Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 362
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.
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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.
Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 659
Sir Willoughby Patterne
Sir Willoughby Patterne, a nobleman whose pattern of egocentricities includes duplicity, austerity, snobbery, and sententiousness. Though he has played on the heartstrings of his most devoted Laetitia Dale, he learns through two broken engagements that all his barren heart can hope for is the solace of the good woman whom he has converted to egoism. Finally, Sir Willoughby is forced to abandon double dealing, to come down from the pedestal where he has viewed himself only in a favorable light, to bend his pride for the sake of a young cousin and a former servant whom he has wronged, and to accommodate himself to the understanding that his wife sees through him and cannot therefore love him. He will, of course, continue to be an egoist, though a more enlightened and flexible one.
Laetitia Dale, his silent admirer for many years and finally his public scourger. A longtime tenant of Sir Willoughby’s in a cottage where she nurses her invalid father and writes for a living, she finally sickens of Patterne’s self-centered ways, particularly toward his kinsman and her student, young Crossjay Patterne, whose life is being forced into the wrong mold. Always gentle, amenable, and trustworthy, Laetitia finally tires of being a confidante and becomes defiant in her refusal of the nobleman’s hand after all others have failed him. Her warmth of admiration has been chilled by observation; her youth has gone in yearning; her health has suffered from literary drudgery. She makes her own terms for becoming Lady Patterne, to which Sir Willoughby agrees.
Clara Middleton, the betrothed of Sir Willoughby and his severest critic. At first attracted by the force of his personality, she soon discovers in him the tendency to manipulate lives and to order life. Feeling stifled and caged, she begs for her release, which the egoist cannot grant since he has only recently been jilted by Constantia Durham. Despairing of gaining her father’s permission to break the engagement, she tries to escape to the home of her best friend and maid of honor. In this desperate but abortive effort, she is aided by the sensitive scholar-cousin of Sir Willoughby, Vernon Whitford, whom she will later marry. She, too, defends young Crossjay against the benevolent tyranny of the egotistical nobleman.
The Reverend Dr. Middleton
The Reverend Dr. Middleton, Clara’s father, a retired clergyman, learned scholar, and warm-hearted wit. Dr. Middleton becomes more enamored of Sir Willoughby’s fine wine and library than his daughter feels necessary, but he humorously involves himself in the plot to remake the egoist after he learns that the two-faced lover wishes to abandon his spirited daughter for the more complacent Laetitia.
Vernon Whitford, a poor relation of the Patternes and a writer who has taken in young Crossjay Patterne out of sympathy when his wealthy cousin refuses to aid the boy. Almost morbidly shy with women, Vernon finally asserts himself in league with Clara and Laetitia to save his young charge from education as a “gentleman.”
Colonel Horace De Craye
Colonel Horace De Craye, the Irish cousin and best man at a wedding that does not come off, partly because of his machinations. The best friend of Sir Willoughby, Colonel De Craye has long been suspicious of the nobleman’s lack of nobility. He finds it easy to side with Clara, with whom he is in love, and all the others who wish to thwart the egoist.
Crossjay Patterne, the penniless son of a Marine hero who is not welcomed at Patterne Place. Though not scholarly by nature, the youth is irrepressibly happy and loving, strangely in contrast to his distant, rich relative. He loves most his guardian, Vernon Whitford, and Clara Middleton, his benefactress.
Constantia Durham, Sir Willoughby’s betrothed, who jilts him ten days before their wedding date.
Harry Oxford, a military man with whom Constantia elopes.