The Repairer of Reputations is a short story published by Robert W. Chambers in the collection The King in Yellow in 1895. The story is an example of Chambers' horror fiction, and is one of the stories in the collection which contains the motif of the Yellow Sign and the King in Yellow.
The story is set in New York City in the year 1925, 30 years in the future of the story's publication. The protagonist, one Hildred Castaigne, is a young man whose personality changed drastically following a head injury sustained by falling from his horse. He was subsequently committed to an asylum for treatment of insanity by a Dr. Archer. The story is told from his subjective point of view, and due to his accident, Castaigne is a prime example of an unreliable narrator.
While still recovering, Castaigne obtained and read The King In Yellow, a false document within the story which is represented as a universally censored play which deeply disturbed him. Once a wealthy dilettante and affable man-about-town, after his accident Castaigne became an eccentric recluse who spent his days poring over old books and maps and associating with a more eccentric character, a Mr. Wilde, the "Repairer of Reputations" of the story's title.
In this alternate history, the United States has apparently prospered, significantly improving its infrastructure. The rise of a new aristocratic elite in the United States has reduced the influence and immigration of foreigners, and this is particularly evident in the case of Jews. Suicide has been legalized, Castaigne experiences, and has been made generally and readily accessible in the newly established "Government Lethal Chambers" being rapidly rolled out across other towns and cities.
Wilde claims to be the architect of a vast conspiracy which uses, amongst other devices, blackmail to influence and command powerful men whose reputations the conspiracy has saved from scandal. Hildred believes that, with Wilde's help, he will become the heir of the "Last King" of "The Imperial Dynasty of America," which Wilde says is descended of a lost kingdom from distant stars in the Hyades. However, he perceives his cousin Louis Castaigne standing before him in the line of succession, he plans to force Louis to abdicate his claim to the throne, accept exile, and never marry.
Louis, who believes that Hildred is still mentally ill, humours him by agreeing to abdicate his claim, but becomes angry when Hildred insists that Louis cannot marry his fiancee, Constance Hawberk. Hildred shocks Louis by claiming that he has murdered Dr. Archer and had Constance assassinated. When Hildred runs back to the apartment of Mr. Wilde, he finds that Wilde's feral cat has torn out his throat, utterly wrecking his plans to conquer the United States with the help of Wilde's conspiracy. The police arrive, and Hildred sees Constance crying as he is dragged away. It is unknown whether or not Hildred actually committed any murders.
The story ends with a note that Hildred Castaigne died the previous day in an asylum for the criminally insane.
- Hildred Castaigne: The protagonist of the story, Hildred's character was much changed after sustaining a head injury and reading The King In Yellow during his convalescence. Hildred spends much of his time poring over old books; he never mentions work and appears to be independently wealthy. Hildred is a classic example of an unreliable narrator, as he often comments that other people appear to be humouring him or treating things he regards as very important as inconsequential or nonexistent.
- Louis Castaigne:"The King" Hildred's cousin, a military officer. Louis does not share his cousin's intellectualism or ambition, and is mainly focused on his love for Hawberk's daughter, Constance. Louis is horrified to find that Hildred has been reading The King in Yellow, but appears to make an effort to humour Hildred's eccentricities and strange behaviour.
- Hawberk: An armourer, Hawberk fashions and repairs antique bits of armour in a little shop next to Mr. Wilde's. Castaigne and Mr. Wilde both believe that Hawberk is secretly the exiled Marquis of Avonshire (a fictional shire in England). Hawberk is noticeably shaken when Castaigne obliquely implies this in conversation. It should be noted that Hawberk is likely a reference to a Hauberk, another term for a shirt of mail.
- Constance Hawberk: Hawberk's daughter, a beautiful girl engaged to Louis Castaigne.
- Mr. Wilde: A bizarre and eccentric character, Mr. Wilde is a deformed old man who lives in a dingy office next to Hawberk's shop, where his door advertises him as a "Repairer of Reputations." Mr. Wilde is badly scarred and mangled, having lost his ears and several fingers, and lives with a vicious feral cat who continuously attacks him. Although his sanity is questionable, Wilde is undoubtedly a genius who is a living library of valuable information and uses his knowledge to hold powerful men under his sway.