Download PDF PDF Page Citation Cite Share Link Share

Last Updated September 5, 2023.

Sir Willoughby Patterne is a self-centered, snobbish English nobleman. He suffers through two broken engagements before believing he finds a soul mate in Laetitia Dale. Sir Willoughby earns his comeuppance and modifies—if not totally abandons—his egoist stance when he shows compassion for his cousin. He also must make amends to his former servant.

Clara Middleton, although betrothed to Sir Willoughby, sharply criticizes him. Misled as to his true character, she tries to break their engagement when she learns of his many flaws. Her efforts to escape include running away to her best friend’s home. Ultimately, she succeeds and later marries Vernon Whitford.

Reverend Dr. Middleton, Clara’s father, is a retired scholar and cleric. His fondness for good living includes an affinity for Willoughby’s hospitality, but he comes around to take his daughter’s side. He also exerts his influence to reform Willoughby.

Laetitia Dale and her ill father are Willougby’s tenants in a cottage he owns. Laetitia, a professional writer, has mixed feelings toward the nobleman, including criticizing his treatment of his cousin Crossjay, who is her student. With her warm, compassionate, gentle personality, she is the polar opposite of Willoughby, whom she decides to reform. Aware that he proposes only after being rejected twice, Laetitia at first refuses him but later decides to accept him, only if he agrees to her terms.

Vernon Whitford, one of Willoughby’s poor relatives, saves Crossjay Patterne from his cousin’s neglect. The shy man comes out of his shell to join Clara and Laetitia in helping Crossjay.

Colonel Horace De Craye is an Irish cousin and close friend of Willoughby’s who had been slotted to be his best man. He is in love with Clara and decides to help her humble Willoughby. He believes he is obliged to help his friend reform.

Crossjay Patterne, a poor young man, becomes the ward of Vernon Whitford when his cousin Willoughby declines to help him. Devoted to Clara, he aids her in breaking with Willoughby. He makes many friends because of his positive energy.

Constantia Durham was Willoughby’s first fiancée, who left him a week before the wedding.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access