Get notes, line-by-line explanation, summary, questions and answers, critical analysis, word meanings, extras, and pdf of the story The Model Millionaire by Oscar Wilde which is part of ICSE Class 9 English (Treasure Chest) syllabus. However, the notes should only be treated for references and changes should be made according to the needs of the students.
The story titled “The Model Millionaire” by Oscar Wilde revolves around the themes of appearances, generosity, and the unexpected twists of fate.
Hughie Erskine is a good-looking, charming young man who, despite his many talents, has never been successful at making money. He lives off a small allowance from an old aunt and has tried various professions, but none have been fruitful. He is in love with Laura Merton, the daughter of a retired Colonel. The Colonel has set a condition for their marriage: Hughie must have £10,000 of his own before he can marry Laura.
One day, Hughie visits his artist friend, Alan Trevor, and finds him painting a portrait of a beggar. The beggar’s miserable appearance evokes pity in Hughie. During a brief absence of Trevor, Hughie generously gives the beggar a sovereign, believing him to be in dire need.
Later, to Hughie’s astonishment, Trevor reveals that the “beggar” is none other than Baron Hausberg, one of the richest men in Europe. The Baron had commissioned Trevor to paint him as a beggar. Hughie is embarrassed and dismayed, realizing he gave a sovereign to a millionaire.
The next day, an old gentleman visits Hughie on behalf of Baron Hausberg and hands him a letter. Inside the envelope is a cheque for £10,000, a wedding gift for Hughie and Laura from the “old beggar.” The story concludes with their wedding, where the Baron gives a speech, and Alan Trevor humorously comments on the rarity of “model millionaires.”
About the author
Oscar Wilde, the renowned Irish poet and playwright, was a dominant figure in London’s theatre scene during the early 1890s. Celebrated for his sharp wit and masterful command over language, Wilde’s works often contained profound insights presented with a touch of humor.
One such piece is his short story, ‘The Model Millionaire’. It narrates the tale of a young man, Hughie Erskine, who, out of compassion, offers aid to what he believes is a destitute beggar. However, in a delightful twist, it turns out that the ‘beggar’ is actually a millionaire in disguise. He had approached a painter to capture his likeness in the garb of a pauper. The story beautifully underscores the idea that things aren’t always what they seem.
Hughie’s genuine act of kindness, given without expecting anything in return, showcases the essence of true nobility. Wilde’s clever play on the terms ‘model-millionaire’ and ‘millionaire-model’ at the story’s conclusion not only highlights his linguistic prowess but also magnifies the innate goodness of the protagonist.
Text-Based Multiple Choice Questions
(i) According to the writer romance is the privilege of the ……
Answer: b) rich
(ii) Hughie’s father has bequeathed him a History of the Peninsular War in fifteen volumes and a ……
Answer: c) a cavalry sword
(iii) Laura Merton adored Hughie but she was not prepared to disregard her………..
Answer: b) father’s wishes
(iv) Alan Trevor was not only a painter but also ……
Answer: a) Alan Trevor
(v) The beggar in Trevor’s studio had in one hand a stick and …… in the others.
Answer: d) a battered hat
(vi) Trevor Says, “Such beggars are not to be met with every day”. In which tone is this sentence spoken?
Answer: b) ironical
(vii) “Don’t run away, Hughie,” he said, as he went out, “I will be back in a moment.” Where had ‘he’ gone?
Answer: c) to see the frame maker
(viii) To see what money he had, Hughie felt in his pockets. What could he find?
Answer: b) a sovereign and some coppers
(ix) According to Trevor, an artist’s heart is in his ……
(x) When they were married who made a speech at the wedding breakfast?
Answer: b) Baron Hausberg
He was as popular with men as he was with women, and he had every accomplishment except that of making money. His father had bequeathed him his cavalry sword, and a History of the Peninsular War in fifteen volumes. Hughie hung the first over his looking-glass, put the second on a shelf between Ruff’s Guide and Bailey’s Magazine, and lived on two hundred a year that an old aunt allowed 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?
(i) Who is ‘he’ referred to in the first line? How does ‘he’ look?
