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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 706

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Characters Discussed

William Crimsworth

William Crimsworth, a young English orphan who, upon leaving Eton, is faced with a decision regarding his future. He receives from his mother’s aristocratic family an offer of a wife and a secure future as an Anglican clergyman. These he refuses, wanting neither his cousin for a wife nor a career as a poor churchman. He turns to his brother, a businessman, who takes him on as a junior clerk in his mill. Unhappy in his work under his brother, William travels to Brussels and becomes a teacher of English and Latin in a private school. After finding success, he marries Mlle Henri, who has been a pupil and who also becomes a teacher. Because of his hard work and his wife’s, Crimsworth is able to retire and return to England while still in middle age.

Mlle Frances Evans Henri

Mlle Frances Evans Henri (ah[n]-REE), a pretty young woman of Swiss and English parentage who teaches lace-mending at a school where William Crimsworth is employed. She takes lessons from Crimsworth, who falls in love with her. Under his encouragement, she also becomes a teacher, and with her husband’s help she opens a private school of her own. She has never seen her mother’s country and yearns to visit England. Her happiness is complete when she, her husband, and their young son, retiring on the proceeds of their thrift and the sale of her school, go to England to live.

Victor Crimsworth

Victor Crimsworth, the son of William Crimsworth and his wife.

Edward Crimsworth

Edward Crimsworth, a manufacturer. He hires his young brother as a junior clerk at a very low salary. A malicious tyrant, he treats William worse than he would a stranger. He eventually goes bankrupt but is able to secure sufficient credit to start another business.

Mrs. Crimsworth

Mrs. Crimsworth, Edward’s pretty but vacuous and worldly wife. She follows her husband’s lead in mistreating her brother-in-law.

Hunsden Yorke Hunsden

Hunsden Yorke Hunsden, a flippant, cynical mill owner who befriends William Crimsworth. He encourages William abroad, buys for him his mother’s portrait when Edward Crimsworth’s belongings are auctioned off, and later becomes William’s adviser on investments. He is a confirmed bachelor, unable to find a woman who pleases him sufficiently to marry.

Mr. Brown

Mr. Brown, an Englishman living in Brussels who, at Hunsden’s request, helps William Crimsworth find a teaching post.

M. Pelet

M. Pelet (peh-LAY), the director of a private school where William is employed. Pelet is a kindly man who accepts William as an equal and becomes his friend. The friendship is strained, however, when Pelet finds that the younger man finds favor in the eyes of Pelet’s fiancée. Because of his own amorous adventures with married women, Pelet is of a suspicious nature; he is relieved when William leaves the school shortly after the director’s marriage.

Mlle Zoraïde Reuter

Mlle Zoraïde Reuter (zoh-rah-EED roo-TEHR), the plump, pretty, and practical director of a school for girls next door to Pelet’s school for boys. She hires William Crimsworth to teach part-time in her school and for a time is attracted to the young man, though she is engaged to M. Pelet. Because William is a poor man, she dismisses him and marries M. Pelet. Mlle Reuter is a scheming and deceitful woman.

Mme Reuter

Mme Reuter, her fat, worldly mother, who takes care of her daughter’s quarters.

Mme Pelet

Mme Pelet, M. Pelet’s fat, worldly mother, who looks after her son’s personal life.

Lord Tynedale

Lord Tynedale, the aristocratic uncle of William Crimsworth. He is highly offended when William spurns the church in favor of trade, and he refuses to have any more to do with his young relative.

The Honorable John Seacombe

The Honorable John Seacombe, another of William’s maternal uncles. Offended by the young man’s refusal of one of his daughters in marriage, he disclaims all responsibility for his nephew’s future.




Hortense, and


Caroline, three worldly and vain young girls at Mlle Reuter’s school. They flirt with William Crimsworth and try to make life difficult for their teacher.




Critical Essays