The Characters

(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

Though the bold hero, beautiful heroine, and picaresque sidekick are somewhat standard for historical romance, Johnston has made hers more interesting than usual. Ralph Percy, thirty-six years old, is a seasoned veteran, the best swordsman in Virginia, and a man to be reckoned with. Johnston makes Percy’s first-person narrative believably masculine, with some fine repartee, and the relationship to his at first reluctant wife has more complexity than does the usual costume romance.

Jocelyn Leigh is perhaps more stereotypical—the proud, haughty beauty—but as her disdain turns to love, she too becomes more complex as well as more appealing. Her high-spirited courage is contagious.

The most complex characterization is that of Lord Carnal. A beautiful, arrogant minion of the king, he resembles those real favorites of King James, the Earl of Somerset and the Duke of Buckingham, but he becomes a fascinating study in damnation. Both his Italian doctor and the king seem to have a homosexual fascination with him, but his own passion for Jocelyn Leigh, carried to the point of an obsession, seems genuine, though utterly selfish, and his end is genuinely tragic. Though ruthless and unscrupulous, he has courage and is capable of gallantry.

There is a colorful cast of supporting characters, notably Jeremy Sparrow, former actor and crony of Ben Jonson, now an ordained minister but also an immensely strong fighting man; Diccon, the loyal retainer, who tries to kill his master in response to a blow given in anger; John Rolfe, still mourning his dead Pocahontas; and Nicolo, the treacherous Italian doctor, together with leading members of the Jamestown community, Indians, and pirates.

Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Captain Ralph Percy

Captain Ralph Percy, a Virginia planter and veteran of the Dutch war for independence. He was among the first settlers at Jamestown. Against his better judgment, he takes the advice of his good friend, John Rolfe, and seeks a wife among the women who arrive in the colony early in 1621. Rescuing her from the rude attentions of some of his fellow colonists, Percy chooses on impulse the haughty but beautiful Jocelyn Leigh. By his marriage, he incurs the wrath of Lord Carnal. He risks imprisonment and death to win the respect and eventually the love of his wife. At the end of this quest, Percy saves Jamestown by warning his fellow settlers of the projected slaughter of all the colonists by the united Indian tribes of eastern Virginia.

Jocelyn Leigh

Jocelyn Leigh, a ward of the English king, James I. She flees to Virginia under an assumed name to escape being forced into an unwanted marriage with Lord Carnal, a man whom she hates. In desperation, she weds Captain Ralph Percy to gain his protection. Although she confesses her deception to her husband, her pride will not permit her to love the man whose name and devotion she has accepted. When Carnal pursues her to Virginia, Jocelyn realizes that her flight may cost Ralph his life. Slowly she falls in love with the man whose loyalty never falters despite arrest, torture, and almost certain death. Surviving the attack on Jamestown, Jocelyn is reunited with the husband whom she now loves as well as respects.

Lord Carnal

Lord Carnal, one of the favorites of James I. His personality combines all the loathsome qualities associated with those handsome young men who preyed on the English king’s weaknesses. There are no redeeming aspects to Carnal: He follows Jocelyn Leigh to Virginia to force her into an unwanted marriage simply to see her suffer, and he marks Captain...

(The entire section is 780 words.)