Amelia Harris Booth
Amelia Harris Booth, a beautiful and virtuous young Englishwoman whose troubles begin when she marries William Booth, a young army officer, against her mother’s wishes. After the Gibraltar campaign, when her husband is on half-pay in an inactive status, Amelia’s life becomes a constant struggle against genteel poverty. Her beauty complicates matters, for several high-ranking men who might help her husband acquire a new command pursue her in hopes that she will capitulate to them in return for the help they can give. Amelia also faces the problem of her husband’s gambling and philandering. She bears all her tribulations with patience and humility; her virtue is rewarded by the inheritance of her mother’s estate.
William Booth, a British captain and Amelia’s husband. Although he is a meritorious junior officer who served well at Gibraltar, incurring two wounds, he has trouble securing a new command because he is too poor to buy a commission and without sufficient political influence to gain one. He loves his wife deeply, but he has weaknesses for gambling and women.
Dr. Harrison, a benevolent Anglican clergyman who regards Amelia almost as a daughter. His kindness and help save Amelia and her family from disaster several times. He lends them his house and advances them money, and his discoveries eventually place Amelia in possession of her inheritance.
Colonel Robert James
Colonel Robert James, a fellow officer of William Booth during his active military duty. Unlike Booth, he remains in the military service, having the money and influence to rise in the military hierarchy and become a member of Parliament. He extends help many times to the Booths through the years, but only because he is secretly desirous of having Amelia as his mistress.
Colonel Bath, another fellow officer. Always conscious of his honor and ready to fight a duel or encourage someone else to fight one, he forces a quarrel on Booth, who wounds him.
Mrs. James, Colonel James’s wife and Colonel Bath’s sister. She is a great friend to Amelia until the latter’s poverty causes that friendship to cool.
Betty Harris, Amelia’s sister, a selfish, malicious woman who spreads lies about Amelia and enters into a complicated plot of forgery to deprive Amelia of her rightful inheritance.
Mr. Robinson, a shady character who is in and out of prison. His deathbed confession to Dr. Harrison reveals the plot to keep Amelia from her inheritance.
Mr. Murphy, a dishonest lawyer. He plots with Betty Harris to deprive Amelia of her fortune. Eventually apprehended by Dr. Harrison, he is tried, found guilty, and hanged.
Mrs. Ellison, the Booths’ landlady in London. Although she seems an honest and well-meaning woman, she serves as bawd to an unnamed nobleman, procuring for him a series of women. Amelia’s friends prevent her from being so victimized.
Mrs. Bennet, an unfortunate young widow who becomes Amelia’s friend. Having been an earlier victim of Mrs. Ellison and the unnamed nobleman, she is able to help Amelia save herself from the plot against her virtue. Mrs. Bennet is loved by Sergeant Atkinson and becomes his wife.
Joseph Atkinson, the son of Amelia’s nurse and, in a sense, her foster brother. He enlists in the army in order to be with William Booth and afterward remains in the service. Loyal to Amelia and her husband, he helps in every way he can to keep disaster from overtaking the Booths. He falls in love with Mrs. Bennet, marries her, and buys a commission with their pooled resources.
Fanny Matthews, a handsome, amoral woman who loves William Booth and tries to become his mistress. She is also Colonel James’s mistress at the time. She and Booth renew their acquaintance while both are in prison.