Answer: ‘He’ refers to Hughie Erskine. Hughie is described as wonderfully good looking, with crisp brown hair, clear-cut profile, and attractive grey eyes. Overall, he had a very charming and appealing physical appearance.
(ii) What quality did ‘he ‘ not have?
Answer: The quality Hughie did not have was making money or being successful in business. He tried many professions but failed at all of them.
(iii) What did his father bequeath to him?
Answer: Hughie’s father bequeathed him two things – his old cavalry sword from his military service, and a very lengthy, 15 volume history book about the famous Peninsular War.
(iv) What was his only means of sustenance?
Answer: Hughie’s only means of financial sustenance was a small allowance of 200 pounds per year which was given to him by an elderly aunt. He had no other income.
(v) What is ‘ he ‘ compared with on the stock exchange?
Answer: On the stock exchange, Hughie is compared to a fragile, helpless butterfly surrounded by the much more powerful bulls and bears, who represent investors. This shows Hughie was not skilled at business.
To make matters worse, he was in love. The girl he loved was Laura Merton, the daughter of a retired Colonel who had lost his temper and his digestion in India, and had never found either of them again. Laura adored him, and he was ready to kiss her shoe-strings. They were the handsomest couple in London, and had not a penny piece between them. The Colonel was very fond of Hughie, but would not hear of any engagement.
(i) How did ‘he ‘ look? Describe his appearance.
Answer: Hughie is described as the most handsome couple in all of London when he stood beside his beautiful girlfriend Laura Merton. He had a very attractive and charming physical appearance.
(ii) Which two things did the colonel lose in India?
Answer: The colonel, who was Laura’s father, had lost both his temper/patience and his digestion while serving in India. The hot climate and spicy food did not agree with him.
(iii) What was the hindrance in Hughie’s engagement with Laura?
Answer: The main hindrance or obstacle preventing Hughie and Laura’s engagement was her father’s refusal to allow the marriage. He disapproved because of Hughie’s lack of money and career.
(iv) The Colonel was fond of Hughie. Still he did not allow him to marry his daughter. Why?
Answer: Despite being personally fond of Hughie and liking his personality, the colonel would not let Hughie and Laura marry solely because Hughie did not have a permanent job or income of his own. His poor financial prospects worried the colonel.
(v) Which sentence in the passage shows that ‘he’ was madly in love with Laura?
Answer: The sentence “Laura adored him, and he was ready to kiss her shoe-strings” shows how intensely and passionately in love Hughie was with Laura, willing to kiss even her shoelaces in devotion.
Personally he was a strange rough fellow, with a freckled face and a red ragged beard. However, when he took up the brush he was a real master, and his pictures were eagerly sought after. He had been very much attracted by Hughie at first, it must be acknowledged, entirely on account of his personal charm. The only people a painter should know,’ he used to say, ‘are people who are beautiful, people who are an artistic pleasure to look at and an intellectual repose to talk to. Men who are dandies and women who are darlings rule the world, at least they should do so.’
(i) Who is ‘ he’ referred to in the first line? How does he look?
Answer: ‘He’ refers to Alan Trevor. Alan has an unkempt appearance, with a freckled, red-bearded face that looks rough and rugged.
(ii) What tells you that ‘ he’ was a great painter?
Answer: We know Alan Trevor was a very skilled painter because his works were in high demand and eagerly sought after by art collectors, indicating he had talent.
(iii) Who are the only people a painter should know?
Answer: According to Alan, the only people worthy of a painter’s acquaintance are those who are physically beautiful, pleasing to look at, and interesting to talk to.
(iv) What is ‘ his ‘ opinion about the beautiful people?
Answer: Alan expresses the firm opinion that beautiful people are superior and they rightfully rule the world, or at the very least they should be the ones in charge.
(v) Who according to ‘ him ‘ rule the world?
Answer: In Alan’s view, fashionable and sophisticated men (dandies) and charming, elegant women (darlings) are the elite who dominate society and culture.
‘Well, I think the model should have a percentage,’ cried Hughie, laughing; ‘they work quite as hard as you do.’
