Felix Holt, the radical, an energetic and intelligent young man who objects to his mother’s business—selling patent medicines—as fraudulent. Formerly apprenticed to an apothecary, he now works as a watchmaker in order to feel himself closer to the people. A political radical, Felix supports Harold Transome in the first Parliamentary election after the passage of the 1832 Reform Bill, but he objects to the bribery and rabble-rousing in which others indulge. As he fears, the workers riot on Election Day. Trying to disperse the riot, Felix inadvertently kills a constable. He is tried, convicted, and sentenced to four years in prison, but a petition to Parliament secures his release. He marries Esther Lyon.
Harold Transome, the younger son of Mrs. Transome and apparently the heir to Transome Court. Harold has been away in Smyrna for fifteen years, building up a fortune as a merchant and banker. He returns and decides to run for Parliament as a Radical, an allegiance that shocks his Tory mother. He is honest and committed but loses the election. When he discovers that his mother’s lawyer, Matthew Jermyn, has been cheating the estate for years, he decides to sue Jermyn. Jermyn attempts to avoid the suit by uncovering the fact, through an old will, that Esther Lyon is really the heiress of Transome Court. Harold invites Esther to his home and falls in love with her, but she rejects his suit and gives up her rights to the property. He abandons his plans to sue Jermyn when he learns that the latter is his father. At first crushed and furious, he is reconciled to his mother by Esther.
Rufus Lyon, another radical, the Dissenting minister of the Independent Chapel in Treby Magna (the Chapel is referred to as “Malthouse Yard”). He had found a destitute Frenchwoman, Annette Ledru, on the street with her infant daughter. He brought them home, later married Annette, and cared for Esther, the daughter, as his own after Annette died. Some papers that Felix finds in the woods lead to Lyon’s discovery of the identity of Esther’s father. Lyon regards Felix as an exceptional young man.
Esther Lyon, the sensitive and poetic daughter of Annette Ledru and Maurice Christian Bycliffe, brought up by Rufus Lyon. Educated in France, she teaches French in Treby Magna. At first, she and Felix argue about the relative importance of the aesthetic and the political, but she finds him entirely honest and vital. She soon falls in love with him and...
(The entire section is 1058 words.)