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Little Lord Fauntleroy is the first children's novel written by EnglishmarkerAmericanmarker playwright and author Frances Hodgson Burnett. It was originally published as a serial in the St. Nicholas Magazine between November 1885 and October 1886, then as a book by Scribner's in 1886. The accompanying illustrations by Reginald Birch set fashion trends and Little Lord Fauntleroy also set a precedent in copyright law when in 1888 its author won a lawsuit against E. V. Seebohm over the rights to theatrical adaptations of the work.


In mid-1880s New York City, Cedric Errol lives with his Mother (never named, known only as Mrs. Errol or "Dearest") in genteel poverty after his father, Captain Errol, dies. They receive a visit from Havisham, an English lawyer with a message from Cedric's grandfather, Lord Dorincourt. With the deaths of his father's elder brothers, Cedric is now Lord Fauntleroy and heir to the Earldom and a vast estate. The Earl wants Cedric to live with him and learn to be an English aristocrat. He despises America and was deeply disappointed with Captain Errol, his favourite son, for marrying an American. So he offers Mrs. Errol a house and income, yet refuses to meet or have anything to do with her, even after she declines the offer.

The crusty Earl is impressed by the appearance and intelligence of his young American grandson, and charmed by his innocent nature. He admits that Cedric, who has befriended and cared for the poor and needy on the Earl's estate, will be a better Earl than he was.

A pretender to Cedric's inheritance appears, his mother claiming that he is the son of the Earl's eldest son, but the claim is investigated and disproved with the assistance of Cedric's loyal American friends, one of Cedric's friends — a bootblack called Dick — recognizing the mother as the ex-wife of his brother Tom, and her son (the alleged heir) as his own nephew. The Earl is reconciled to his son's American widow after meeting with the other boy's mother, recognising that, despite his preconceptions, she is a far superior woman to the alternative.

The Earl had intended to teach his grandson how to be an aristocrat; however, Cedric inadvertently teaches his grandfather that an aristocrat should practice compassion and social justice towards persons who are dependent on him. The Earl becomes the kind and good man Cedric always innocently believed him to be. Cedric is reunited with his mother, who comes to live in the ancestral castle with them.

Impact on fashion

Gainsborough's Blue Boy, 1770
The Fauntleroy suit, so well-described by Burnett and realized in Reginald Birch's detailed pen-and-ink drawings, created a major fad for formal dress for American middle-class children:

"What the Earl saw was a graceful, childish figure in a black velvet suit, with a lace collar, and with lovelocks waving about the handsome, manly little face, whose eyes met his with a look of innocent good-fellowship." (Little Lord Fauntleroy)

The Fauntleroy suit appeared in Europe as well, but nowhere was it as popular as America. The classic Fauntleroy suit was a velvet cut-away jacket and matching knee pants worn with a fancy blouse with a large lace or ruffled collar. These suits appear right after the publication of Mrs. Burnett's story (1885) and was a major fashion until after the turn of the 20th century. Many boys who did not wear an actual Fauntleroy suit, wore suits with Fauntleroy elements such as a fancy blouse or floppy bow. Only a minority of boys wore ringlet curls with these suits, but the photographic record confirms that many boys did. It was most popular for boys about 3–8 years of age, but some older boys wore them as well. It has been speculated that the popularity of the style encouraged many mothers to breech their boys earlier than before and was a factor in the decline of the fashion of dressing small boys in dresses and other skirted garments.

The style was modelled upon the so-called "Van Dyke", a standardized fancy dress of the 18th century that was loosely based on children's costume in court circles of Charles I. Thomas Gainsborough's "fancy picture" The Blue Boy epitomizes the "Van Dyke". Until the onset of Romanticism towards the end of the 18th century, small children had been dressed as miniature versions of their elders. Clothing Burnett popularized was modeled on the costumes she tailored herself for her two sons, Vivian and Lionel.

In the generation before World War I, when all boys under the age of ten were in short pants, under the influence of Birch's illustrations for Little Lord Fauntleroy many middle-class American boys were dressed in velvet suits with lace collars and sashes and short knee-pants, and to have their hair curled into long ringlets like Cedric, a mode that was considered aristocratic. (Upper-class American boys were in school uniforms modelled on British ones; the upper-class "fancy dress" counterpart of the Fauntleroy suit was a sailor suit with short pants.)

