Felix Holt, the radical, an energetic and intelligent young man who objects to his mother’s business—selling patent medicines—as fraudulent. Formerly apprenticed to an apothecary, he now works as a watchmaker in order to feel himself closer to the people. A political radical, Felix supports Harold Transome in the first Parliamentary election after the passage of the 1832 Reform Bill, but he objects to the bribery and rabble-rousing in which others indulge. As he fears, the workers riot on Election Day. Trying to disperse the riot, Felix inadvertently kills a constable. He is tried, convicted, and sentenced to four years in prison, but a petition to Parliament secures his release. He marries Esther Lyon.
Harold Transome, the younger son of Mrs. Transome and apparently the heir to Transome Court. Harold has been away in Smyrna for fifteen years, building up a fortune as a merchant and banker. He returns and decides to run for Parliament as a Radical, an allegiance that shocks his Tory mother. He is honest and committed but loses the election. When he discovers that his mother’s lawyer, Matthew Jermyn, has been cheating the estate for years, he decides to sue Jermyn. Jermyn attempts to avoid the suit by uncovering the fact, through an old will, that Esther Lyon is really the heiress of Transome Court. Harold invites Esther to his home and falls in love with her, but she rejects his suit and gives up her rights to the property. He abandons his plans to sue Jermyn when he learns that the latter is his father. At first crushed and furious, he is reconciled to his mother by Esther.
Rufus Lyon, another radical, the Dissenting minister of the Independent Chapel in Treby Magna (the Chapel is referred to as “Malthouse Yard”). He had found a destitute Frenchwoman, Annette Ledru, on the street with her infant daughter. He brought them home, later married Annette, and cared for Esther, the daughter, as his own after Annette died. Some papers that Felix finds in the woods lead to Lyon’s discovery of the identity of Esther’s father. Lyon regards Felix as an exceptional young man.
Esther Lyon, the sensitive and poetic daughter of Annette Ledru and Maurice Christian Bycliffe, brought up by Rufus Lyon. Educated in France, she teaches French in Treby Magna. At first, she and Felix argue about the relative importance of the aesthetic and the political, but she finds him entirely honest and vital. She soon falls in love with him and remains entirely loyal through his trial and short prison sentence.
Mrs. Arabella Transome
Mrs. Arabella Transome, Harold’s mother, who has long held Transome Court together despite legal and financial problems, an incompetent husband, and a mentally impaired older son. She places all her faith in Harold, her illegitimate son by Matthew Jermyn. Despite her disapproval of her son’s politics and his disapproval of Jermyn, the two value and appreciate each other.
Matthew Jermyn, the florid and insinuating lawyer who has mismanaged the estate for his own benefit. He also handles Harold’s political campaign and is not above offering bribes.
Mr. Johnson, a London lawyer hired by Jermyn to stir up rabble-rousing activity among the new electorate. He also helps Jermyn in various shady financial operations. Johnson accuses Felix of leading the riot.
Philip Debarry, the successful Conservative candidate in the election. An honorable man, he intercedes on Felix’s behalf after the trial.
Henry Scaddon, alias Maurice Christian Bycliffe (Christian), the servant to Philip Debarry, an unsavory character who had, in...
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order to escape the law, changed identities with Maurice Christian Bycliffe, Esther’s father, just before Bycliffe’s death. Papers in Christian’s purse, tossed away as a practical joke and discovered by Felix, reveal the assumed identity.
Mrs. Holt, a poor widow who makes a living selling patent medicines. Later, her son Felix cheerfully supports her. She is a member of Mr. Lyon’s Chapel.
The Reverend John Lingon
The Reverend John Lingon, rector of Little Treby and Mrs. Transome’s brother. He is very fond of his nephew Harold and supports his political campaign.
Sir Maximus Debarry
Sir Maximus Debarry, the owner of Treby Manor and Philip’s father. Although Sir Maximus is an arch-Tory, he helps petition Parliament to gain Felix’s release from prison.
The Reverend Augustus Debarry
The Reverend Augustus Debarry, his brother and a strong Tory.
Peter Garstin, a mine owner and a Liberal candidate for Parliament.
Sir James Clement
Sir James Clement, a poor baronet and a Liberal candidate for Parliament.
Mr. Chubb, the politically interested publican of the Sugar Loaf at Sproxton.
Tucker, the constable Felix inadvertently kills during the riot.
Mr. Spratt, a local Tory whose life Felix saves in the riot.
The Reverend Theodore Sherlock
The Reverend Theodore Sherlock, a diffident young rector put to writing political speeches.
Thomas Transome, also called Tommy Trounsem, an old and alcoholic bill-paster trampled in the election riot.
Lady Debarry, the wife of Sir Maximus.
Mrs. Jermyn, Matthew’s socially pretentious wife, who hates tobacco.
Miss Louisa Jermyn
Miss Louisa Jermyn, her daughter, who takes French lessons from Esther Lyon.
Mr. Scales, the butler to the Debarrys, who tosses away the sleeping Christian’s purse as a practical joke.
Denner, Mrs. Transome’s faithful maid and confidant.
Hickes, Denner’s husband, Mrs. Transome’s butler.
Dominic, Harold Transome’s servant, whom he brings back from Smyrna.
Lyddy, Rufus Lyon’s trusted maid.
Mr. Transome, Mrs. Transome’s old, paralyzed husband.
Durfey Transome, Mrs. Transome’s retarded older son, who dies at an early age.
Harry Transome, Harold Transome’s attractive young son, whose mother, a native of Smyrna, is dead.
Mr. Sircome, a local miller and businessman.
Mr. Crowder, a local citizen.
Miss Harriet Debarry
Miss Harriet Debarry, the oldest daughter of the Debarrys.
Miss Selina Debarry
Miss Selina Debarry, the Debarrys’ “radiant” daughter.
Job Tudge, an independent child in Treby Magna, friendly with Esther and Felix.
Felix Holt, Jr.
Felix Holt, Jr., the oldest child of Esther and Felix.