Lizzie Greystock’s father was a wicked man who loved wine and whist. When she is nineteen, her father dies, leaving her all his debts, and no fortune. Lizzie’s uncle the Dean of Bobsborough invites her to live at the deanery, but Lizzie decides to go to her aunt Lady Linlithgow. She has only her beauty and cleverness to help her. And she uses them both to serve her purpose well. She is a sly, heartless, mercenary, opportunistic young girl who determines to settle herself well in life.
Lady Linlithgow and Lizzie hate each other. Lizzie chooses to go to her aunt because the arrangement suits her better than life at the deanery. Lady Linlithgow takes in her niece because she feels it is her duty. Mr. Benjamin the jeweler comes to Lady Linlithgow hoping to retrieve the jewels that Admiral Greystock had purchased from him for his daughter. But Lizzie refuses to return them. She claims that they have been sold to repay other debts. But this is a lie. She has pawned the jewels for her personal expenses.
Lizzie is in need of money and all her pawned jewels. She has only the jeweler Benjamin to turn to. So she falsely claims to be of age, and borrows money from him, hinting that she is to be married to Sir Florian Eustace soon. Though the marriage is not certain at that time, it is in the offing. Lizzie has set her heart on the advantageous match. Sir Eustace is a wealthy man who has fallen in love with Lizzie. More importantly, Lizzie knows he is dying. She reckons that after his imminent death, she will come into great wealth. She uses all her charms on the foolish and weak man, and has him propose marriage to her.
After a few months of the marriage, Sir Florian Eustace realizes the truth about Lizzie’s character. But it is too late. They are married, and he does not have too long to live. He dies soon after, leaving her comfortably settled. Now Lizzie is a rich widow looking to remarry any man who suits her.
Lizzie’s late husband had given her a diamond necklace worth £ 10,000. Mr. Camperdown, the Eustace family lawyer, believing it to be an heirloom, asks her to return it. But she refuses to part with it. She takes great pains to keep it safe, losing her peace of mind in the process. She is accused of stealing the diamonds, and has to go to court twice. She antagonizes her cousin Frank Greystock. Lord Fawn, whom she is engaged to marry, refuses to fulfill the engagement on account of the necklace. All the prominent people of London know her story. She loses whatever respectability she had on account of the necklace. Still she clings to the diamonds, only to lose them to a bunch of thieves at the end. Like her friend Lord George tells her, she has got nothing by it all. Finally, she marries a greasy false man, Reverend Emilius, losing the good natured Frank Greystock and the respectable Lord Fawn. She realizes that she is just paste, not a true diamond. She accepts the false Emilius because falsehood is what suits her.
By the end of the story, we find that all the characters have got what they truly desired. Lizzie wants to be well settled, and she becomes a rich woman with a castle and a good income. She loves poetry. While reading a poem about certain knights going in a quest of a sign from heaven, she thinks she would love to set upon such a journey herself, seeking heavenly joy. Later, Emilius’s poetic speech, when he asks Lizzie to marry him, has a taste of the Bible about it. She has been false, using her wiles with everyone around her, and it all comes right back to her in the form of the slimy Emilius. Lord Fawn values his honor and respectability, and no amount of money or property can induce him to marry Lizzie after it is known that she unfairly holds possession of the Eustace family diamonds. The stones offer Lord Fawn a good opportunity to go back on his word without any disgrace to himself. Lucy Morris epitomizes virtue. She values love and kindness, and marries Frank Greystock inspite of all the odds against such a match. Frank Greystock is not mercenary. He is greatly charmed by his cousin Lizzie, and is even on the verge of proposing marriage to her and being accepted, but is fortuitously prevented from doing so. He knows it is Lucy he loves, and wants to marry. Finally, against opposition from every side, he marries her. All the Fawn family members want to prevent the marriage between Lord Fawn and Lizzie, and at the same time want Lucy to marry Frank Greystock. Through the various people working against Lizzie, they see their goals achieved. Sir John Eustace, the brother of late Sir Florian Eustace has no regard for the family property. He does not care who has the diamonds, and tries to dissuade Mr. Camperdown from carrying out action against Lizzie. And these diamonds leave the Eustace family and end up on the neck of a Russian princess.
Character of Life
Admiral Greystock was a wicked man who lived in debt, indulged himself and spoilt his daughter Lizzie. In his lifetime he had adorned her with jewels purchased with borrowed money. He dies leaving her at nineteen years of age, with no fortune or secure future. After his death, Lizzie needs to live with her relatives until she is married. Her uncle the Dean of Bobsborough is ready to take her. His wife and three daughters welcome her. They are sincere and nice people. But Lizzie does not look upon living at the deanery favorably. She declines the invitation and chooses to live with her aunt Lady Linlithgow, whom she hates and refers to as the ‘vulturess’.
