The Duchess and The Jeweller by Virginia Woolf Summary and Questions

The Duchess and The Jeweller

The Duchess and The Jeweller

About the Author

Virginia Woolf (1882 -1941) is a well-renowned English short story writer and novelist. She enjoys a unique place for being the pioneer of modernism in English literature. 


Her most famous work are novels To the Lighthouse, Mrs. Dalloway and Orlando, and an essay A Room of One’s Own. She was an important figure in Victorian literary society and is regarded as one of the greatest modernist-literary personalities of the 20th century. 


She became the innovator of the English literature with her experiment with the stream of consciousness and broke the mold with her highly experimental language rejecting the traditional literary techniques.


Most of Virginia, Woolf works allow for a deeper insight into the psychology of a

character and its real thinking, though they are often criticized for its showy and snobbish depiction of the characters. 


During the last phase of her life, she underwent a nervous breakdown. She turned into a victim of severe depression. All this greatly disturbed her life and she fell a victim to mental instability that eventually became the cause of her suicide

in 1941.


Summary | The Duchess and The Jeweller

The story portrays the English society of those days when the high-ups were coming down. The nobility was suffering from moral decadence. The writer has highlighted the strong influence of lust for wealth. Oliver the protagonist, lived in the poor quarter of the town. 
The story is about a very rich and successful jeweler, Oliver Bacon, and the duchess; the wife of a The Duchess came to him to sell her false pearls at the price of genuine pearls
By a sharp deal, he managed to get some precious stones, which he sold and made a huge profit. Then he set himself up as a jeweler. He sold stolen dogs to the fashionable ladies on Sundays. He grew up and began to sell cheap watches in a shop.
Oliver had become the richest jeweler of England. He lived at the top of the house over-looking the Green Park. Anyhow, he was not satisfied with what he had, rather he longed for some extra-ordinary and wonderful deal that would overshadow all that he had done till then.
One morning he went to his shop as usual. A Duchess came to meet him. She was dressed in the height of fashion. She opened the leather bag and dropped ten pearls on the table, which she wanted to sell for twenty thousand pounds. 
The jeweler knew that the duchess had once Cheated him by selling false diamonds. This time he did not want to be deceived. Oliver took a pearl in his hand. He wanted to ring the bell and get the pearls tested properly
But the Duchess proved her bit clever for him. She to the jeweler that the Prime Minister was holding a party where Diana would also be present.She invited him to attend the party. Diana was the Duchess’ daughter whom the jeweler loved from the core of his heart. 
The Duchess offered him to spend a long time alone with Diana. Oliver wished to spend a long weekend with Diana. He was tempted by her trick, and wrote a cheque for 20 thousand pounds and gave it to the Duchess. Later Oliver came to know that pearls were artificial.
In this world, everybody is wearing a smokescreen. Nobody can judge the hidden of anybody. So the writer has given us the theme that life must be spent and with a sense of practical life. Life is not as easy as it looks.
We find that the Jeweller and the duchess are rich people but their intentions and motives are mean. At the beginning of the story, we have a sense of admiration for the Oliver Bacon was a hard-working person. 

Important Question and Answers

Question 1

How did Bacon become the richest jeweler of the world? 

Write a note on the past life of Oliver Bacon.


Oliver Bacon was the central character of the story. He was an orphan child. He was the richest jeweler in the world. He always remembered his past life when he was poor. He led a very tragic and poor life. He was not ashamed of his miserable past.
In his childhood, he lived in a very dirty street. He used to sell stolen dogs to the rich fashionable ladies in the white chapel. Once he was deceived in it and his mother advised him to change his occupation. Then he began to sell watches and jewelry.
He aspired to become the richest man in the world. He progressed step by step. He also remembered his dear mother who used to advise him to work hard in life. Once by chance, he earned a lot of money by selling an emerald to a jeweler.
He progressed day by day. He made jewelry’s shop in the richest area of the London. He worked hard and became the richest jeweler in the world. In short, his past life was very miserable but he made his future life better and progressive.

Question 2

Discuss the relation of The Duchess and the Jeweller. Why do they fall

to moral decadence.

The Duchess and the Jeweller with the theme of the rise of the middle class. Discuss.

How far would you agree that The Duchess and the Jeweller depict the moral decadence of the nobility?

The Duchess is more loathsome than the jeweler comment.

