Henry Esmond, an orphan believed to be the illegitimate son of the late Thomas Esmond, Lord Castlewood. He is seen first as a grave, observant boy and later as an intelligent, levelheaded young man. The novel, though narrated in the third person, takes the form of his memoirs, beginning when he is twelve years old and continuing until his early manhood and marriage. A lonely boy under the guardianship of his kinsman, Francis Esmond, Viscount Castlewood, Henry spends his adolescence at the Castlewood estate. The untimely death of Viscount Castlewood, fatally wounded in a duel, leads to Henry’s discovery that he is the true heir to the Castlewood title. This secret he continues to keep out of affection for his kinsman’s widow and her children. For years he believes himself in love with his beautiful cousin, Beatrix Esmond, and for her sake he becomes involved in a Jacobite plot to secure the English throne for James, the young Stuart Pretender, at the time of Queen Anne’s death. When events prove that he has been deceived in both Beatrix and the Stuart exile, he realizes that the real object of his affection is Rachel Esmond, the youthful mother of Beatrix. With her he emigrates to America, leaving her son Frank in possession of the title and the Castlewood estate.
Francis Esmond, Viscount Castlewood, a hard-living, pleasure-seeking nobleman, the amiable, though hardly devoted, guardian of young Henry Esmond. Having aided in concealing the...
(The entire section is 624 words.)