Otis Gardiner and his son, Meshak, work hard to sell their products to people in the hamlets of England during the 18th century, but Otis spots a more lucrative opportunity when Thomas Coram, a captain, opens a foundling hospital in London. He charges mothers of children a hefty fee in order to take their illegitimate children to the hospital, making him known as the ‘Coram Man’.
However, Otis is not concerned with actually pulling through on any deal, choosing to exploit the trust of the poor and desperate mothers. The older children are sold into slavery whilst he makes Meshak bury the younger infants.
However, whilst all of this is occurring, elsewhere we are made to witness the events of the Ashbrook family. Alexander Ashbrook, the esteemed heir to the family fortune, is a prodigal musician excelling on the harpsichord.
He is currently working on a scholarship as a member of the choir of Gloucester Cathedral where he meets Thomas, with whom he creates a healthy and solid friendship. We then learn that Alexander has dream, aspirations of composing great music, but his father wishes for him to stick true to his family’s name and take care of their estate.
However, we also learn that Alexander is rather enamoured with his cousin, who is also his governess’ daughter, Melissa. They fall in love. However, Alexander discovers one day when he returns from Gloucester that his father has discarded all of his musical items, making him run away in anger and dismay. Melissa then discovers that she is pregnant and that Meshak also harbours a fascination with Melissa.
Mrs. Lynch, a woman under the employment of the Ashbrooks, knows of Otis and his cruel ways, informing him that Melissa is pregnant and that he should take the baby to the hospital when it is born.
Once it is born, named Aaron, Lynch takes the child before her mother can even inspect it, gives it to Otis, and tells Melissa that it was stillborn. Otis orders Meshak to drown baby Aaron but Meshak cannot do it, instead taking it to the hospital. Meshak cannot find himself able to stomach what he does and Otis’ dealings are soon discovered and he is hanged.
We then jump forward to Aaron, now aged eight, following in his father, Alexander’s, footsteps, excelling in music. He has also formed a close friendship with a black child named Toby.
Toby is employed by a man named Phillip Gaddarn who exploits the young boy by using him as a point of sick interest for his friends, allowing them to pet him at parties and so forth. Toby later discovers that Phillip’s business involves arranging slavery deals in other nations. Aaron is also frequently visited by a man simply named Mish who calls him his angel.
Aaron is scouted out by a composer who sees the potential he has and has two of his fellow musicians train him, Burney and Alexander Ashbrook. The Coram choristers visit the Ashbrook estate and sing so well that Alexander’s father is touched and sees how he has wronged his son, asking him to return home.
However, Meshak soon discerns that the Ashbrooks may adopt Aaron, especially after Melissa remarks upon his similarity to Alexander. This induces Meshak to take Aaron and flee, becoming lost.
They turn to Phillip for help but are instead sold by the man to a slaver. Toby intercepts the plans however and has Alexander, with the aid of a friend, to save them. Aaron is saved but Meshak isn’t and Thomas, Alexander’s friend, is shot and killed.
When we near the conclusion, we learn that Phillip Gaddarn was actually Otis Gardiner, not hanged at all. Alexander and Aaron live decently happy lives together but Meshak, bound and traded due to his love for his little Angel, dies of old age.
The Coram man takes babies and money from desperate mothers, promising to deliver them safely to a Foundling Hospital in London. Instead, he murders them and buries them by the roadside, to the helpless horror of his mentally ill son, Mish.
Mish saves one, Aaron, who grows up happily unaware of his history, proving himself a promising musician. As Aaron’s new life takes him closer to his real family, the watchful Mish makes a terrible mistake, delivering Aaron and his best friend Toby back into the hands of the Coram man