David Deans, a moderately prosperous Scottish farmer in the early 1700’s. A vigorous, stern Presbyterian, he is hurt and stunned when his younger daughter is charged with child murder, and he finds comfort only in the devotion of his older daughter Jeanie, who indirectly gets him a more fertile farm while obtaining a pardon for her sister. Although David cannot wholly approve of Jeanie’s fiancé, he is reconciled to the marriage.
Jeanie Deans, a rather plain and simple girl who shows much moral earnestness and courage when she refuses to lie to save her sister from a death sentence and then goes to London at great risk to present her case before the queen. Her force and warmth impress the duke of Argyle and the queen, who obtain a pardon for her sister, give her father a better farm, and give her betrothed a good clerical position. As a result, she is able to marry, and eventually she bears three children.
Effie Deans, Jeanie’s spoiled, pretty younger sister. When Effie’s illegitimate child disappears, she is arrested and sentenced to hang for child murder. Released through the steadfast efforts of Jeanie, she marries her betrayer, the criminal known as Geordie Robertson, and when he later acquires a title under his rightful name of George Staunton, she becomes a court beauty. Years after, she and her husband return to Scotland, where he is killed by a young outlaw who is really his long-lost son. Effie then retires to a convent.
Reuben Butler, Jeanie’s betrothed, a sensible, educated, somewhat pedantic young minister. Unable to marry because of his impoverishment, his difficulties are cleared away when he gives Jeanie a hereditary claim on the duke, is given a church on one of the duke’s estates, and earns the respect of David.
Geordie Robertson, in reality George Staunton, a reckless, profligate young man who seduces two girls but tries to redeem his past by offering to turn himself in as the leader of the Porteous riot in return for Effie’s freedom. Jeanie, however, makes this offer unnecessary. After Effie has been pardoned, he marries her and achieves a respectable life, first in the West Indies, later in the English court. When he willfully returns to seek his illegitimate son, the outlaw son kills him in a robbery attempt.
Meg Murdockson, a vicious old woman who serves as Effie’s midwife, tries to destroy the child, and testifies that Effie killed the baby. Motivated by her desire for revenge because Robertson loves Effie instead of her own daughter, whom he had also seduced, she tries everything in her power to destroy Effie, including a murder attempt on Jeanie. Finally, after confessing her evil deeds, she is hanged as a witch.
John, duke of Argyle, a skilled, honorable Scottish statesman in the court of King George II. He shows his generosity by giving Jeanie a hearing with the queen and by aiding her father and Reuben Butler. He becomes a family friend.
The Laird of Dumbiedikes
The Laird of Dumbiedikes, a member of the gentry and Jeanie’s clumsy suitor. He pays for Effie’s defense and Jeanie’s trip to London.
Madge Wildfire, Meg Murdockson’s daughter, crazed after Robertson betrays her. She helps Jeanie escape Meg and is later harried to death by a mob.
Ratcliffe, the ex-criminal keeper of the Edinburgh jail. He treats Effie well and suggests to Jeanie that she seek a pardon from the queen.
Queen Caroline, the touchy, powerful queen who, affected by Jeanie’s simplicity, secures her sister’s pardon and gives Jeanie fifty pounds.
The Reverend Mr. Staunton
The Reverend Mr. Staunton, Robertson’s righteous father. He shelters Jeanie after her escape from Meg Murdockson and gives her an escort to London.
The Whistler, Effie and Robertson’s illegitimate son. After killing his father, he escapes to the wilds of America.
Bartoline Saddletree, a stupid,...
(The entire section is 2,549 words.)