Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Colonel Thomas Newcome

Colonel Thomas Newcome, the son of Thomas Newcome, Esq., and his first wife, Susan. Always rebellious as a boy, he left home and went to India, where he distinguished himself in the Bengal Cavalry and in service with the East India Company. During his career, he married and fathered a son, Clive. When Mrs. Newcome died, the small boy was sent to England to be educated. Later, after he had acquired a considerable fortune, Colonel Newcome returned to England to rejoin his son. Their fortunes prospered, and the father tried to give his son a happy life. Honest, naïve, tender-hearted, he acts always for the best, but his affairs turn out badly. Eventually, his fortune is dissipated by the failure of the great Bundlecund Banking Company, in which he has invested his money, his daughter-in-law’s, and funds some friends had entrusted to him. He spends his last days in poverty and at the mercy of a domineering old widow, the mother of his daughter-in-law. Always mindful of his son’s happiness, the colonel tries for years to guide Clive’s life, but he succeeds only in involving the young man with the wrong wife and settling him in a business career he does not enjoy. At the time of his death, the colonel is a pensioner in the Hospital of Grey Friars.

Clive Newcome

Clive Newcome, the colonel’s son, a young man with considerable artistic ability. His charming manner endears him to a great many friends, including his cousin, Ethel Newcome, but because Clive is not of noble birth, her mother and grandmother do not approve of the match. Clive marries another young woman whom his father cherishes, but the union is a failure because a domineering mother-in-law presides over the Newcome household. Clive changes from the carefree boy that he once was to a bitter young man estranged for a time from his devoted father, whom he blames for much of his misery. At the end of the story, Clive is a widower with a small son; the reader is left with the impression that he will marry Ethel Newcome.

Ethel Newcome

Ethel Newcome, the beautiful, spirited daughter of Colonel Newcome’s half brother Brian. Her mother, Lady Ann Newcome, is descended from an aristocratic family, and it is the hope of her grandmother, Lady Kew, that Ethel will marry well. Ethel is especially fond of Colonel Newcome. She is also attracted to Clive, but the energy of her grandmother in pushing her into society blinds her to her cousin’s attentions. Haughty and high-spirited, Ethel rejects several offers of marriage and ends up taking charge of the children of her selfish, brutal brother Barnes. Estranged from the colonel and Clive because she has belittled her cousin’s intentions, she develops into a serious, self-sacrificing spinster; but at the end of the story she turns over a part of the Newcome fortune to her uncle and cousin, and the reader is left anticipating her subsequent marriage to Clive.

James Binnie

James Binnie, Colonel Newcome’s friend in the Indian service, a man of great humor, good sense, and intelligence. He, his widowed sister Mrs. Mackenzie, and her daughter Rosa live with the colonel and Clive. He leaves his fortune to his niece when he dies; this is some of the money that the colonel invests in the Bundlecund Banking Company. Fortunately, Binnie dies before his friend goes bankrupt and his sister turns into a shrew.

Rosa Newcome

Rosa Newcome, called Rosey, the daughter of Mrs. Mackenzie, a shy, pretty girl when she and her mother come to live with the Newcomes and her uncle, James Binnie. Always anxious to please, Rosey has no life of her own, for she is completely overwhelmed by her domineering mother. Never truly in love with Clive, she turns more and more against him after their marriage. She dies in childbirth without having known any real happiness.

Mrs. Mackenzie

Mrs. Mackenzie, called the Campaigner, the widowed sister of James Binnie and a vigorous, good-humored, but domineering person at the beginning of the story. She is particularly possessive of her daughter Rosey, who marries Clive Newcome. After their money has been lost through Colonel Newcome’s unwise investments, she turns into a termagant and a domestic terror. She torments the colonel because of his misfortunes, becomes more and more possessive of Rosey, and makes life miserable for Clive.

Thomas Newcome, Esq.

Thomas Newcome, Esq., the father of Thomas, Brian, and Hobson Newcome, a poor man who, through industry and thrift, created a prosperous banking establishment. Truly in love with his first wife, who dies soon after the birth of their son Thomas, he marries a second time but is never really happy thereafter.

Susan Newcome

Susan Newcome, the first wife of Thomas Newcome, Esq. She is pretty but penniless, and she dies young, in childbirth.

Sophia Althea Newcome

Sophia Althea Newcome, the stepmother of young Thomas Newcome and mother of the twins, Brian and Hobson. An efficient businesswoman, she influences her husband in his banking business. Rigid and domineering, she never cares for her stepson and is happy when he goes off to India. Before her death, however, she requests that he inherit some of her money; this is the sum that Ethel Newcome turns over to Colonel Newcome and her cousin Clive.

Sir Brian Newcome

Sir Brian Newcome, the half brother of Colonel Newcome and the twin of Hobson. He is a neat, bland, smiling banker whose external appearance masks his selfish, ambitious nature....

(The entire section is 2311 words.)