Sir George Ellison: Sir George Ellison is the writer of the letter that comprises the novel. Though he remains anonymous as he writes, his name is revealed in the novel’s sequel. He is an aging man from England’s north country, and he is in need of travel (to the “west” towards Cornwall) to help with the “ill effects” of a prolonged commercial venture in Jamaica. He is cousins with Mrs. Maynard.
Mr. Lamont: As a twenty-five year old young man, he is Sir George’s traveling companion. Having a “very generous father” has allowed him to live the life of a coxcomb. Though this appellation is not entirely respectable, he has redeemable attributes to his character that allow for Sir George to take him as a companion.
Mrs. Maynard: A woman who is between “forty and fifty years of age,” Mrs. Maynard is a black-haired, black-eyed woman who comes off as vivacious and serene. A reunion of sorts reveals that Mrs. Maynard is Sir George’s cousin. When her husband died, he had left her a “small jointure,” and in her immediate widowhood, it was through Miss Trentham that she was introduced to the society of the Hall. Mrs. Maynard is the one who initiates the storytelling aspect of the novel, and is subsequently the one who recites the eleven “principle articles” governing the Hall.
Miss Louisa Mancel: A tall beauty with brown hair and blue eyes, as a child Louisa had been the ward of her father’s sister. Upon her aunt’s death during her adolescence, she was by chance taken into custody by Mr. Hintman, a wealthy landowner. Here she was placed into a “French boarding school,” where she was partnered with Miss Melvyn as a roommate, and the two become best friends. Ultimately, Mr. Hintman had plans to make Louisa his mistress as soon as she came of age, but his sudden death saves her from debauchery. The situation is still tragic because he leaves her nothing in his will. She finishes school and moves to Miss Melvyn’s neighborhood into the lodgings of a “reputable farmer’s.” After Miss Melvyn becomes Mrs. Morgan, Louisa is taken in by Lady Lambton, where she becomes acquainted with the woman’s grandson, Sir Edward Lambton. After rejecting his hand in marriage, she goes to work for Mrs. Thornby, who turns out to be her real mother. Unfortunately, Mrs. Thornby dies; in the process, Louisa reunites with her old best friend, Miss Melvyn/Mrs. Morgan. Because Mrs. Morgan’s husband dies as well, they make the house he left her into the foundation of Millenium Hall, where they “now live.”
Mrs. Morgan (Miss Melvyn): A plump woman who is “upwards of fifty,” Mrs. Morgan is the kind who emits “universal and tender benevolence.” Her biological mother instilled in her the greatest of piety, and was a sound parent until her death when Mrs. Morgan, then Miss Melvyn, was fourteen years old. Miss Melvyn’s father, Sir Charles Melvyn, remarried to a wicked woman and thus, the girl became subject to something of a Cinderella story. The new Lady Melvyn sent her to boarding school where she met Miss Mancel. Shortly after Miss Mancel’s move, Miss Melvyn returned home, happy to know that her best friend was living close by. Lady Melvyn, not being pleased with their relationship, stages a fixed marriage between Miss Melvyn and the wealthy Mr. Morgan: the plan succeeded, for it was to vindicate the poor girl from a framed love affair with a boy named Simon that would have ruined her reputation. Miss Melvyn becomes Mrs. Morgan on very unhappy terms, additionally because her new husband refuses to allow her to associate with Miss Mancel. Life at home is troubling for her until, ultimately, Mr. Morgan dies, leaving her the estate.
Lady Mary Jones: A woman who is described as genteel and pleasing with a “pair of the finest black eyes,” because of a history that denotes ill-health, she is also described as “thin and pale.” She was the daughter of the Earl of Brumpton and his second wife, who died at childbirth. At age ten, the earl died as well; he did not provide for her in a will and was taken by her father’s sister, Lady Sheerness. In this carefree and patrician setting the fifteen-year-old Lady Mary drew attention within fashionable circles, prompting an encounter with gentleman Mr. Lenman. Though the two were nearly able to connect, she finds that he is married. Back in London, in continuance of her fashionable lifestyle, she then meets Lord Robert St. George; he makes a sexual advance on her, and from this encounter she begins to think about her life. When Lady Sheerness dies, leaving Lady Mary with nothing, she hears from her dead half-brother’s widow, Lady Brumpton, a woman who’s inherited the Brumpton wealth. Lady Mary is invited to live with her, though she finds discomfort in the intellectual community of the woman’s lifestyle. When Lady Brumpton dies, Lady Mary inherits the wealth, and in seeking refuge from fashionable and intellectual scenes, she meets the best friends Mrs. Morgan and Miss Mancel at Tunbridge, where she joins her fortune to their cause at the Hall.
Miss Harriot Selvyn: Described as sensible, delicate and elegant, there is something about her, alternatively, that renders her too irregular to be handsome. Harriot’s adoptive mother died when she was three and her father cared for her in the country after a failed tradesman venture. Her father being a “sceptical,” she was educated by him in many matters including philosophy, though she eventually learns Christianity by age seventeen. After moving back to London, Mr. Selvyn dies and she is taken under the wing of Lady Emilia Reynolds. Here she encounters the London scene, with the inclusion of meeting Lady Mary Jones. After certain time period, Harriot and Lady Emilia move to the country, where they find that Lord Robert St. George lives close by, staging the scene of her rejection of his advances. Eventually she learns that Lady Emilia is her biological mother in a death bed confession. Having known Lady Mary Jones, she was able to connect with the women and their fledgling society.
