The Spoils of Poynton

The Spoils of Poynton

The Spoils of Poynton

The Spoils of Poynton

Synopsis

Mrs. Gareth, widowed chatelaine of Poynton, is fighting to keep her house with its priceless objets d'art from her son Owen and his lovely, utterly philistine fiancee. When she discovers that her young friend and sympathized Fleda Vetch is secretly in love with Owen, she thrusts her into the battle-line. The power struggle that ensues between the three women leaves Owen vacillating. What is at stake is not the mere possession of tables and chairs; it is, for Fleda, a conflict between aesthetic ideals, ethical imperatives, and her innermost feelings, in which she risks betraying, and being betrayed by, all that she holds most dear.

Excerpt

The Spoils of Poynton is one of the last important novels to be written before the general availability of the telephone made such poor lines of communication and such actions impossible. a few 'phone calls between Mrs Gereth and Fleda Vetch at the critical junctures would have prevented the mistakes; but then, where would the fable have been?

The title of the novel conveys a slightly misleading impression of what it is about and where its centre of interest lies. the same could be said of the title when it was serialised in the Atlantic Monthly as 'The Old Things'; it seemed to suggest that one was to expect a 'story of cabinets and chairs and tables', a story of a struggle for possession in which the objects were always in view, always making the major claim on our interest. One is relieved that James did not use the title he first thought of: The House Beautiful. That would have suggested a sort of twee religiosity.

As James realises in the Preface written for the New York Edition, the matter of what would 'become' of the objects 'seemed to represent a comparatively vulgar issue', and he locates the focus of attention elsewhere, in the mind of the most intelligent participant in the struggle for possession: Fleda Vetch. the novel is about Fleda Vetch's experience as she relates to Mrs Gereth, the woman who seems to have a moral claim to the objets d'art, and to Owen Gereth, the son who has, incontrovertibly, a legal claim. It is typical of James's habits of creation that he should always make a bee-line for the consciousness of the most sensitive and perceptive character, and view the world from that point of view. the donnée of the story, which is studied in detail below (pp. xvii-xxvi), might have seemed to invite a detailed internal treatment of the fictional equivalent of 'the good lady of the north', Mrs Gereth, but James rapidly decided . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.