I found it interesting that the Moreen family is constantly trying to keep up an appearance of being very cultured and worldly. One of the most noticeable examples early in the story was when Pemberton commented on "Ultramoreen"- the family's secret dialect - and how it almost sounded like a language he knew. It is as if they were trying to mimic a level of class/culture that they don't actually have.
There seems to be an element of foreshadowing when Pemberton and Morgan first joke about running away/living together and Pemberton says "Look out or I'll poison you!"
I thought the parallels between the inn and the house where he finally finds Caroline Spencer interesting - they are both described as run-down, as "elegance of the most frugal kind". It's the idea of putting on airs, of pretending to be fancier than you really are. This seems to be a theme for James overall.
The narrator of this story initially seemed a little pompous, showing off his pictures of Europe. This leads me to question how much he actually cared for Caroline Spencer. Was he trying to save her for her sake or for his own satisfaction?
With these groups of stories, the thing I noticed most was the role of class in James' work. In Brooksmith, the character seems so happy to serve because it means he gets to soak up the paradise of the salon, of the higher-class experience. His embarrassment and the way he hides from the narrator only appears after Offord dies and he is sent back to a lower-class life.
I enjoyed the images of Brooksmith as an artist, or a gardner. These seemed to add to the idea that he was creating a world for himself that didn't naturally exist. He is tampering with nature in a way.
Height and level also seemed to play a symbolic role in this story. The upstairs/downstairs in Offord's home. Brooksmith being a short man. Brooksmith needing to "get his spirits up".
The Real Thing
I enjoyed how this story made me question what counts as "real". The Monarchs claim to be "The Real Thing" but what the artist needs is a real model, which the Monarchs clearly are not. The Monarchs seem so concerned with their appearance and with seeming genuinely cultured. This, to me, makes them seem incredibly fake.
James' class message in this piece seems to come from the idea that "Real" gentlemen and ladies aren't necessarily real people. The idea that class doesn't create actual character.