Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1918
Martin Chuzzlewit (Senior)
Martin Chuzzlewit (Senior), a rich, eccentric old man descended from a long family line noted for selfishness. He dislikes his fawning relatives and suspects that everyone about him is after his fortune. After quarreling with and disinheriting his grandson and namesake, whom he had intended to make his heir, he goes to live with Seth Pecksniff in order to test the motives of that self-styled architect and arch-hypocrite. Having tested young Martin Chuzzlewit by turning him loose to fend for himself in the world and having witnessed many proofs of Pecksniff’s duplicity and hypocrisy, he rights the wrongs done to his grandson and abandons Pecksniff to his downward career of drunkenness and beggary.
Martin Chuzzlewit, the title character, a rather wayward and selfish young man brought up in expectation of becoming his grandfather’s heir. The two quarrel when Martin falls in love with Mary Graham, his grandfather’s companion and ward, and the old man turns his grandson out of the house. Hoping to become an architect, young Martin studies for a time with Seth Pecksniff, a relative, but after a few hints dropped by old Martin, the young man is rebuffed by Pecksniff. With Mark Tapley, a young hostler, he goes to America. Martin’s reactions during this journey show Dickens’ singular bias against the “uncivilized” areas, customs, and citizens of the United States. After his return to England, Martin seeks an interview with his grandfather, but Pecksniff, with whom the old man is living, turns the humbled young man from his door. Comforted only by the love of Mary Graham, he returns to London. Old Martin Chuzzlewit, no longer the senile man he had seemed to be while residing with Pecksniff, appears in London soon afterward, is reunited with his grandson, and gives his blessing to the marriage of young Martin and Mary Graham.
Anthony Chuzzlewit, old Martin Chuzzlewit’s brother, a miserly man of cunning and suspicious nature.
Jonas Chuzzlewit, Anthony Chuzzlewit’s son. Eager to inherit his father’s wealth, he attempts to poison the old man, but his scheme is discovered beforehand by his father and Chuffey, a faithful clerk. Because old Anthony dies of a broken heart a short time later, Jonas believes himself a murderer. He marries Mercy Pecksniff and treats her brutally. Later, he becomes convinced that Montague Tigg, a flashy speculator, has learned his secret. Desperate because Tigg demands hush money, Jonas murders him. His guilt is revealed and he is arrested, but he poisons himself while waiting for a coach to take him off to prison.
George Chuzzlewit, a corpulent bachelor.
Mary Graham, old Martin Chuzzlewit’s ward, a young woman of great integrity and sweetness. Although his great hope is that she and young Martin Chuzzlewit will fall in love and marry, he tests the young people by telling Mary that she will receive nothing after he is dead and by disinheriting his grandson. Mary remains faithful in her devotion to young Martin through all his hardships and tribulations. They are finally reunited with old Martin’s blessing.
Seth Pecksniff, old Martin Chuzzlewit’s cousin, an architect and land surveyor who has never built anything, though he receives large premiums from those who study under him. Young Martin Chuzzlewit becomes one of his apprentices, but Pecksniff turns him away to please the young man’s grandfather and to ensure his own advancement. In all of his dealings, he is completely self-seeking; he performs no generous act, shows no generous motives. Servile, false, conniving, he is a complete hypocrite and a monster of selfishness. He becomes a drunkard and a writer of begging letters to his prosperous relatives.
Charity Pecksniff, called Cherry, his older daughter. Deserted by Augustus Moddle, her betrothed, she becomes her father’s ill-tempered companion in his later years.
Mercy Pecksniff, called Merry, a vain, selfish woman who marries her cousin, Jonas Chuzzlewit, partly to spite her sister. The cruel treatment she receives at his hands transforms her into “a model of uncomplaining endurance and self-denying affection.” Old Martin Chuzzlewit provides for her after her husband’s death.
John Westlock, an apprentice to Seth Pecksniff, who sees through his master, quarrels with him, and leaves him. His departure leaves room for Martin Chuzzlewit in the Pecksniff household. Always a good friend of Tom Pinch, he falls in love with and marries Tom’s sister Ruth. His suspicions of Jonas Chuzzlewit’s behavior lead also to the discovery of Tigg’s murder and the attempted murder of old Anthony Chuzzlewit.
Tom Pinch, Pecksniff’s meek, overworked assistant. Left by his grandmother in Pecksniff’s care, he is too trusting and too much burdened by a needless sense of obligation to see his master in his true light. Friendship with John Westlock and Martin Chuzzlewit teach him confidence, however, and when Pecksniff forces his attentions on Mary Graham, Tom sees Pecksniff for the hypocrite he is. When Pecksniff discharges him, he is hired by an unknown patron, old Martin Chuzzlewit, to catalog a library; with the money thus earned he is able to support his sister Ruth.
Ruth Pinch, a governess, Tom Pinch’s loyal sister. She marries John Westlock.
Mark Tapley, the merry, self-reliant hostler at the Blue Dragon Inn in Wiltshire. Eager to see more of the world, he goes with Martin Chuzzlewit to America, where they are swindled by land speculators and disillusioned by all that they see and hear. After his return, he marries Mrs. Lupin, the landlady of the Blue Dragon, and renames the inn the Jolly Tapley, a name that he considers “wery new, conwivial, and expressive.”
Mrs. Lupin, landlady of the Blue Dragon Inn, a buxom, beaming widow, later Mrs. Mark Tapley. When they meet after Mark’s return to England, he kisses her often and heartily, but insists that he is really kissing his country after having lived “among the patriots.”
