Barnaby Rudge, the title character but a figure of lesser importance than a number of other personages in the novel. Born on the night of his father’s supposed murder, he is, in his twenties, half-witted, physically strong, and grotesque, almost unearthly, in appearance because of his shock of red hair. At the same time, his sensitivity to beauty, his near idolatry of Hugh, the hostler at the Maypole Inn, and his devotion to Grip, his tame, talking raven, reveal his simple, good nature. Pardoned after being arrested and condemned to death for rioting, he becomes his mother’s stay and comfort in later years.
Mrs. Rudge, his mother, whose life has been one of hardship and sorrow. Her efforts to support her mentally disordered son and to protect him from the tribulations that befall the weak-minded are rewarded after the riots, when she and Barnaby go to live at the restored Maypole Inn under the protection of kindhearted Joe Willet and his wife Dolly.
Rudge, a savage, violent man, the former steward at the Warren. He becomes a fugitive from justice after murdering his employer, Reuben Haredale, and a gardener, whose mutilated body is mistaken for Rudge’s. Returning twenty-two years later, he lives a life of skulking and crime, his identity known only to his wife. Recognized while taking part in anti-Catholic riots, he is sentenced to death and hanged. Before his death, his wife makes futile efforts to get him to repent.
Emma Haredale, the daughter of the murdered Reuben Haredale. She is the victim of an agreement between her guardian-uncle and her fiancé’s father that she shall not marry Edward Chester, because of their different religious beliefs and because John Chester desires a grander alliance for his son. Eventually, she and Edward are married, and he rebuilds the Warren, which is looted and burned by rioters.
Geoffrey Haredale, a Roman Catholic country squire, Emma Haredale’s uncle and guardian, and a victim of mob violence during the riots. A kind-hearted man, he is especially solicitous for the welfare of Barnaby Rudge and his mother. Planning to leave England, he revisits the ruins of the Warren. There, he encounters Sir John Chester and kills him in a duel. Haredale dies several years later in a religious establishment in Italy.
Edward Chester, Emma Haredale’s finance, who defies his father’s wishes that he marry a Protestant heiress. Disowned, he goes to the Indies. He returns to become a hero at the time of the riots, saves Emma from her abductors, and marries her after her uncle withdraws his objection to the match.
John Chester, later Sir John, an egocentric man completely lacking in compassion and concerned only with his own importance and advancement. His career of selfish intrigue is ended when Geoffrey Haredale kills him in a duel. His character is modeled after that of Philip Dormer Stanhope, Lord Chesterfield.
John Willet, the landlord of the Maypole Inn, near Epping Forest. An obstinate, domineering man, he treats his grown son Joe as if he were still a boy. He never fully recovers from the mob’s abuse when the inn is plundered during the rioting, but he spends his last days peacefully in a cottage, where he entertains his cronies in a miniature replica of the Maypole bar.
Joe Willet, the landlord’s son. Bullied by his father and unhappily in love with Dolly Varden, he runs away and joins the army. After losing an arm while fighting in the American Revolution, he returns to England at the...
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time of the riots and, with Edward Haredale, displays great heroism. For his services, he receives a silver snuffbox from the king. He and Dolly, whom he rescues after she and Emma Haredale have been abducted, are comfortably married and settled at the restored Maypole Inn, where old soldiers are always treated well by the landlord and his plump, cheerful wife.
Gabriel Varden, an honest, good-hearted locksmith, abducted by the rioters and ordered to open the great lock when the mob storms Newgate Prison. His defiance of the mob is only one instance of his goodness, a trait recognized and respected by all who know him.
Dolly Varden, his daughter, loved by Joe Willet. Plump, naïve, garrulous, she is the antithesis of Emma Haredale, with whom she is abducted during the riots. Rescued by Joe, she leaves no doubt as to her love for him.
Mrs. Varden, a woman of uncertain temper and changeable moods.
Hugh, the hostler at the Maypole Inn and a leader in the riots. A paradoxical character, he is a mixture of kindness and bitterness. His better side shows in his kindness to Barnaby Rudge and in his loyalty to those he trusts. Embittered by the execution of his mother, a gypsy hanged at Tyburn, he is vituperative in his attitude toward society. Condemned to die, he attributes his contempt for society and his indifference to death to his parentage. Before his execution, he divulges the fact that Sir John Chester is his father. Sir John refuses to acknowledge the relationship and abandons Hugh to his fate.
Simon Tappertit, also called Sim and
Simmun, Gabriel Varden’s apprentice, Joe Willet’s rival for the love of Dolly Varden, and a leader of the rioters. During the confusion, he and Dennis, a hangman, abduct Dolly and Emma Haredale. His legs are crushed during the violence. His former master helps to set him up in business as a bootblack, and he is so successful that he is able to marry the widow of a rag collector. On occasion, he beats his wife; she retaliates by removing his wooden legs, exposing him to the derision of street urchins.
Miss Miggs, a servant in the Varden household, in love with Simon Tappertit. During the riots, she forsakes the Vardens to follow and look after the apprentice. She always insists that her own virtue makes her a soul-saver, and she eventually finds her proper place as a female turnkey at the County Bridwell, where she shows no mercy to women prisoners who have proved themselves weak in virtue.
Ned Dennis, a former hangman and one of the ringleaders of the riots. He is a composite of undesirable traits. Sadistic, he treats prisoners with violence; audacious, he is also traitorous; cowardly, he snivels when he is faced with his own execution.
Lord George Gordon
Lord George Gordon, the fanatical instigator of the riots. Arrested on a charge of treason, he is imprisoned in the Tower. He is later acquitted when the offense with which he is charged cannot be proved.
Gashford, Lord George Gordon’s toadying secretary. He deserts his employer when the nobleman is arrested.
John Grueby, Lord George Gordon’s servant.
Solomon Daisy, a parish clerk and sexton,
Tom Cobb, a chandler and post-office keeper, and
Phil Parkes, a ranger, John Willet’s cronies who frequent the Maypole Inn.
Mr. Langdale, a vintner. He hides Geoffrey Haredale in his house during the riots. Joe Willet and Edward Chester save them when the mob storms the house.