1st level synopsis   (summary)

The widow of an academic gains some consolation for the way he disappears from public memory through the reception given to publication of the vacuous correspondence of his friend, the man she had rejected in his favour.

2nd level synopsis   (by chapter)

Warren Hope overrules his wife’s worries about the weather and attends the funeral of his oldest friend, Lord Northmore, who has been so much more successful in public life than he. While he is there, she muses on the way Northmore, whom she had known first but rejected as a husband for the more brilliant Hope, has always ‘taken’ from his friend. Hope returns with a chill and soon dies of pneumonia.


Wanting to commemorate her husband, Mrs Hope goes through his papers but cannot complete any of the ‘literary remains’. Then Lady Northmore writes asking for use of any letters of her husband, for publication. As well as her own secret bundle of love letters, Mrs Hope finds many to her husband who has kept them all, seemingly. She considers hiding this fact, but eventually allows them to be used.


Wondering at the positive, general response to Lady Northmore, Mrs Hope resolves to collect and publish Warren’s letters, which must be so much more interesting. Sadly her appeal to his friends draws a complete blank – no one has saved anything.


Mrs Hope cannot bear to read the acres of comment on the two volumes of Lord Northmore’s letters, until, in the evening, looking at her complimentary copy, she realizes that they are an abyss of inanity. She finds that the reviewers have been highlighting this and not praising the publication.


As the public comment dies down, Mrs Hope comes to believe that her husband deliberately kept Lord Northmore’s letters as a posthumous revenge. She destroys the Lord’s love-letters and has her husband’s letters to her, from times when they were apart, printed privately in a single copy with instructions in her will for them to be published after her death.