Happy Saint Patrick’s Day. I’ve been re-reading Oscar Wilde’s works recently, and decided that a review of his short story, The Model Millionaire, is perfect for today. The Model Millionaire has exactly the type of fairy-tale type plot which most people hope will happen to them, and goodness knows, anything can happen today.
The main character is the delightful and charming Hughie Erskine. He is handsome and kind, not very ambitious or clever, but is liked by everyone. Hughie is in love with Laura Merton, but because they are both poor, they cannot marry. Even Laura’s father, Colonel Merton quite likes Hughie, but as he recognises the couple cannot live on love alone, he tells Hughie to come back when he has ten thousand pounds of his own.
One fine day Hughie drops in to visit an artist friend and finds him painting a portrait of a beggar. Hughie feels sorry for the beggar and when the artist momentarily leaves the studio, gives the beggar a sovereign, even though it means that Hughie himself will have to walk everywhere for the next few weeks because he won’t be able to afford a hansom cab.
The ending is pure fairy-tale. The model for the portrait turned out to be one of the richest men in Europe, who had a whim to be painted in the guise of a beggar (I don’t feel as if I am giving anything away here, because the story’s title is so obvious). Hughie is mortified once he finds out.
Every sentence in this story could only have been written by Oscar Wilde. His distinctive charm is evident from the very first sentence, “Unless one is wealthy there is no use in being a charming fellow.” Hughie has a short-lived crack at working on the Stock Exchange, “but what was a butterfly to do among bulls and bears?” Or, the millionaire is so rich that; “He has a house in every capital, dines off gold plate, and can prevent Russia going to war when he chooses.”
If you haven’t read The Model Millionaire, I’ve attached a link below. The story is very short, but it is as delightful and as amusing as anything else Oscar Wilde has written. It will also leave you feeling as if good things happen to people who are blessed with true kindness.