Uh-oh, it looks like your Internet Explorer is out of date.

For a better shopping experience, please upgrade now.

The Four Feathers (Barnes & Noble Classics Series)
  • Alternative view 1 of The Four Feathers (Barnes & Noble Classics Series)
  • Alternative view 2 of The Four Feathers (Barnes & Noble Classics Series)
  • Alternative view 3 of The Four Feathers (Barnes & Noble Classics Series)
<Previous >Next

The Four Feathers (Barnes & Noble Classics Series)

4.0 38
by A. E. W. Mason, Michael G. Wood (Introduction)

See All Formats & Editions

The Four Feathers, by A. E. W. Mason, is part of the Barnes & Noble Classics series, which offers quality editions at affordable prices to the student and the general reader, including new scholarship, thoughtful design, and pages of carefully crafted extras. Here are some of the remarkable features of Barnes & Noble Classics:


The Four Feathers, by A. E. W. Mason, is part of the Barnes & Noble Classics series, which offers quality editions at affordable prices to the student and the general reader, including new scholarship, thoughtful design, and pages of carefully crafted extras. Here are some of the remarkable features of Barnes & Noble Classics:

  • New introductions commissioned from today's top writers and scholars
  • Biographies of the authors
  • Chronologies of contemporary historical, biographical, and cultural events
  • Footnotes and endnotes
  • Selective discussions of imitations, parodies, poems, books, plays, paintings, operas, statuary, and films inspired by the work
  • Comments by other famous authors
  • Study questions to challenge the reader's viewpoints and expectations
  • Bibliographies for further reading
  • Indices & Glossaries, when appropriate
All editions are beautifully designed and are printed to superior specifications; some include illustrations of historical interest. Barnes & Noble Classics pulls together a constellation of influences—biographical, historical, and literary—to enrich each reader's understanding of these enduring works.

English officer and gentleman Harry Feversham has wealth, social position, a beautiful fiancée, Ethne Eustace, and a brotherly bond with three close friends. But he also harbors a dark secret. Though he is expected to continue his family’s proud tradition of military service, he cannot forget the shameful stories he heard as a child: tales of men who shirked their duty and disgraced themselves in battle. Fearing he too will flee from combat, Harry resigns his commission when his regiment is ordered to the war-torn Sudan. Following this decision, he receives a white feather—symbolizing cowardice—from each of his friends, and a fourth from Ethne. To redeem himself in their eyes, and his own, he embarks on an epic quest, traveling alone to Africa disguised as an Arab. As Harry endures desert heat, raging enemies, and the hellish prison known as the House of Stone, his heroic exploits become the stuff of legend.

Originally published in 1902, The Four Feathers, A. E. W. Mason’s best-known novel of adventure and romance, explores a plethora of complex moral issues within a framework of exotic intrigue and breakneck action. What is courage? What is cowardice? What is loyalty? And how do we balance the conflicting demands of country, family, friends, lovers, and one’s own ideals?

Michael G. Wood was born in Lincoln, and studied French and German at St John’s College, Cambridge, where he received his Ph.D. and continued as a fellow until 1964. His books include: Stendhal, America in the Movies, The Magician’s Doubts: Nabokov and the Risks of Fiction, Children of Silence: On Contemporary Fiction, Belle de Jour, Franz Kafka, and The Road to Delphi: The Life and Afterlife of Oracles.

Product Details

Barnes & Noble
Publication date:
Barnes & Noble Classics Series
Product dimensions:
5.19(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.84(d)

Read an Excerpt

From Michael G. Wood’s Introduction to The Four Feathers

Even this bare sketch of a life tells us quite a lot. Mason belonged thoroughly to the mainstream of English culture but also kept his distance from it; he tried his hand at many things; he knew the worlds he recreated in his fiction; he wrote for so long and in so many genres that it’s clear that writing itself was the central thread of his life. He had published quite a bit before he arrived, in 1902, at The Four Feathers, itself based on a short story. Literary historians rightly place the book in a tradition of patriotic fiction, where the romance of distant places and the lure of an imperial destiny mark all the characters and make them heroes. We may think of The Prisoner of Zenda (1894), by Mason’s friend Anthony Hope, any number of novels and stories by Rudyard Kipling, and the later Beau Geste (1924), by C. P. Wren. All of these books suggest that although chivalry is not dead, Englishmen may have to go abroad to get a chance to exercise it.

As Peter Keating says in The Haunted Study (see “For Further Reading”), the “social function” of such fiction “was perfectly well understood by its authors”:

First, it had to sustain the mood of adventurous exploration that was necessary for the expansion and maintenance of the British Empire. Secondly, it took upon itself the task of instilling into the new and unformed democracy an appreciation of the long years of progress that had turned Britain into the greatest imperial power the world had ever known (p. 354).