The Duchess is more loathsome than the jeweler comment.


The story portrays the English society of those days when the high-ups were coming down. The nobility was suffering from moral decadence. The writer has explained the strong influence of lust of wealth. The jeweler went on heaping up gold by foul means. 
The whole life of the jeweler showed his hard struggle and sharp practices in gathering wealth and property. The story shows that the rich families in England were not only becoming economically poor but also morally and ethically mean Duchess was the representative of the family. 
She was morally weak as she had stolen ten pearls of her husband and wanted to sell them to Oliver Bacon. Even she invited Oliver to her home and tempted him to ride with her daughter in the jungle. 
Common people like Oliver were also rising high in life, but they could not overcome their inferiority complex. In short, the story shows the true picture of English society at the time of Miss. Woolf. At that time people worshipped money, diamonds, and jewels and degraded human values.

Question 3


Oliver Bacon, despite his being a rich man, could not get rid of the inferiority complex. Discuss.

What tricks did the Duchess apply to grab money from the jeweler?

Why the Duchess and Oliver Bacon were friends as well as enemies at

the same time.

What is the writer’s opinion about the Duchess and the jeweler?


The story, Duchess and the Jeweller revolves around the two important characters. Out of two characters, one is Oliver Bacon, a jeweler who had spread a network of his business in the whole of Europe.  He was an astute and businessman who had cleverly built his own empire of business in diamonds, rubies emeralds, pearls, and all other kinds of precious stones and ornaments.


The Duchess of Lambourne represented the nobility and aristocracy who belonged to a high class who had lost all sense of social values, moral and ethical principles. One the day the Duchess came there to sell ten pearls for an amount of twenty thousand pounds. Both of them knew each other because they were friends yet enemies each cheated the other, each needed the other, and each feared the other. In the light of the past experience, Oliver wanted to check and test the purity and of the pearls.


But the Duchess took advantage of his passionate attachment with her daughter, Diana whom he loved. She firmly made a commitment to allow him to ride with Diana at the weekend. It was the strongest bait to impel Oliver to write down a cheque for twenty thousand pounds. Later, Oliver found the pearls fake after the departure of the Duchess.

Question 4

Draw a character sketch of the Duchess in The Duchess and the jeweler


The Duchess of Lambourne was the mother of Diana. She was the representative aristocratic family. Her character represented the true picture of the moral decadence of English aristocracy. She gambled. She used many clever tricks to entangle Oliver.


The Duchess was a characterless woman. Morally and ethically she was very weak. She stole the pearls of her husband and sold them to the jeweler Oliver Bacon in a deceitful manner. She gave Oliver the temptation to enjoy holidays with her daughter in the woods.


She knew very well that Oliver loved her daughter Diana. She was a very cunning woman. She wanted to sell her fake pearls by hook or by crook. She also told him in a sad mood that she was in urgent need of money. The Duchess was a symbol of selfishness and the mean behavior of human nature. She adopted hypocritical views for the achievement of her mean objectives. In short, she was a very wicked character in the story.

Question 5

Evaluate the character sketch of Oliver Bacon.


Oliver Bacon was the richest jeweler Of the city. He was very famous in his

profession. He was an experienced jeweler. He worked hard all his life. He was representative of the middle working class of the society. He had grown up in a corrupt and materialist society.


Oliver was a very rich jeweler in his locality. He was an unmarried and young person. He was famous among all aristocratic families of London, His shop was located in the very rich and fashionable area of the city.


Oliver was a very hard-working person but morally he was very weak. He started his career from uncertain circumstances to the highest status of the jeweler. He had stolen dogs and sold them to fashionable ladies.


He then sold cheap watches, smuggled pearls, and diamonds and finally set up a jewelry shop and became a rich person. Due to the weakness of his character, the Duchess deceived him. She sold false jewels to him.


Though he was an expert and famous jeweler yet he could not understand the deceitful nature of the Duchess. In short, Oliver Bacon was an interesting and sentimental character in the story.


About the Author

Anila Ibrahim

An educationist, web content writer, equipped with an LLB and a Master’s degree in English Literature, as well as a Master of Philosophy in Entrepreneurship. I have a comprehensive understanding of both the English language and the educational landscape. This academic background empowers Anila to deliver content that is not only informative but also thoroughly researched.

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