Tarkington leaves behind the American Midwest, his customary fictional territory, in this 1907 novel about a young American, Robert Russ Mellin, who sets off for Europe, where he reinvents himself as a man of wealth and culture. He succeeds well enough to capture the attention of a beautiful French woman, the Comtesse de Vaurigard — and launch himself into a rarefied and decidedly unfamiliar realm. (Barnes & Noble overview).
This short novella is one of Tarkington’s lesser efforts, and might have benefited by editing to a shorter length. There are some very nice descriptive passages, and his sardonic observations of human nature are always a treat.
a brief excerpt:
...the Countess led her two wicked boys across the room to present them to Lady Mount-Rhyswicke. Already Mellin was forming sentences for his next letter to the Cranston Telegraph:
"Lady Mount-Rhyswicke said to me the other evening, while discussing the foreign policy of Great Britain, in Comtesse de Vaurigard’s salon . . ." "An English peeress of pronounced literary acumen has been giving me rather confidentially her opinion of our American poets . . ."
The inspiration of these promising fragments was a large, weary-looking person, with no lack of powdered shoulder above her pink bodice and a profusion of “undulated” hair of so decided a blond that it might have been suspected that the decision had lain with the lady herself.
Two full-page color illustrations by L. Mazzanovich, four full-page B&W illustrations by F. R. Gruger, chapter-head decorations by Wm. St. John Harper. Drop caps.