The Fauntleroy Boy
THE FAUNTLEROY BOY
Allegiance to The Unquestionable may be as good as it is popular; and I maintain that much depends upon what is included in The Unquestionable. It has always included Political Economy, Shakespeare, Bradshaw's Time-Table, Medical Advice, The Times, and All the Royal Family. I am not angry with that; on the contrary, I like it, although I have sometimes wondered what they used for the purposes of unthinking assent, before these things arrived. But I see that The Unquestionable is daily enlarging its borders; we are putting things into that category about which at one time we used to reason. Before it is too late—before he is finally enshrined—I wish to protest against the admission of the Fauntleroy Boy into the category of The Unquestionable. Before we say definitely that this is the final nicest, highest, holiest type of Boy, and that none other is genuine, I feel sure that we ought to stop and think. It is a real, imminent danger. Ever since we became acquainted with the character of Little Lord Fauntleroy, the type has been repeated and repeated over and over again. I would not presume to condemn that type; I would only question it. Our ideals should be improbable, but not impossible. I would ask the fathers of sons if they are able to keep their boys up to the Fauntleroy level, or anywhere near it.
Take the case of my nephew, Richard, he is in a preparatory school and this is the way he writes here:—
"I was put on but only two overs, Phelps no-balled me I was not shying but I have had several quarrils with him and so he did it afterwards I hit him in his stumuck he has more pocket-money than me and the subs come to more than usual this term it is one and six more—if you would rather I did not lose by it because I do not settle how much it will be and you are looked down on here if you do not go in for it."
What is to be done in a case like that? Did the original Fauntleroy hit an umpire in the stomach? No. Did he find himself perpetually in want of money? No, certainly not. He wore—when I saw him on the stage—yellow curls, very long, a pale blue silk sash, and a black velvet suit. I dare not dress Richard like that; I dare not even introduce to him another boy who was dressed like that. It is a very pretty dress, but I do not want to be censured by the jury at a coroner's inquest. Public life has no attractions for me. Then again Richard has a mother; he has for her a blind unconscious natural affection; it is not ostentatious but you can depend upon it. As his mother happens to be his mother Richard calls her his mother—there is nothing subtle about Richard. He does not say "Dearest," or "Darlingest," or "Light of my Soul," or allow himself to be indebted in any way to the vocabulary of a romantic grocer's apprentice addressing his inamorata. And it would be exceedingly difficult to persuade Richard to exchange natural affection (which he does not know that he has) for an inexpensive, treacly, Demarara sentimentality; and if the exchange were effected the only person who would loathe it more than Richard would be Richard's mother. Again, Richard has no turn for affairs; he could not tidy up a family quarrel. His grandfather is not—and never has been—an earl; but if that grandfather were an earl until he was tired, he would not use an infant to support his weight, when he could get a servant, and he would not allow Richard a chance to play the fool with uncertain-tempered dogs, and he would not allow Richard to say two words on certain subjects. Consequently, the boy has no chance. He did once interfere in a question of affairs; he gave definite orders to the gardener for the construction of a canal through the centre of the lawn, to be supplied from the tap in the scullery. "Did your paw saye you were to tell me that?" asked the gardener. "No," said Richard, but explained that his father did not have time to think about everything. The gardener did not think that it was worth while to risk twenty-four shillings a week and his dinner by obeying these instructions. But—supposing that Richard had had his own way—would it have smoothed over a family difference? On the contrary, it would have created a family difference, and Richard would have been one of the persons differing. At least, so I should judge. Personally, I am a plain hard man, and if a boy of mine dug a canal through my lawn, I would whip him to a froth, as they say in the cookery-books. One does not whip the Fauntleroy type; if you are feeling very harsh, you may forgive them, and even then it takes slow music, and you feel a beast for your presumption. That is my argument; if you are going to make your boy into a Fauntleroy-Boy, you must place him with a set of people who will treat him according to the books. I could not do that; I believe in the justice, utility and necessity of the common spank. It would be no good to turn the Fauntleroy-Boy loose in a crowd of ordinary ratepayers. He would only hurt himself.
It is the type that I call in question; the original Little Lord Fauntleroy was a splendid variation, not beyond criticism, but as a variation desirable. There is room for one Fauntleroy-Boy; there are enough extraordinary people to make up for him a suitable environment. But a perpetuation of the type would be deplorable. All Fauntleroy-Boys win all races; and consequently if all boys were Fauntleroy-Boys athletics would become uninteresting. Inactivity would set in everywhere, because each generation would be lost in the ecstacy inspired by the promise of the next. It is just possible, however, that the ecstacy would die out. For time tones down and mellows; the ordinary human boy is a common amusing pig with a taste for ginger beer and the high seas; toned down, he becomes a man and a good fellow. But the silk-sashed boy, however closely he was watched, would probably in after-life publish minor poems.
B. E. O. P.