Miss Harriot Trentham: Bearing the vestiges of beauty, she is a tall woman who has survived smallpox. Her mother died a month after child birth and her father died when she was eight, who left her with a considerable fortune in the care of her grandmother, Mrs. Alworth. Here she is raised with the woman’s other grandchildren and becomes good friends with one, Master Mr. Alworth. She is “traduced” by the other female grandchildren, making her bond with him stronger, yet when they are on the verge of marriage, his gaze strays to the coquette Miss Melman, whom he marries instead. Eventually he grew sad about his decision, and his lament causes Harriot to seek relief in the form of “many lovers” and general dissipation. Later, in the process of helping Mrs. Tonston, she acquires smallpox which nearly kills her, but ruins her beauty. She ventures into the Cornwall area where she encounters the ladies of the Hall, who extend an invitation for her to join; from her fortune added, the society initiates the carpet and rug manufacturing business.
Mr. Hintman: An older man who owns land, he takes advantage of adopting Miss Mancel for the purposes of raising her to be his mistress, since his favorite vice is the “love of women.” This knowledge is hinted to her through Miss Melvyn acting on what Mr. d’Avora has learned, and thus makes her extremely uncomfortable because he is a father figure. Luckily for her, he dies before he can make his advances.
Mr. d’Avora: A traveled man who has seen misfortune, he is the Italian master to the best friends Miss Mancel and Miss Melvyn during their stay at boarding school. He becomes better acquainted with Miss Melvyn, though he helps Miss Mancel on more than one occasion: warning about Mr. Hintman, and helping Miss Mancel find a place when she finishes school. Eventually he becomes a part of the society as “a valuable friend and a useful assistant in the management of their affairs.”
Sir Charles Melvyn: Miss Melvyn’s father, he is a man who allows himself to be controlled, because he is an “easy-tempered, weak man who gave no proof of good sense but the secret deference he had to his wife’s judgement.” When Miss Melvyn’s mother dies, he remarries a woman who takes advantage of this defect of character to the extreme.
Lady Melvyn (mother): Miss Melvyn’s biological mother, she was a good woman who united with Sir Charles as the result of a planned marriage. Though she was not happy about the matter, she went on to teach her daughter the principles of “true religion” before her untimely death.
Lady Melvyn (step-mother): The second wife of Sir Charles. She was the kind who excited the “admiration of some, but pleased none”; a confident woman with traits of coquetry, she schemes against Miss Melvyn primarily out of jealousy, for the young woman is very pretty and smart, which threatens to lessen Lady Melvin’s panache. When Miss Melvyn returns home from school, Lady Melvyn seizes the opportunity to ruin her through a plot of a fixed marriage: she induces the rumor that Miss Melvyn has been in liaison with a young farmer named Simon; to prevent the possibility of scandal, the poor girl is coerced into marrying the old man Mr. Morgan. After the Hall has been formed and Lady Melvyn is widowed by the death of Sir Charles, she pays a visit to the society, only to be off-put by the dynamic of their endeavor. This does not keep the now Mrs. Morgan from helping the two daughters and son Lady Melvyn had with her father, since naturally, they are her half-siblings.
Mr. Morgan: The aged man of wealth who participates in the fixed marriage to Miss Melvyn. “Such a lover could excite no emotion in his mistress’s heart but disgust.” In his fear of being talked about behind his back, he insists that the now Mrs. Morgan cease her associations with her best friend, Miss Mancel. He lives with his sister Susanna Morgan, he always “drank hard,” and he eventually dies from complications of a “paralytic disorder,” leaving his wife with much wealth and estate which becomes the Hall.
Susanna Morgan: Sister to Mr. Morgan, she is fifty-five and cares for the home of her brother. She had many lovers in her youth, because her aunt had endowed her with wealth, but she eventually came to possess a penchant for being mean, so that “horrid grin then distorted her features, and her before lifeless eyes glistened with malice and rancorous joy.” When Mrs. Morgan moves in with her new husband, Susanna despises her. After many years of difficult living, Susanna bestows herself on a “young ensign” since she has wealth of her own, where the young man essentially sees no other option for life.
Simon: “The farmer where Miss Mancel lodged had a son”; this is the young man Simon of whom Lady Melvyn stages her deceit against Miss Melvyn. Much to Miss Melvyn’s dismay, Simon participates in the scheme under the offer of a type of bribery (“promising the farm”).
Lady Lambton: When Miss Mancel decides to move away from the now Mrs. Morgan, she is discovered by Lady Lambton, a woman who “piqued herself upon the opulence of her family and a distinguished birth, but her good sense, and many virtues, so qualified this one blemish, that it did not prevent her being a very amiable woman.” She gives affection to Miss Mancel, but the arrival of her grandson, Sir Edward, causes discomfort for the situation. He can only marry a woman of rank, a requirement that Lady Lambton will not let slide. Her persistence in the matter causes great distress for this couple who has fallen in love, where the tension forces Miss Mancel to move without him knowing.
