Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Sunday, October 17, 2010

"The Model Millionaire" by Oscar Wilde- Happy 156th Birthday

"The Model Millionaire" by Oscar Wilde (6 pages, 1881)

"What was a butterfly to do among bulls and bears?"

Greetings to the many readers from Chisinau-your comments on the story and general reading suggestions are very welcome-Mel u-Editor of the Reading Life

Yesterday was the 156th birthday of Oscar Wilde (1854 to 1990-Ireland)  .    Google brought this to the attention of the world by placing on its search page a doodle image inspired by his only novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray.    A few months ago I read and posted on two of his fairy tales, "The Selfish Giant" and "The Happy Prince    This morning as I was reading through the new posts in my Google Reader I found a very interesting post on Zee's Worldly Obessions entitled "Ten Things You Should Know About Oscar Wilde".    Long ago I read The Picture of Dorian Gray  and loved it.     I wanted to post something in honor of his birthday.    Lately I have been reading a lot of short stories so I decided I would read one of Wilde's traditional (non-fairy tale) short stories.

"The Model Millionaire" reminded me of Picture of Dorian Gray in its tone and setting.   ( It is not as wicked a work but then what would be?)    The central character in this story is  Hughie, a young man who lives from the 200 pounds a year his aunt left him:   "He had tried everything. He had gone on the Stock Exchange for six months; but what was a butterfly to do among bulls and bears?"   Hughie has a young lady he wants to marry but her father will not allow it until Hughie can show him he has at least 10,000 pounds.    Who but Wilde could describe a character like that and make us love him.   One day Hughie goes to visit the studio of an older friend of his who is a very successful and prosperous because of it society portrait painter.

The painter is doing a portrait of what seems a tramp dressed in ragged unwashed for a long time clothes.  Hughie asks the painter how much an artist model gets paid and is shocked by the small amount.     He then asks the artist how much he will sell the painting for and  learns it will be sold for an amount  ten times greater than Hughie's annual income.     When the artist steps out for a moment Hughie gives the portrait sitter all of the coins he has in his pocket.   This means Hughie will not be able to go anywhere by cab for a month so it is a real gesture.    When the seeming tramp leaves the painter tells Hughie that the model is very taken by him.   The painter reveals that he has told the man all about Hughie including where he lives and that he needs 10,000 pounds to marry.   Hughie is concerned the tramp may show up at his door.    The painter reveals to Hughie the identity of the model.

'What I say,' said Trevor. 'The old man you saw to-day in the studio was Baron Hausberg. He is a great friend of mine, buys all my pictures and that sort of thing, and gave me a commission a month ago to paint him as a beggar. Que voulez-vous? La fantaisie d'un millionnaire! And I must say he made a magnificent figure in his rags, or perhaps I should say in my rags; they are an old suit I got in Spain.'
     'Baron Hausberg!' cried Hughie. 'Good heavens! I gave him a sovereign!' and he sank into an armchair the picture of dismay.

"The Model Millionaire" is a surprise ending short story (not a real shocking surprise) so I will not tell any more of the plot than I have.   The fun in this story is in the tone and the turns of phrase.  It is easy to read and follow.   It is a traditional story.      You can read it in just a few minutes online here .  

Mel u


Suko said...

This one does sound like fun! I will check it out.

Mystica said...

I didnt even know of this title so thankyou very much for this review.

Anonymous said...

Wow, I didn't know that it was Wilde's birthday, & am now kicking myself for not going on Google's homepage. Ugh.

Thanks for the link to the story - Wilde is one of my favourite authors, so I take any chance I get to read more of his work.

Anonymous said...

Hi Mel, thanks for the mention. I'm so pleased I inspired you to this post.

I didn't know about 'The Model Millionaire'... I'm going to give it a read and post my opinions about it. I love the fact that you provide these wonderful links for us.

Wilde's prose is like no other. I can't wait to see how he's portrayed young Hughie. Is it just me, or are paintings are major theme in his works?

Mel u said...

Suko-I think you would enjoy this

Mystica-if you read it please let me know how you liked it

thefriande-thanks for visiting my blog

myworldlyobsessions-thanks for inspiring me-it was my pleasure to revisit Wilde-as I read it I thought about the issue of the painter also-in one of the fairy tales by Wilde I read a sculpter pays a very important part

Short Story Slore said...

I just read some of Wilde's short stories today, so naturally I had to check out what you have read. I'm reading this one tonight. I'm hoping I'll like it more than his fairytale ones - not really my thing, but good writing.

Mel u said...

Short Story Slore-I hope you enjoy it-