‘Nonsense, nonsense! Why, look at the trouble of laying on the paint alone, and standing all day long at one’s easel! It’s all very well, Hughie, for you to talk, but I assure you that there are moments when Art almost attains to the dignity of manual labour. But you mustn’t chatter; I’m very busy. Smoke a cigarette, and keep quiet.’
After some time the servant came in, and told Trevor that the frame-maker wanted to speak to him.
(i) Why does Hughie feel that the model should have a percentage in the sale price of a painting?
Answer: Hughie feels that because the beggar model has to work very hard posing and holding difficult positions, he should receive a percentage of what the painting sells for, just as the artist does.
(ii) Why does Alan think that the work of an artist is more difficult than that of a model?
Answer: Alan believes painting takes much more effort than modelling because the artist has to carefully apply paint to the canvas and stay standing at the easel all day long to create the artwork.
(iii) Explain the line!
There are moments when Art almost attains the dignity of manual labour.
Answer: This line means that at times, the great effort and difficulty involved in creating art reaches such an intense level that it almost elevates artistic work to the same dignified status as hard physical labour.
(iv) Who enters the studio and what does he tell Alan?
Answer: While Alan is painting, his servant enters the studio and informs Alan that the frame-maker, the person constructing the frame for this painting, wants to speak with him.
(v) When Alan goes out what does the beggar-man do?
Answer: As soon as Alan exits the studio to speak with the frame-maker, the old beggar man who is modelling takes the opportunity to rest by sitting down on a bench behind him.
The old man started, and a faint smile flitted across his withered lips. Thank you, sir,’ he said, ‘thank you.’
Then Trevor arrived, and Hughie took his leave, blushing a little at what he had done. He spent the day with Laura, got a charming scolding for his extravagance, and had to walk home.
That night he strolled into the Palette Club about eleven o’clock, and found Trevor sitting by himself in the smoking-room drinking hock and seltzer.
Well, Alan, did you get the picture finished all right?’ he said, as he lit his cigarette.
(i) What happened that made the old man smile?
Answer: When Alan briefly steps out, Hughie secretly puts a gold sovereign coin into the old beggar’s hand, which makes the man smile in gratitude.
(ii) “Hughie left blushing a little at what he had done”. What had he done?
Answer: Hughie had impulsively given one of his gold sovereign coins to the beggar model, even though he could barely afford it. This act of charity made Hughie blush slightly with embarrassment.
(iii) Why did Hughie receive a charming scolding from Laura?
Answer: Laura gave Hughie a gentle, affectionate scolding because she realized he had given the last of his money to the beggar when he should have been more responsible with his limited funds.
(iv) Why did Hughie have to walk home?
Answer: With no money left after giving the sovereign to the beggar, Hughie could not afford transportation and had to walk all the way home from Laura’s house.
(v) What information did Hughie want to have from Alan?
Answer: When they met later that night, Hughie asked Alan whether he had been able to finish the painting of the beggar model that he was working on in the studio.
‘My dear Alan,’ cried Hughie, ‘I shall probably find him waiting for me when I go home. But of course you are only joking. Poor old wretch! I wish I could do something for him. I think it is dreadful that any one should be so miserable. I have got heaps of old clothes at home – do you think he would care for any of them? Why, his rags were falling to bits.’
‘But he looks splendid in them,’ said Trevor. wouldn’t paint him in a frock coat for anything. What you call rags I call romance. What seems poverty to you is picturesqueness to me. However, I’ll tell him of your offer.’
(i) For whom is the word ‘him’ used in the first line?
Answer: In the first line, the word “him” refers to the old beggar man who had been modeling for Alan earlier that day.
(ii) What did Hughie have at home? What did he want to do with that?
Answer: Hughie had some old extra clothes at home. He offered to give them to the beggar, thinking he needed them.
(iii) “But he looks splendid in them.” In which tone is this sentence spoken?
Answer: Alan says “But he looks splendid in them” in an amused, humorous tone, not meaning it seriously after Hughie offers the beggar his old clothes.
(iv) “I’ll tell him of your offer.” Which offer is referred to in this line?