After revivals of the fad connected with Mary Pickford's film and the 1936 classic with Freddie Bartholomew, the onset of World War II consigned such outfits to attics.

Film, TV or theatrical adaptations

There have been several movie versions of the book produced throughout the years:

Modern usage

"Little Lord Fauntleroy" is now most often used as a term of derision. It describes a pompous spoiled brat, usually a young male, who takes his wealth and privilege for granted (while this is obviously not consistent with the original character, it is inspired by the perceived self-righteousness of the little lord, and an assumed odiousness in his overweening goodness).


Early examples of derisive use are found in Richmal Crompton's Just William books.

In Anne Rice's Blackwood Farm, Tarquin is called a Little Lord Fauntleroy by his mother.

In Kurt Vonnegut's Slapstick.

In The Story of My Life, Helen Keller describes the influence of Little Lord Fauntleroy upon her.

In Smoke Bellew, Jack London , "I guess you were too Lord-Fauntleroyish." - in conversation between Smoke and his uncle. Pg.11 [31798]

In Lillelord(little lord), Johan Borgen The main characters uncle refers to the main character as a "Little Lord Fauntleroy". The main character also exhibits some traits that can be linked to the modern term "Little Lord Fauntleroy".


Aphex Twin references Little Lord Fauntleroy in his remix of "Come To Daddy, on his 1997 EP of the same name, although the song is spelled "Little Lord Faulteroy", possibly as a deliberate pun.

The Upper Crust use the term in their song "Little Lord Fauntleroy."

They Might Be Giants refer to Little Lord Fauntleroy in the song "Fake-Believe" on their album Here Come the ABCs.

Quasi use the term in their song "Little Lord Fontleroy" (alternate spelling) on their 2001 album The Sword of God.


In Two and a Half Men (season 4, episode 22), Charlie calls Jake "Little Lord Fart-leroy."

In Firefly's pilot episode ("Serenity"), Malcolm Reynolds refers to runaway doc (and federal fugitive) Simon Tam as "Lord Fauntleroy."

In The West Wing ("Lord John Marbury," season 1, episode 11), Chief of Staff Leo McGarry (John Spencer) refers to British diplomat Lord John Marbury (Roger Rees) as "Lord Fauntleroy."

In Dirty Sexy Money, Nick calls Jeremy "Little Lord Fauntleroy" during an argument.

In Doctor Who, (Dalek), Henry van Statten refers to Adam Mitchell as "Little Lord Fauntleroy."

The Groovie Goolies show featured a character named "Hauntleroy," who appeared dressed in similar clothing.

On Adult Swim's The Venture Bros, Dr. Girlfriend's Murderous Moppets, Kevin and Tim-Tom, wear Little Lord Fauntleroy-style outfits.

On Mission hill, episode 12 "Happy Birthday, Kevin (or Happy Birthday, Douchebag)", when big brother andy is annoyed at having to plan a birthday party for his younger brother kevin, he refers to him as "little lord fart-leroy.


In Four Rooms, Ted uses the term "Little Lord Fauntleroy" to describe the awkward style in which he was dressed as a child.

In Tom Green's film Freddy Got Fingered, Gordy's father (played by Rip Torn) mocks his son at the dinner table, saying "Oh, Little Lord Fauntleroy's stomach hurts because there's too much roast beef in it!"

In Frost/Nixon, the 2008 film by Ron Howard, Jim Reston calls David Frost "Little Lord Fauntleroy" to criticise his posh status as a British man in search for a quick buck by interviewing Richard Nixon in a "puff" interview, because Frost initially shows reluctance to go for Nixon's publicly televised indictment over Watergate and the loss of lives in the Vietnam War.


According to Disney canon, Donald Duck's full name is "Donald Fauntleroy Duck."


In the comic strip FoxTrot written by Bill Amend, Peter babysits a dog called Fauntleroy who keeps trying to bite him.


Chicago Cubs second baseman Mike Fontenot is frequently referred to as "Little Lord Fontenot".


For many years on the "Loveline" radio show, host Adam Carolla has sarcastically said that his co-host Dr. Drew Pinsky attended the "Little Lord Fauntleroy School for Albino Hemophiliacs."


Various figurines have been crafted to resemble the "Blue Boy" from Gainsborough.

See also


  1. The Fauntleroy fashion is discussed in detail in the Historical boys Clothing site section on Fauntleroy suits.
  2. Helen Keller, The Story of My Life

External links

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