Patience, a beautiful dairy maid beloved by two poets. Believing that love must be unselfish, she promises herself to the one she does not like; she finally convinces herself that the one she really loves is unattractive enough for her to accept—unselfishly, of course.
Reginald Bunthorne, a fleshly poet. A self-confessed sham, he pretends to be an aesthete to attract attention, particularly feminine attention. When Grosvenor takes away most of his feminine admirers, Bunthorne threatens to curse him unless he cuts his hair short and gives up aesthetic costumes and attitudes. Bunthorne’s victory in this matter costs him his intended bride.
Archibald Grosvenor, an idyllic poet, the childhood sweetheart of Patience. Handsome and wealthy, he is known as Archibald-the-All-Right and captivates Bunthorne’s followers. Even after he cuts his hair, the girls continue to admire him extravagantly, but Patience now finds him commonplace enough for her to marry.
The Lady Jane
The Lady Jane, a faded, middle-aged follower of Bunthorne, loyal when the girls desert him for Grosvenor. Finally, however, she too deserts Bunthorne so that she can marry the duke, forcing the poet to be contented with a rose or a lily instead of a girl.
The duke of Dunstable
The duke of Dunstable, a lieutenant in a regiment of dragoons who cannot understand why any girl would be interested in poets when soldiers are around. Having everything, he decides to bestow himself on the plainest girl—the Lady Jane.