In a shabby New York side street in the mid-1880s, young Cedric Errol lives with his mother (known only as Mrs. Errol or "Dearest") in genteel poverty after the death of his father, Captain Cedric Errol. One day, they are visited by an English lawyer named Havisham with a message from Cedric's grandfather, the Earl of Dorincourt, an unruly millionaire who despises America and was very disappointed when his youngest son married an American woman. With the deaths of his father's elder brothers, Cedric has now inherited the title Lord Fauntleroy and is the heir to the earldom and a vast estate. Cedric's grandfather wants him to live in England and be educated as an English aristocrat. He offers his son's widow a house and guaranteed income, but he refuses to have anything to do with her, even after she declines his money.
However, the Earl is impressed by the appearance and intelligence of his American grandson and is charmed by his innocent nature. Cedric believes his grandfather to be an honorable man and benefactor, and the Earl cannot disappoint him. He therefore becomes a benefactor to his tenants, to their delight, though takes care to let them know that their benefactor is the child, Lord Fauntleroy.
Meanwhile, a homeless bootblack named Dick Tipton tells Cedric's old friend Mr. Hobbs, a New York City grocer, that a few years prior, after the death of his parents, Dick's older brother Benjamin married an awful woman who got rid of their only child together after he was born and then left. Benjamin moved to California to open a cattle ranch while Dick ended up in the streets. At the same time, a neglected pretender to Cedric's inheritance appears, the pretender's mother claiming that he is the offspring of the Earl's eldest son. The claim is investigated by Dick and Benjamin, who come to England and recognize the alleged heir's mother as Benjamin's former wife. The alleged heir's mother flees, and the Tipton brothers and Benjamin's son do not see her again. Afterwards, Benjamin goes back to his cattle ranch in California where he happily raises his son by himself. The Earl is reconciled to his American daughter-in-law, realizing that she is far superior to the imposter.The Earl planned to teach his grandson how to be an aristocrat. Instead, Cedric teaches his grandfather that an aristocrat should practice compassion towards those dependent on him. He becomes the man Cedric always innocently believed him to be. Cedric is happily reunited with his mother and Mr. Hobbs, who decides to stay to help look after Cedric...
Frances Eliza Hodgson Burnett (24 November 1849 - 29 October 1924) was an English-American novelist and playwright. She is best known for the three children's novels Little Lord Fauntleroy (published in 1885-1886), A Little Princess (1905), and The Secret Garden (1911)....
Reginald Bathurst Birch (May 2, 1856 - June 17, 1943) was an English-American artist and illustrator. He was best known for his depiction of the titular hero of Frances Hodgson Burnett's 1886 novel Little Lord Fauntleroy, which started a craze in juvenile fashion. While his illustrated corpus has eclipsed his other work, he was also an accomplished painter of portraits and landscapes.