Montague Tigg, also known as Tigg Montague, Esq., director of the Anglo-Bengalee Disinterested Loan and Life Insurance Company and a swindler. Having learned of Jonas Chuzzlewit’s attempt to poison his father, he blackmails Jonas into buying his worthless stock and persuading Pecksniff to invest his funds as well. Jonas kills him. When news of his death reaches London, another partner, David Crimple, makes off with all the funds.
David Crimple, a former pawnbroker and tapster and secretary of the Anglo-Bengalee Disinterested Loan and Life Insurance Company. His theft of the company funds ruins Pecksniff, who had invested in the enterprise on the advice of Jonas Chuzzlewit.
Dr. John Jobling
Dr. John Jobling, a physician employed by Montague Tigg as medical inspector for the insurance company.
Nadgett, Tom Pinch’s landlord in London, employed by Montague Tigg as an investigator. He follows his employer and Jonas Chuzzlewit into the country and sees only Jonas returning. Acting on this knowledge, he unmasks Jonas as Tigg’s murderer.
Chuffey, Anthony Chuzzlewit’s devoted clerk. Old, deaf, and almost blind, he is also shrewd, and he helps to save his employer from Jonas Chuzzlewit’s attempt to poison his father.
Sairey Gamp, a Cockney midwife and nurse who displays the same zest at a lying-in or a laying-out. She is fat, husky-voiced, moist-eyed, red-nosed, and over-fond of drink, so that she is always surrounded by the odor of spirits. Her fabrications she credits to her completely imaginary friend, Mrs. Harris. She is one of Dickens’ great comic characters.
Chevy Slyme, a distant relative of old Martin Chuzzlewit, a dubious character who is “always waiting around the corner.” He is a friend of Jonas Chuzzlewit and Montague Tigg.
Mr. Spottletoe, another relative of old Martin Chuzzlewit, also eager for a share of his relative’s fortune.
Mrs. Spottletoe, his wife, a woman of a “poetical constitution.”
Lewsome, a young surgeon. Under obligations to Jonas Chuzzlewit, he sells Jonas the drugs with which the son makes an attempt on his father’s life. After Anthony Chuzzlewit’s death, he confesses to John Westlock his part in the affair and thus helps bring Jonas to justice.
Paul Sweedlepipe, a hairdresser and bird fancier, Sairey Gamp’s landlord.
Mrs. Betsey Prig
Mrs. Betsey Prig, a Cockney day nurse and Sairey Gamp’s bosom friend, with whom she often nurses “turn and turn about.” They finally quarrel because Betsey dares to doubt the existence of Mrs. Harris.
Mrs. M. Todgers
Mrs. M. Todgers, landlady of the Commercial Boarding House, at which the Pecksniffs stay while in London.
Mr. Jinkins, the oldest resident at Mrs. Todgers’ boardinghouse. His recreation is identifying carriages driving in the parks on Sundays.
Augustus Moddle, a young gentleman living at Mrs. Todgers’ boardinghouse. He is at first smitten by Mercy Pecksniff, but after her marriage to Jonas Chuzzlewit, he becomes, rather helplessly, engaged to her sister Charity. On the eve of the wedding, he runs away, leaving behind a letter in which he announces his departure for Van Dieman’s Land and his determination never to be taken alive if Charity pursues him.
Bailey, the “boots” at Mrs. Todgers’ boardinghouse. He eventually becomes Mr. Sweedlepipe’s assistant.
Mr. Fips, the lawyer through whom old Martin Chuzzlewit engages Tom Pinch to catalog a library.
Mr. Mould, an undertaker whose countenance always seems caught between a look of melancholy and a satisfied smirk.
Mrs. Mould, his wife.
The Misses Mould
The Misses Mould, their daughters, two plump sisters with cheeks like ripe peaches.
Tacker, Mr. Mould’s chief mourner.
Sophia, a girl taught by Ruth Pinch. Mrs. Todgers calls her “a syrup.”
Pip, friends and confederates of Montague Tigg.
The Hon. Elijah Pogram
The Hon. Elijah Pogram, a bombastic congressman whom Martin Chuzzlewit meets in New York.
Zephaniah Scadder, a land speculator who, representing the Eden Land Corporation, sells Martin Chuzzlewit fifty acres of land in the backwoods community named Eden.
Major Pawkins, a New York politician who boasts that he is a man of the people.
Mrs. Pawkins, his wife and keeper of a boardinghouse.
Mr. Bevan, a kindhearted citizen of Massachusetts who lends Martin Chuzzlewit the money for his return passage to England.
General Fladdock, an American militia officer and a snob.
Lafayette Kettle, a loud-voiced American, secretary of the Watertoast Association of United Sympathizers.
General Cyrus Choke
General Cyrus Choke, an officer of the militia, a member of the Eden Land Corporation and the Watertoast Association of United Sympathizers.
Colonel Diver, editor of the New York Rowdy Journal.
Jefferson Brick, war correspondent of the Rowdy Journal.
Mrs. Brick, his wife, an American “matron.”
Cicero, a New York truckman, formerly a slave.
Captain Kedgick, landlord of the National Hotel in New York, in whose hostelry Martin Chuzzlewit stays during his visit to the United States.
Professor Mullit, an American educator, the author of many pamphlets written under the name of Suturb.
Mr. Norris, a wealthy, sentimental abolitionist.
Mrs. Norris, his faded wife.
Miss Toppit, an American woman of literary pretensions.
Mrs. Hominy, another American literary light.