Mason was a loyal Englishman and did not dissent from any of this. The Four Feathers is not a critique of imperialism. But there is a curious, elegant note of melancholy about the book that brings us closer perhaps to the work of Joseph Conrad than to that of Kipling. “The conquest of the earth,” Conrad wrote in Heart of Darkness, published the same year as The Four Feathers, “is not a pretty thing when you look into it too much. What redeems it is the idea only.” The idea, in The Four Feathers as in much of such fiction, is that of service, the dedication of the self to a noble project, combined, in Mason’s case, with the idea of a genuine attachment to the foreign places themselves. Durrance, for example, loves the African desert and is described at one point as “a man . . . who came to the wild, uncitied places of the world with the joy of one who comes into an inheritance,” and a little later as “the inheritor of the other places.” Now, inheritance is not conquest, and from one point of view the very idea that an Englishman could inherit anything in Africa is a piece of imperial whitewash, self-deception at best, hypocrisy at worst. But then we need to add that the inheritance in Durrance’s case is metaphorical—he doesn’t own these other places, he just feels the joy of one who does—and it is in any case now lost to him, since he is blind. What he loves, precisely, is the Africa he can’t have—just as he loves, in Ethne, the woman he can’t marry. There is a concentrated image of these ambivalences of empire on the last page of the novel, where Durrance is traveling back to the East. His ship leaves the Suez Canal and steams southward down the Red Sea. He looks forward mentally to what was to become the Battle of Omdurman (1898), when the British Army would “roll up the Dervish Empire and crush it into dust”—no regrets about conquest there. But then the novel ends with the stars Durrance can have no sight of: “Three nights more and, though he would not see it, the Southern Cross would lift slantwise into the sky.” The other places are still there, and still loved, but theey belong to no one, neither the Dervishes nor the British.

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Post to your social network


Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews

The Four Feathers 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 38 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Set in Colonial Africa, this fast-paced novel is filled with an exciting plot, including a heart-stopping prison escape. A. E. W. Mason cleverly intertwines the themes of perserverance and self-confidence throughout the book. I read this in 8th grade and throughly enjoyed reading it. I would recommend this to any fan of the 'Classics', especially boys.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Larry D. Bohall, author of Martyr's Cry (ISBN 1591295327): A.E.W. Mason's The Four Feathers is a romance in every meaning of the word. Certainly a romance between Harry and Ethne (the main characters), but it's also filled with the romance of adventure, of loyalty, of honor. It is a period piece, and 21st century readers might have trouble with some of it. But if one can set that aside, and read the novel for the story, you'll have a rousing great time.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Yeah so this is why I like you. We have so much in common.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I liked it. Not the best of the best but not bad either. There could be some edits l'm sure. It was good but not overly great so far. Same for the next chapter.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Too much talking and too many footnotes.
HomeSchoolBookReview More than 1 year ago
Harry Feversham, son of a British general during the Crimean War, is haunted by both his family&rsquo;s remarkable history of service in the British army and the stories of cowardice that he had heard told as a boy during his father&rsquo;s annual &ldquo;Crimea Nights&rdquo; reunions. Due to his fear of becoming a coward and staining his ancestors&rsquo; reputation, Harry resigns his commission in the East Surrey Regiment just prior to Sir Garnet Wolseley's 1882 expedition to Egypt to suppress the rising of Urabi Pasha. Yet three of his comrades, Captain Trench and Lieutenants Castleton and Willoughby, send him three white feathers to express their disapproval of his act, and his Irish fianc&eacute;e, Ethne Eustace, presents him with a fourth feather and breaks their engagement. Harry&rsquo;s best friend in the regiment, Captain Durrance becomes his rival for Ethne. After talking with Lieutenant Sutch, a friend of his father, Harry decides to redeem himself by acts that will force his former friends to take back the feathers and might in turn encourage Ethne to take back her feather. Thus, he travels on his own to Egypt and Sudan. Meanwhile, Durrance is blinded by sunstroke and is sent home. Over the next six years, Castleton is killed at Tamai, but Willoughby is now a commander and Harry, with the aid of a Sudanese Arab Abou Fatma, succeeds in recovering some lost letters and getting them to Willoughby. Then he learns that Trench is imprisoned in the &ldquo;House of Stone&rdquo; at Omdurman and allows himself to be captured in an attempt to rescue him. Meanwhile, Durrance and Ethne become engaged, though each secretly realizes that there are problems in their relationship. Will Harry and Trench escape? Does Ethne take back her feather? Can Durrance find a cure for his blindness? And who will marry whom? This book was recommended to me by my friend Thaxter Dickey, a professor at Florida College. Alfred Edward Woodley Mason (1865-1948) was a British politician and author, of whom it is said that he delighted readers with adventure novels and detective stories written in a style reminiscent of Robert Louis Stevenson, Rudyard Kipling, and Arthur Conan Doyle. I would add that this book reminds me of H. Rider Haggard, author of King Solomon&rsquo;s Mines and She. Mason wrote more than twenty books but is best known for The Four Feathers. There is very little objectionable in the story. A few minor references to smoking tobacco, drinking alcoholic beverages, and dancing occur, and the name of God, as in &ldquo;Good God,&rdquo; &ldquo;My God,&rdquo; and &ldquo;O God,&rdquo; is used as an interjection. However, the facts that people prayed, trusted in God, and looked to His providence are also mentioned. And the idea of honor is quite strong. The plot may move a little too slowly and be a bit too complex for young children, but teens as young as thirteen and adults who like exotic adventure stories should enjoy it. I know that I did.
mtownsend More than 1 year ago
if you enjoy the great game and great fictional history this is the book for you.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
MulgaBill More than 1 year ago
Excellent book! Highly recommended.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago