The Bastard (novel)

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The Bastard
The Bastard John Jakes novel 1974 first edition.jpg
First edition (1974)
Author John Jakes
Country United States
Language English
Series The Kent Family Chronicles
Genre Historical fiction
Publication date
Media type Print
Followed by The Rebels

The Bastard is a historical novel written by John Jakes and originally published in 1974. It is book one in a series known as The Kent Family Chronicles or the American Bicentennial Series.[1] The novel mixes fictional characters with historical events or people, to tell the story of the United States of America in the time period leading up to the American Revolution. The novel was adapted into a four-hour television film in 1978, The Bastard.[2]

Plot summary[edit]

The story begins in November 1770 in Auvergne, France, near Chavaniac. Philippe Charboneau, a seventeen-year-old boy, is living with his mother, Marie, in an inn inherited from her deceased father. The young Philippe never knew his father. Having kept it a secret from him for years, she finally told him his father was James Amberly, the 6th Duke of Kent. The Duke began a love affair with Marie when she was performing on stage in Paris, but he never married her, making Philippe illegitimate. Their affair was brief and when he returned to England, Amberly married and had a legitimate son, Roger; however, he continued to support Marie and intended for Philippe to inherit half of his fortune. When Philippe and Marie received word that the Duke had taken ill they immediately made plans to travel to Kent, England and stake their claim to his inheritance. Once at Kent, the Duke’s wife, Lady Jane Amberly, and Roger, her son, refused to recognize Philippe as the son of the Duke. Marie insisted otherwise and was determined not to leave Kent until her son inherited what she felt was rightly his, half of the Amberlys' wealth.

Philippe and his mother stayed months at an inn in hopes that Lady Jane would reconsider, but she never did. The situation became even more tense when Philippe began a sexual relationship with Roger’s fiancée, Alicia Parkhurst. When Philippe and Marie were informed that the Duke had died they returned to his home, but they were not allowed to see the body. Instead Philippe and Roger brawled, and Roger’s hand was badly wounded. Philippe escaped with his life, though he remained in danger. Alicia warned him to leave Kent because Roger was bent on killing him for injuring his hand. Lacking the funds to return to France, they fled to London and hoped to remain hidden there until the situation cooled.

Not knowing their way around the city of London, they made for St. Paul’s Church, hoping to find sanctuary there. What they found instead were violent beggars who tried to rob Philippe and his mother. They were saved by Esau and Hosea Sholto, the sons of Solomon Sholto, a deeply religious man who believed in charity and compassion. Philippe and his mother were allowed to stay with the Sholtos and Solomon offered to train Philippe as his apprentice. The Sholto family owned and operated a printing company and a lending library. Convinced that his claim to Kentland would never be validated, Philippe decided to take Solomon’s advice and learn the trade.

When Philippe confided his desire to emigrate to America, Solomon introduced him to Benjamin Franklin, who was at that time an American trade representative to England. To convince Philippe that America was the place he should be, Franklin praised his native country for its boundless opportunities, but also warned that trouble between the British and the colonies was brewing. Marie was adamantly opposed to leaving England without settling the claim for her son, but then Philippe was attacked by an agent hired by Roger, who had never given up on trying to eliminate his rival claimant. London was no longer safe for Marie and her son and they fled again, this time to the port city of Bristol, to find passage to America. During that trans-Atlantic journey, Marie, heartbroken over the destruction of her dream, died of dysentery and was buried at sea, and Philippe decided to adopt an Anglicized version of his name, Philip Kent.

Philip arrived at Boston, Massachusetts penniless and for several days he was homeless and starving. Having been in Boston not long he angered a British soldier by accidentally splashing mud on him. He was saved from a beating by William Molineux. Through his connection with Molineux, Philip was introduced to Samuel Adams and Paul Revere. More importantly he was introduced to Benjamin Edes, the editor of the Boston Gazette, who gave Philip a job at his publishing firm. It was through this job that Philip met Abraham Ware, who often contributed articles to the paper, and his daughter Anne, whom Philip began courting.

Philip participated in the Boston Tea Party, and then joined the Boston Grenadier Company under Henry Knox. A number of measures were enacted after the Tea Party to punish the citizens of Boston. One of these acts, the Quartering Act, particularly angered Abraham Ware, because he was required to house a British soldier in his home. George Lumden, the sergeant who was assigned to the Wares' house, fell in love with Daisy O’Brian, the Wares' cook, and decided to desert the British army. Philip, who wanted Lumden’s musket, encouraged the sergeant to do so and even employed a local boy to assist with that task. But the boy found it more profitable to betray Philip and inform on Lumden to the commander of his unit. That commander was none other than Roger Amberly. Roger went to the Wares' house in search of Lumden, but found only Anne. When Philip arrived, Roger attacked him, but Philip stabbed his half-brother in the belly with a bayonet. Thinking him dead, Philip fled the city with Lumden and went to stay on Daisy’s father’s farm, near Concord, Massachusetts.

Anne and Daisy joined them at the farm some time later and they informed him that Roger had not died. He was taken to Philadelphia to be treated privately and that Alicia Parkhurst was with him. Anne gave Philip a letter that Alicia had written to him and he left Concord to see her in Philadelphia. Roger died before Philip reached that city. Philip met with Alicia, who made her intentions known to him; she wanted to marry him. Philip was torn, because, though he continued to have feelings for Alicia, he also had feelings for Anne. In a chance reunion with Benjamin Franklin, Franklin gave Philip some information that Philip used to make his decision. Franklin told him that James Amberly was still alive and Philip realized that Alicia only wanted to marry him now because he remained the Duke’s only heir. Philip confronted Alicia and informed her that he no longer loved her and had decided to give up any claim to his inheritance, believing that the immense wealth would corrupt him as it had corrupted the Kent family.

On his return from Philadelphia to Concord to be reunited with Anne, he ran into Paul Revere, with William Dawes and Samuel Prescott, on their famous “midnight ride” to warn the patriots that the British army was coming. Philip tried to see Anne, but her father would not allow him to, telling him Anne was too distraught when he left her. Then Philip returned to O’Brian’s farm to get Lumden’s musket. Once there, he told Daisy to tell Anne that he loved her. Philip participated in the Battle of Concord and after the battle he was finally reunited with Anne. He told her that he planned to marry her, then left her to continue the fight against the British.

Historic figures the fictional Philip Kent met throughout the novel[edit]

In popular culture[edit]

The novel is seen on Walter White's bedside table in Season 5, Episode 2 of the AMC television show Breaking Bad, "Madrigal," when Walter moves the bedside table in order to hide a vial of ricin in the electrical socket.


  1. ^ Smith, Fred L. (20 May 1978). "John Jakes' Historical Drama Gets Royal Treatment On TV". The News and Courier. Retrieved 4 July 2013. 
  2. ^ Jerry Buck (20 May 1978). "John Jakes' 'The Bastard' is latest effort from Operation Prime Time". Eugene Register-Guard. Retrieved 4 July 2013.