Past and Present Characters
by Thomas Carlyle

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Past and Present Characters

Being that this book is not so much a story as it is a political commentary, the characters are sparse. There are several worth noting, though.

Abbott Hugo: The ruling Abbott of St. Edmundsbury Monastery prior to Abbott Samson. He was not very financially prudent in spite of his care for the poor and his attentiveness to priestly duties. He ran the Monastery into the ground financially by taking many debts out, to the point of owing 1200 pounds, a sum which would be worth several million dollars today. Because of this, upon his death, the impoverished townsfolk ransacked the Abbott and stole everything they could because he had been unable to help take care of them with Abott funds.

Abbott Samson: The true hero of the story became Abbot sometime after Hugo had passed away. He was a relatively simple man, both intelligence-wise and in tastes, but he had a strong work ethic and compassion for the people.

There are several other monks that are mentioned with Samson, including Dennis and Willelmus, and there is a short story of the election of Samson which is done by the King and Bishop, in which the three of them and several other monks are mentioned.

Jocelinus de Brakelonda, or Jocelin, is another monk in the story. He wrote many of the original stories down in a personal journal, but is infrequently referred to and acts primarily as observer to the events in the tale.

After Samson's story is complete, there is little else in the way of characters, since it is for the most part a telling of societal life in nineteenth-century England. The laborers who are impoverished are treated as a character in and of themselves, and the wealthy, unsympathetic business owners are treated as a character and adversary.

The government, specifically Parliament, is treated as a character as it makes laws that affect the citizens lives and work.

In addition, the author mentions fabled characters like the Sphinx and Midas when discussing greed and hoarding wealth, but they don't actually have a part in the story at large.