This timely satire on the aesthetic craze of the 1880’s presents a "Fleshly Poet" – Bunthorne – and an "Idyllic Poet" – Grosvenor – who are rivals for the affections of the milkmaid, Patience. Unfortunately, Patience’s possible interest in either one is contingent on the aesthetic concepts of "perfection" she has learned from the languid ladies of the village. Those ladies, who trail after Bunthorne hanging on his every poem, are no longer swayed by their former flames, a regiment of officers of the Dragoon guards led by a Colonel, a Duke and a Major.
Patience, having been told that love must be absolutely unselfish, has to reject the perfect Grosvenor (Archibald the All-Right) and accept the very imperfect Bunthorne. Bunthorne, of course, is delighted and this defection of their idol drives the ladies back to their military lovers, but the reunion is soon broken up by the arrival of Grosvenor, to whom they promptly transfer their adoration. The three Dragoon officers, desperate to regain their ladies’ love, decide to adopt an aesthetic pose, which is more (or less) successful. The baffled Bunthorne (who had grown rather fond of the adoration of every lady in sight), aided by Lady Jane, concocts a scheme to get rid of the interloper by means of a terrible Curse, which will compel Grosvenor to give up his aestheticism and become a quite common-place young man.
The plan, however, recoils, as all the ladies now revert to their former non-aesthetic sensibilities, explaining that since Archibald the All-Right cannot possible be All-Wrong, obviously aestheticism ought to be discarded. Patience, discovering that her Archibald is no longer perfect, promptly falls into his arms and Bunthorne, crushed, decides to wed Jane, his one remaining adorer. However, the plot’s complications are not resolved until the Dragoons return and lure the ladies back into their arms and the identity of "Bunthorne’s Bride" is disclosed.
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