The Bastard (novel)

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The Bastard
The Bastard John Jakes novel 1974 first edition.jpg
First edition (1974)
AuthorJohn Jakes
CountryUnited States
SeriesThe Kent Family Chronicles
GenreHistorical fiction
Publication date
Media typePrint
Followed byThe 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 tells him his father was James Amberly, the 6th Duke of Kent. The Duke began an 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 insists otherwise and is determined not to leave Kent until her son inherits what she feels is rightfully his half of the Amberly's' wealth.

Philippe and his mother stay months at an inn in hopes that Lady Jane would reconsider, but she never does. The situation becomes even more tense when Philippe began a sexual relationship with Roger's fiancée, Alicia Parkhurst. When Philippe and Marie are informed that the Duke had died they return to his home, but they are not allowed to see the body. Instead Philippe and Roger brawl, and Roger's hand is badly wounded. Philippe escapes with his life, though he remains in danger. Alicia warned him to leave Kent because Roger is bent on killing him for injuring his hand. Lacking the funds to return to France, Marie and Philippe flee to London and hope 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. Instead, they are attacked by violent beggars who try to rob Philippe and Marie. They are saved by Esau and Hosea Sholto, the sons of Solomon Sholto, a deeply religious man who believes in charity and compassion. Philippe and Marie are allowed to stay with the Sholtos and Solomon offered to train Philippe as his apprentice, as the Sholto family owns and operates a printing company and a lending library. Convinced that his claim to Kentland will never be validated, Philippe decides to take Solomon's advice and learn the trade.

When Philippe confides to Solomon his desire to emigrate to America, Solomon introduces him to Benjamin Franklin, who is currently 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 warns that trouble between the British and the colonies are brewing. Marie is adamantly opposed to leaving England without settling the claim for her son, but Philippe is attacked by an agent hired by Roger, who has never given up on trying to eliminate his rival claimant. London is no longer safe for Marie and Philippe and they fled again, this time to the port city of Bristol, to find passage to America. During their transatlantic journey, Marie, heartbroken, dies of dysentery and is buried at sea, and Philippe decides to adopt an Anglicized version of his name, renaming himself Philip Kent.

Philip arrives in Boston, Massachusetts penniless, becoming homeless and starving. He quickly angers a British soldier by accidentally splashing mud on him. He is saved from a beating by local merchant William Molineux. Through his connection with Molineux, Philip was introduced to Samuel Adams and Paul Revere. He is also introduced to Benjamin Edes, the editor of the Boston Gazette, who gives Philip a job at his publishing firm. It was through this job that Philip meets Abraham Ware, who often contributes to articles to the paper, and his daughter Anne, whom Philip begins courting.

Philip participates in the Boston Tea Party, and then joins the Boston Grenadier Company under Henry Knox. A number of measures are enacted after the Tea Party to punish the colonists in Boston. One of these acts, the Quartering Act, particularly angers Abraham Ware, because he is requiered to house a British soldier in his home. George Lumden, the sergeant who is quartered in the Wares' house, falls in love with Daisy O'Brian, the Wares' cook, and decides to desert the British army. Philip, who wants Lumden's musket, encourages the sergeant to do so and even employs a local boy to assist him in taking the musket. However, the boy finds it more profitable to betray Philip and inform on Lumden to the commander of his unit, who is none other than Roger Amberly. Roger goes to the Wares' house in search of Lumden, but finds only Anne. When Philip arrives, Roger recognizes and attacks him, but Philip stabs his half-brother in the stomach with a bayonet. Thinking him dead, Philip flees the city with Lumden and goes to stay on Daisy's father's farm, near Concord, Massachusetts.

Anne and Daisy join them at the farm some time later and they inform him that Roger had not died. He was taken to Philadelphia to be treated privately, and Alicia Parkhurst was with him. Anne gives Philip a letter that Alicia had written to him and he leaves Concord to see her in Philadelphia. Roger dies before Philip reached the city. Philip meets with Alicia, who tells him she wants to marry him. Philip is torn between Alicia and Anne. In a chance reunion with Benjamin Franklin, Franklin tells Philip that James Amberly is actually still alive and Philip realizes that Alicia only wants to marry him now because he is now the Duke's only heir. Philip confronts Alicia and informs her that he no longer loves her and has 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 again, this time with William Dawes and Samuel Prescott, on their famous "midnight ride" to warn the patriots that the British army is coming. Philip tries to see Anne, but her father will not allow him to, telling him Anne was too distraught when he left her. Then, Philip returns to O'Brian's farm to get Lumden's musket. Once there, he tells Daisy to tell Anne that he loves her. Philip participates in the Battle of Concord and afterwards, he is finally reunited with Anne. He tells her that he plans to marry her, and then he leaves to continue the fighting in the war 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.