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Brewster's Millions

By: George Barr McCutcheon

Brewster's Millions is a comedic novel written by George Barr McCutcheon in 1902, originally under the pseudonym of Richard Greaves. It was adapted into a play in 1906, which opened at the New Amsterdam Theatre on Broadway, and the novel or play has been adapted into films thirteen times, four of which were produced in India. The plot concerns a young man whose eccentric grandfather leaves him a fortune in a will, with the qualification that he must spend $1 million in the first year or lose the remainder of his inheritance.

The novel revolves around Montgomery Brewster, a young man who inherits one million dollars from his rich grandfather. Shortly after, a rich uncle who hated Brewster's grandfather (a long-held grudge stemming from the grandfather's disapproval of the marriage of Brewster's parents) also dies. The uncle will leave Brewster seven million dollars, but only under the condition that he keeps none of the grandfather's money. Brewster is required to spend every penny of his grandfather's million within one year, resulting in no assets or property held from the wealth at the end of that time. If Brewster meets these terms, he will gain the full seven million; if he fails, he remains penniless.


Brewster finds that spending so much money within the course of a year is incredibly difficult under the strict conditions imposed by his uncle's will. Brewster is required to demonstrate business sense by obtaining good value for the money he spends, limiting his donations to charity, his losses to gambling, and the value of his tips to waiters and cab drivers. Moreover, Brewster is sworn to secrecy, and cannot tell anyone why he is living to excess. Working against him are his well-meaning friends, who try repeatedly to limit his losses and extravagance even as they share in his luxurious lifestyle.


Brewster's challenge is compounded by the fact that his attempts to lose money through stock speculation and roulette prove to increase his funds rather than decrease them. He throws large parties and balls, and charters a cruise lasting several months to Europe and Egypt for his large circle of friends and employees; the press lampoons him as a spendthrift. Despite his loose purse strings, Brewster repeatedly demonstrates a strong moral character. At one point, he uses his funds to bail out a bank to save his landlady's account, despite risking his eligibility for the will. At another, he jumps overboard to save a drowning sailor from his cruise even as his rich friends choose not to.


Brewster's would-be wife Barbara Drew turns down his marriage proposal early in the year, believing him to be financially irresponsible and bound to a life of poverty, and his attempts to win her back repeatedly fail as his attention is entirely absorbed by the requirement to spend so much money. At the conclusion of the year, he succeeds in spending the last of his funds, which he has meticulously documented, and confesses his love to another woman, Peggy Gray, who has been sympathetic to his lifestyle despite knowing nothing about his challenge. Tragedy strikes the night before the deadline, as his lawyers informed him that the executor of his uncle's will has vanished after liquidating all of the assets. Brewster convinces himself that he is doomed to poverty, but marries Peggy Gray, who accepts him despite the lack of wealth. Shortly after the wedding, the executor of his uncle's will arrives to inform him that he has successfully met the challenge and that he has come to deliver the money to Brewster in person.

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George Barr McCutcheon was an American popular novelist and playwright. His best known works include a series of novels set in Graustark, a fictional East European country, and the novel Brewster's Mi...

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