David Séchard (dah-VEED say-SHAHR), a naïve printer who is the victim of knavery throughout his life. Even his avaricious father cheats him when he sells the son his business. David’s friendship for Lucien Chardon, his brother-in-law, also costs him a great deal. David spends his time working on a new process for making paper and eventually loses his business. All turns out well in the end, as Lucien Chardon sends him a large sum of money and David’s father dies leaving him well off.
Lucien Chardon (lew-SYAH[N] shahr-DOH[N]), an unscrupulous but attractive poet, David’s brother-in-law. His escapades help to disgrace his sister and her husband and to ruin them financially for a time. After an affair with an aristocratic woman ends in his being found in her bedroom, he goes to Paris to lead a dissolute life as a journalist and man-about-town, living at the expense of David and Eve and an actress who is his mistress.
Eve Chardon, Lucien’s sister, who marries David Séchard. She lavishes love and money on her scapegrace brother. After her husband becomes involved with his paper-making process, she tries vainly to save his printing business by taking over its management.
Mme de Bargeton
Mme de Bargeton (deh bahr-zheh-TOH[N]), Lucien’s first mistress. When her affair with him is discovered, she takes him to Paris, where she later leaves him penniless. She becomes the wife of the comte du Châtelet.
M. de Bargeton
M. de Bargeton, elderly first husband of Mme Bargeton. Despite his age, he fights a duel in defense of his wife’s honor.
M. Petit-Claud (peh-TEE-kloh), an unscrupulous lawyer who helps David’s business rivals, even though David is his client.
The Cointet Brothers
The Cointet Brothers (kwahn-TAY), David’s business rivals in the printing business. They cheat him out of his paper-making invention and his print shop.
Coralie (koh-rah-LEE), an actress who becomes Lucien’s mistress.
M. Séchard, David’s avaricious father. He refuses to help his son financially to keep him out of debtors’ prison.
A Spanish priest
A Spanish priest, who hires Lucien to act as a front in his unscrupulous dealings.