares to be prettier than anyone except Dearest.
  • Rags to Riches: Cedric is a Sleeping Beauty type. His father was the son of a very rich and anti-American Lord, his mother was the orphaned and much abused lady-in-waiting of a Rich Bitch; they got together despite the Parental Marriage Veto, and after the dad was disinherited they lived a middle-to-poor-class but happy life with little Cedric. It's only after the father's death that Cedric learns his origins and then goes to England to meet his paternal family.
  • Textile Work Is Feminine: Cedric's mother is a seamstress.
  • Youngest Child Wins: Somehow, as the Youngest Child's child becomes the heir to the title. Justified, since the older two sons had no known children.

Tropes associated with the outfit:

  • Collared by Fashion: Expect a huge bib-like collar made with lace and other fine materials with a giant bow to tie it together.
  • Impractically Fancy Outfit: One reason why so many men recalled hating the outfit if forced into one as a child was because of how impractical it was to play in.