Answer: This line refers to Alan promising to tell the beggar model about Hughie’s generous offer to give him some of his old clothes, thinking he was very poor.
(v) “What seems poverty, to you is picturesqueness to me.” What does the speaker mean by it?
Answer: This means that while Hughie sees the beggar’s ragged clothes as a sign of poverty, Alan the painter sees the rags as adding visual interest and artistic picturesque quality to the painting.
‘My dear boy,’ said Trevor, smiling, ‘that old beggar, as you call him, is one of the richest men in Europe. He could buy all London to-morrow without overdrawing his account. He has a house in every capital, dines off gold plate, and can prevent Russia going to war when he chooses.
‘What on earth do you mean?’ exclaimed Hughie.
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. 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.’
(i) What does Alan tell Hughie about the old beggar?
Answer: Alan reveals that contrary to appearances, the old beggar man is actually Baron Hausberg, an extremely wealthy millionaire, not a poor homeless person.
(ii) What does Alan say about the ‘old beggar’s financial position?
Answer: Alan says the man is one of the richest people in all of Europe, so wealthy that he could easily buy the entire city of London if he wanted to.
(iii) How is Baron Hausberg a friend of Alan?
Answer: Baron Hausberg is a friend and patron of Alan’s art, frequently purchasing his paintings and commissioning Alan to do portraits.
(iv) What for did Baron Hausberg give the commission to Alan?
Answer: Baron Hausberg hired Alan to paint a portrait of him posing as a poor beggar in tattered clothes, as an artistic experiment.
(v) What do you know about the rags which were worn by the ‘old beggar’?
Answer: The ripped, tattered clothes the Baron wore as a costume in the painting were not actually his, but were just an old set of paint-stained clothes Alan had gotten in Spain.
Additional Questions and Answers
1. What is the name of the main character in the story?
Answer: The name of the main character is Hughie Erskine.
2. How is Hughie described in terms of his physical appearance?
Answer: Hughie is described as wonderfully good looking, with crisp brown hair, clear-cut features, gray eyes, and an overall charming and appealing physical appearance that makes him popular.
3. What quality does Hughie lack that prevents him from being successful?
Answer: Hughie lacks the ability to make money or succeed in business. He tries various careers but fails at all of them.
4. Who does Hughie fall in love with?
Answer: Hughie falls in love with Laura Merton, the daughter of a retired colonel.
5. What does Laura’s father the Colonel tell Hughie he must do before he can marry Laura?
Answer: The Colonel tells Hughie he must earn at least ten thousand pounds of his own before he can marry Laura.
6. What two items did Hughie inherit from his late father?
Answer: From his late father, Hughie inherited a cavalry sword and a 15 volume history book about the Peninsular War.
7. How much money per year does Hughie get from his aunt?
Answer: Hughie gets an allowance of only 200 pounds per year from his elderly aunt.
8. What happens when Hughie tries working at the Stock Exchange?
Answer: When Hughie tries working at the Stock Exchange, he fails because he does not understand investing and business.
9. Why does Alan Trevor first become friends with Hughie?
Answer: Alan Trevor first becomes friends with Hughie because he is attracted to Hughie’s handsome appearance and charming personality.
10. How does Alan Trevor make a living as an artist?
Answer: As an artist, Alan Trevor makes a living by painting portraits and other paintings which are sold to patrons and collectors.
11. Who is modelling for the painting when Hughie visits Alan’s studio?
Answer: When Hughie visits, Alan Trevor is painting a portrait of an old beggar man dressed in rags.
12. Why does Hughie feel sorry for the old beggar model?
Answer: Hughie feels sorry for the beggar because his clothes are tattered and he looks very old, poor, and miserable.
13. What act of charity does Hughie do for the beggar man?
Answer: Feeling sorry for him, Hughie generously gives the old beggar man a gold sovereign coin.
14. Why does Hughie have to walk home after visiting Laura?
Answer: After giving the sovereign coin to the beggar, Hughie does not have any money left for transportation home from Laura’s house.