We see that this closely indicates the pattern of events that take place in Lizzie’s life later. She has inherited her father’s wickedness. She continues to wear jewels that do not belong to her. She clings to the Eustace family diamonds. She misses the comparatively better prospect of marrying Lord Fawn by foolishly clinging on to the diamonds, and chooses to marry Emilius instead. She quarrels with Lucy Morris and Frank Greystock, spurns the sincere gestures of the ladies in the Fawn family, declines the invitations of the Eustaces and Lady Linlithgow to stay with them after the birth of her child, and surrounds herself with people like Mrs. Carbuncle, Sir Griffin and Emilius.
Lizzie has Sir Florian Eustace at her feet. He is in love with her. To charm him completely and get him to propose marriage to her, Lizzie makes use of all her wiles, and the jewels obtained from Mr. Benjamin through deceit. Thus, she makes use of guile to marry Sir Florian Eustace and become rich. When she is left a wealthy woman, the wealth thus obtained attracts all the false and deceitful people to her. Right from the moment she has come out of mourning for Sir Florian Eustace, upto the point she remarries, she meets such people as Lord Fawn who proposes to her with an eye on her money, Mr. Benjamin and the thieves who steal her diamond necklace, Mrs. Carbuncle who exploits her invitation to Portray, lives on her hospitality and borrows her money while in London, Sir Griffin who wishes to marry Lucinda simply because she is not easily accessible and doesn’t submit to him, and finally Emilius who marries her purely out of mercenary motives. This falsely won money repels good people who value things greater than money, such as Lucy Morris, Frank Greystock and the Fawn family. Wealth thus obtained does not leave her happier in any way. Undoubtedly, it sees her comfortably settled, but she does not have a moment’s peace of mind, she longs for companionship and love, but recognizes and accepts dishonest people like Mrs. Carbuncle, Sir Griffin and Emilius. The money only leaves her with the feeling that she is persecuted, ill treated, cheated and injured by everyone.
Sir Florian Eustace is a vicious man who denies himself no pleasures. He does not believe in virtue. He is also foolish. When he is told that he is dying and has to give up some of his practices if he wants to survive, he believes that living longer is not worth sacrificing his present lifestyle, and decides to continue with his vices. He actually chooses death in this way. He also chooses Lizzie. Because he has no belief in virtue, he gets a wife with no virtue. He is not intelligent, but when it comes to Lizzie, he becomes completely blind, taken in by her charm and guile. When Mr. Camperdown warns him against the match, he is offended, he does not listen to his family lawyer. He goes ahead with his marriage to Lizzie, and leaves her great wealth.
Lizzie has charmed him by reading out poetry to him. She arranges the setting such that she almost sits in the dark, with a lamp throwing light on the book. Sir Florian Eustace is charmed by her acting. It is a poetical speech that Emilius makes later in the story, asking Lizzie to marry him. Inspite of all the falsehood in it, Lizzie is charmed and she marries him.
When Sir Florian Eustace proposes marriage to Lizzie, he tells her that he will compensate for his early death by leaving her great wealth. No woman who loves a man can accept money in his place. If anyone were to make such a proposition to Lucy, that she could have a great sum of money instead of Frank or that she would be rewarded if she were to give up Frank, she would undoubtedly refuse the offer. She refuses even Lizzie’s offer of a hundred guineas in return for information about the Fawns she loves so much. Here, it is as if Sir Florian Eustace knows that Lizzie values money more than anything or anyone, and will accept the proposition because of the money in it. Though he is ignorant of Lizzie’s true nature at the moment, he subconsciously knows that Lizzie is marrying him just for his money.
When he talks about money, Lizzie indicates with a lot of emotion that it is not the money she cares for. Because of this statement, which is actually false, she loses the diamond necklace that he gives her. Inspite of all her wealth, she is hard up after entertaining guests at Portray, and while staying in London with Mrs. Carbuncle.
Lizzie uses Sir Florian’s illness to marry him soon and become rich. In the same way, when she is in trouble about the diamonds, is accused of perjury and has escaped to Portray, Emilius takes advantage of her troubles and uses the opportunity to marry her and secure his position financially.
After marriage, Sir Florian Eustace, and Lizzie go to London after a stay at Portray Castle. Here, the blow strikes Sir Eustace, when he receives a bill from Mr. Benjamin amounting to over £ 400. Lizzie lies to her husband about the transaction, thus exposing herself in the process, for Sir Florian Eustace finds from the nature of the transaction that his wife is lying. He understands the truth about Lizzie. Though Lizzie does not know, it is at the same time and place that she has also received what will turn out to be a blow to her. Her husband has presented her the diamond necklace, costing over £ 10,000. It is this necklace that will drive away Lord Fawn, Frank Greystock and Lord George from her, drag her to court, get her accused of theft, perjury and deceit, drive her away from London to seek refuge in the solitude of Portray, frighten and upset her much, and finally force her to marry the thoroughly disreputable Emilius.
