Alton Locke, a poor London tailor, self-taught poet, and political radical. Apprenticed to a tailor with the help of his rich uncle, Alton begins questioning both his widowed mother’s strict Baptist faith and the political system that oppresses the poor. His coworker John Crossthwaite introduces him to Chartism, a movement to give political rights to the working classes, and Sandy Mackaye, a philosopher and owner of a used book shop, encourages him to write. Through his rich cousin George, Alton meets and falls in love with Lillian Winnstay, whose father helps him publish his poetry. Frustrated because his low social status is a barrier to his love, Alton throws himself into political activism despite the warnings of Sandy Mackaye. When Lillian marries George and the Chartist movement collapses, Alton despairs, but a legacy from Mackaye allows him and Crossthwaite to move to Texas. Alton dies the evening their ship arrives in the New World.
John Crossthwaite, a political activist among the tailors. He is an honest man seduced by the chimera of political solutions. He introduces Alton to political thought and encourages him to believe that the plight of the workers can be improved only by means of class warfare. Under Crossthwaite’s influence, Alton attends rallies and becomes a public speaker. When the Chartist movement fails, Crossthwaite helps nurse Alton back to health.
(The entire section is 609 words.)