15. What does Hughie offer to give the old beggar man when he sees him?
Answer: Thinking the old man is poor, Hughie offers to give him some of his old spare clothes.
16. Why does Alan say that artists only need to know beautiful people?
Answer: Alan believes that only beautiful people are worthy subjects for art, so they are the only people artists need to associate with.
17. What does Alan reveal about the true identity of the old beggar man?
Answer: Alan reveals that the old beggar is really Baron Hausberg, an extremely wealthy millionaire.
18. Why did Baron Hausberg commission Alan to paint him as a beggar?
Answer: The Baron commissioned the painting as an artistic experiment, to see how he would look dressed as a poor beggar.
19. How does Hughie react when he learns the beggar is actually a millionaire?
Answer: Hughie is very surprised and embarrassed when he learns the “beggar” is truly a millionaire, since he gave him charity money.
20. What gift does Baron Hausberg send to Hughie the next day?
Answer: The next day, Baron Hausberg sends Hughie a wedding gift of ten thousand pounds.
21. How much money does the Baron give Hughie as a gift?
Answer: The Baron gives Hughie a very generous gift of ten thousand pounds.
22. Why does the Baron give Hughie such a generous gift?
Answer: The Baron is impressed by Hughie’s kindness in giving a coin to a “beggar,” so he rewards Hughie’s charitable act with the money.
23. How does the gift from the Baron change Hughie’s situation?
Answer: The money from the Baron allows Hughie to finally marry Laura as her father wanted him to have 10,000 pounds before proposing.
24. Who makes a speech at Hughie and Laura’s wedding breakfast?
Answer: Baron Hausberg makes a congratulatory speech praising the couple at their wedding breakfast.
25. What is the irony or surprise in the story’s ending?
Answer: The irony is that Hughie’s small act of charity toward the disguised millionaire leads to him being richly rewarded with exactly what he needs.
26. What is the moral or message about wealth and generosity?
Answer: The moral is that true generosity often comes from those who are rich in spirit rather than in money. Wealth does not determine kindness.
33. Does money lead to happiness, based on this story? Why or why not?
Answer: In this story, money does lead to happiness for Hughie and Laura, allowing them to marry. But they were already happy before wealth.
34. Do you think the Baron did a good deed in helping Hughie? Why?
Answer: Yes, I think the Baron did a very kind deed in helping Hughie marry Laura, rewarding Hughie’s generosity without being asked.
35. What do you think happens to Hughie and Laura after the story ends?
Answer: I think Hughie and Laura live a long happy life together, with Hughie probably finding a career he enjoys thanks to the Baron’s support.
1. What is the name of the main character in the story?
a) Hughie Erskine b) Alan Trevor c) Baron Hausberg d) Laura Merton
Answer: a) Hughie Erskine
2. What did Hughie’s father leave him in his will?
a) A house b) A sword and books c) Money d) Jewelry
Answer: b) A sword and books
3. What was Hughie’s source of income?
a) His job b) A small allowance from an aunt c) Inheritance d) Investments
Answer: b) A small allowance from an aunt
4. Who was the girl Hughie loved?
a) Laura Merton b) Anne c) Sophie d) Alice
Answer: a) Laura Merton
5. Why did Laura’s father object to her marrying Hughie?
a) He did not like Hughie b) Hughie had no profession c) Hughie had no money d) He wanted Laura to marry someone else
Answer: c) Hughie had no money
6. What was Alan Trevor’s profession?
a) Doctor b) Lawyer c) Painter d) Writer
Answer: c) Painter
7. What was Alan Trevor painting when Hughie visited him?
a) A landscape b) A portrait c) A beggar d) A vase of flowers
Answer: c) A beggar
8. What is the moral of the story ‘The Model Millionaire’?
a) Appreciate beauty wherever you find it b) Money and fame change people c) Kindness and charity have their own rewards d) Don’t judge people by their appearance