She refuses the hand of friendship her Bobsborough cousins extend her. This refusal comes back to her in the form of Frank Greystock’s refusal to accept her love and wealth later. She declines to go to the deanery, because life in London will provide her more opportunities to meet rich bachelors she can marry, it is money that she values. Later in the story, Frank refuses to be charmed by all of Lizzie’s wiles, and chooses Lucy Morris, whose love and kindness he values.
When the jewelers Messrs Harter and Benjamin ask Lizzie to return the jewels that her father had bought on credit, she lies. However, she does not drop her acquaintance with the jewelers. She goes to them claiming that she is of age, and tells Mr. Benjamin that she is to marry Sir Florian Eustace, referring to the marriage with wit as a ‘catastrophe’. Lizzie knows that Mr. Benjamin is a disreputable man. She cannot bring herself to reveal her connections with him to Lord Fawn later in the story. But she cannot cut off her connections with people such as Mr. Benjamin or her solicitors Messrs Mowbray and Mopus. She needs these disreputable, dishonest people to protect her because she herself is disreputable and dishonest. She knows the worth of honest, dependable lawyers such as Mr. Camperdown and jewelers such as Messrs Garnett. But she herself will have to be honest like them, in order to obtain their protection. She is not willing to sacrifice her material possessions or change her nature. She can win them over to her side if she obeys Mr. Camperdown and surrenders the diamond necklace to Messrs Garnett. But she cannot do this, it is too great a price for respectability, and she doesn’t think respectability and security thus dearly bought are worth the cost. She chooses to have the disreputable and false people with her. Similarly, when she could have married Lord Fawn, who though weak and unintelligent, is respectable and honorable. She lets go of the opportunity and marries the totally false and scheming Emilius.
She renews the relationship with Mr. Benjamin. She lies about her age, and about the marriage to Sir Florian Eustace, for, in truth, he had not proposed to her yet. But she does not get away with her lies. Mr. Benjamin sees through her. He finds out that she is not yet of age. He sees that she could not have come just to admit responsibility, but for some other favor. In the same way, after hearing the news of the loss of the diamonds, Mr. Benjamin does not believe her. He knows that they are with her. He comes back and steals them when she is staying with Mrs. Carbuncle. Lizzie’s referring to the marriage as a catastrophe turns out to be correct in every way except financially. Sir Florian Eustace marries her, but dies within a year, leaving her lonely. The necklace that he presents her causes her a lot of trouble. After being widowed, she ends up marrying the false Emilius. Had Sir Florian Eustace been alive, she would have atleast had a devoted and sincere husband. Inspite of detecting Lizzie’s lie, Mr. Benjamin does not expose her. He simply lends her the money. Sir Florian Eustace behaves in a similar manner before. When he finds out the truth about his wife Lizzie, he does not disown her or alter his will in any way. He leaves her well provided for.
Lizzie tells the jeweler Benjamin that the jewels her father had gifted her are gone, so when Lady Linlithgow sees them back on Lizzie, tries hard to find out how she got them back. She has taken Lizzie into her house, and supports her. But she cannot intimidate Lizzie or find out the truth about how she obtained the jewels. Neither can she make her give them up to repay her father’s debts. Lizzie holds her own against her aunt. Later, when Lizzie has possession of the Eustace diamonds, Lady Linlithgow attempts to make her return the jewel to Mr. Camperdown, but is again unsuccessful. Lizzie fights everyone who is against her having the jewels, and refuses to give them up. She only loses to the thieves who steal them.
Accomplishment in the Story
Lizzie is wicked, it is not the lack of wealth that has made her cunning and scheming. Lucy Morris is in a worse situation than Lizzie, but has retained all her virtue. The Fawn girls or Greystock girls are not well provided for, but they do not give in to deceit like Lizzie. Lizzie is a very strong, clever girl who knows what she wants, and knows how to get it. She is mercenary. She values money, and does not scruple to tell a lie or cheat anyone. She is ungrateful to Lady Linlithgow, and tricks Sir Florian into marrying her. But inspite of all her vices, she does achieve something. She makes herself very rich. Inspite of all the trouble she faces, and the bad name she gets, no one can touch her income or take away Portray castle from her. She has got them for life. Without any good quality or virtue, Lizzie has won so much for herself. Why is Lizzie successful in accomplishing her foremost ambition, obtaining wealth?
The Eustace family lawyer Mr.Camperdown takes it upon himself to retrieve the diamonds from Lizzie. He has the good of the family at heart. But he is unsuccessful. He cannot prevent Sir Florian’s marriage to Lizzie. He cannot get back the diamonds from Lizzie. He cannot get her to come to court after she has settled in Portray. He cannot even find the exact date when Sir Eustace withdrew the diamonds from Messrs Garnett, their records are unclear. Even Lord Fawn and Frank Greystock, people who respect Mr. Camperdown are forced to turn against him and side with Lizzie, for a while.