Answer: d) Don’t judge people by their appearance
9. What did Hughie secretly give the beggar model?
a) A few coins b) A ten pound note c) A sovereign d) Some bread
Answer: c) A sovereign
10. Why did Hughie have to walk home after meeting Laura?
a) His carriage was unavailable b) He spent all his money on her c) He wanted the exercise d) He gave money to the beggar
Answer: d) He gave money to the beggar
11. Where did Hughie meet Alan Trevor at night?
a) At Hughie’s house b) At a restaurant c) At the studio d) At a club
Answer: d) At a club
12. What shocking news did Alan give Hughie at the club?
a) The beggar had died b) The beggar was seriously ill c) The beggar was actually very rich d) The beggar had stolen something
Answer: c) The beggar was actually very rich
13. What was the real identity of the ‘beggar’?
a) A con man b) A thief c) Baron Hausberg d) Alan Trevor’s servant
Answer: c) Baron Hausberg
14. How did Hughie react to the news about the beggar?
a) He was amused b) He was indifferent c) He was embarrassed d) He was angry
Answer: c) He was embarrassed
15. Why had Baron Hausberg posed as a beggar model?
a) To play a prank on Alan Trevor b) To understand the life of the poor c) To help Hughie get money d) As a commission for a painting
Answer: d) As a commission for a painting
16. What gift did Baron Hausberg send to Hughie the next day?
a) A thank you note b) A painting c) A cheque for 10,000 pounds d) An invitation to visit
Answer: c) A cheque for 10,000 pounds
17. How did Baron Hausberg help Hughie and Laura?
a) He gave them jobs b) He let them live in his house c) He gave them money for marriage
d) He invested money for them
Answer: c) He gave them money for marriage
18. Who made a speech at Hughie and Laura’s wedding?
a) The priest b) Laura’s father c) Alan Trevor d) Baron Hausberg
Answer: d) Baron Hausberg
19. What trait of Baron Hausberg’s is revealed at the end?
a) His love of art b) His business savvy c) His generosity and kindness d) His sense of humor
Answer: c) His generosity and kindness
20. What did Alan Trevor say about artists and their models?
a) Artists are dependent on models b) Models work harder than artists c) Artists have a duty to help models d) Models deserve a percentage of the sale
Answer: d) Models deserve a percentage of the sale
21. Why does Baron Hausberg reward Hughie’s gesture?
a) He wants to impress Laura Merton b) He feels guilty and wants to repay him c) He appreciates acts of kindness d) He hopes to get more money from Hughie
Answer: c) He appreciates acts of kindness
22. What was Alan Trevor’s opinion about poverty and art?
a) Poverty is picturesque b) Art should uplift the poor c) The poor do not make good models d) Poverty is a social problem to be fixed
Answer: a) Poverty is picturesque
23. How did Baron Hausberg repay Hughie’s gift of a sovereign?
a) With a gift of 10,000 pounds b) By apologizing and returning it c) By investing it and giving Hughie the profit d) By letting Hughie live in his house
Answer: a) With a gift of 10,000 pounds
Additional Fill in the Blanks
1. The main character of the story who is handsome but unsuccessful is ________.
Answer: Hughie Erskine
2. Hughie’s father left him a ________ and some ________ in his will.
Answer: cavalry sword, books
3. Hughie lived on a small allowance from his ________ aunt.
4. The girl Hughie loved was named ________ ________.
Answer: Laura Merton
5. Laura’s father was a retired ________.
6. Hughie’s friend Alan Trevor was a ________.
7. When Hughie visited, Alan was painting a picture of a ________.
8. Feeling sorry for him, Hughie gave the beggar model a ________.
9. After meeting Laura, Hughie had to ________ home.
10. That night Hughie met Alan at the ________ ________.
Answer: Palette Club
11. There Alan revealed the beggar was really ________ ________.
Answer: Baron Hausberg
12. The Baron was actually one of the ________ men in Europe.
13. The next day Hughie received a ________ for £10,000 from the Baron.
14. The money was a ________ ________ for Hughie and Laura.
Answer: wedding present
15. At their wedding, ________ ________ made a speech.
Answer: Baron Hausberg
16. Hughie was described as ________ but unsuccessful.
17. Alan Trevor said models deserve a ________ of the sale.
18. Alan claimed poverty was ________ to an artist.
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