Sir Edward Lambton: The twenty-three year old grandson of Lady Lambton, he comes home after Miss Mancel had been living with the woman for a year. Because his estate is burdened with debt (for reasons unstated), Lady Lambton requires that he marry a woman of substantial fortune; her real reason for not consenting to his desire to marry Louisa, however, is due to the “obscurity of her birth.” In this situation Lady Lambton stages a plan for Louisa to depart while Edward is away for a day on business. Upon his return he is filled with “rage and grief,” prompting him dramatically to join the military, where he ultimately dies in battle. The scene is tragic, for Louisa’s newly found biological mother had offered the money needed to situate Louisa as worthy of the match.
Mrs. Thornby: Taken by her beauty, Mrs. Thornby takes Miss Mancel as an employee, who disguises herself under the name of “Menil.” Mrs. Thornby digs for information about her until the conversations reveal, that Mrs. Thornby is Louisa’s real mother. Mrs. Thorby gained wealth from a second marriage (Louisa’s father died in America), and this wealth is transferred to Louisa upon a sudden illness and death.
Earl of Brumpton: The father to Lady Mary Jones with his second wife, who died of this childbirth. He himself died when Lady Mary was ten years old, leaving her with nothing because of financial complications with his first marriage.
Lady Sheerness: Sister to the Earl of Brumpton, she takes Lady Mary in to raise as her own. She was a widow with money who became engaged in the fashionable life and was possessed of a considerable sense of wit. Long after instilling her lifestyle into her niece, in London she becomes sick with “incurable disorders,” dying and leaving Lady Mary with nothing.
Mr. Lenman: During Lady Mary’s venture into the fashionable life, she develops an intrigue with Mr. Lenman. On a trip to Berwick she is injured in a horse riding accident; in this condition she learns that Mr. Lenman is a married man, his attempt at seducing her founded in the prospect of a “private marriage.”
Lord Robert St. George: After learning the truth about Mr. Lenman, back in London, Lady Mary meets Lord Robert amid the fashionable society. During a gambling adventure, he makes a sexual advance on her, claiming that her manners provoked his behavior. Later, he falls for Miss Selvyn, who rejects him for his general demeanor and his past with Lady Mary.
Lady Brumpton: Lady Mary’s step-half-sister, she helps Lady Mary when Lady Sheerness dies. Lady Brumpton cultivated a lifestyle of part repartee and wit, and part high intellect and education, a scene that becomes too extravagant for Lady Mary. Because she inherited the Brumpton wealth, Lady Mary becomes the next inheritor when she dies.
Lady Emilia Reynolds: When Miss Selvyn’s father dies in London, Lady Emilia gives her a home. A series of events and conversations reveal that she is Miss Selvyn’s biological mother. She had met Lord Peyton and they were destined to marry, but because his military service forced him into a hasty departure to Ireland, he desired to marry with undue expedience. Lady Emilia’s father would not consent to such a departure from tradition. In Lord Peyton’s endeavor to solve the problem by desiring an unorthodox private marriage, she felt shameful and declined for her father’s sake. Her pregnancy with him became an obvious illegitimacy, in which she had the baby at the Selvyn’s home; and since Mrs. Selvyn’s own baby had died, she gave her baby to Lady Emilia to raise as her own.
Lord Peyton: Miss Selvyn’s biological father. He was an army officer having to deal with being stationed in Ireland.
Mrs. Alworth: Harriot Trentham’s grandmother, she experiences some melancholy “having outlived all her children.” She takes care of her other grandchildren, who often give Harriot a hard time. She notices the trouble Harriot goes through in this and therefore takes particular notice of her. Eventually she dies leaving Harriot a fortune, and she also dies as a great-grandmother.
Master Alworth: Cousin to Miss Trentham, they are like brother and sister, for he is one of the grandchildren who does not taunt her. Later they become enamored of each other, but his attention becomes diverted by the coquettish Miss Melman. He marries this woman, only to regret having lost Miss Selvyn.
Miss Alworth (Mrs. Parnel): Another of Mrs. Alworth’s grandchildren, she gives Miss Trentham trouble because she, like the Denham sisters, suffers from a bit of jealousy. Her marriage to Mr. Parnel produces two children, the great-grandchildren of Mrs. Alworth, significant because they were born before she died.
Miss Melman: A “complete coquet, capricious and fantastical.” She singles out Master Alworth for his looks and money, and eventually they marry. She goes on to make him miserable with her coquettish ways, much to the extent that he has to venture to Bath, to gain a hold on his mental health.
Mr. Parnel: A man who falls for Miss Trentham, she rejects him while suggesting he turn his attention to her cousin Miss Alworth. Though he never truly loved her, through the marriage counseling of Miss Trentham, he eventually finds “peace and amity” in his marriage to Miss Alworth.
The Denham Sisters: Also Mrs. Alworth’s grandchildren, one becomes Mrs. Tonston, the other gets married as a result of being forgiven by Miss Trentham. Mrs. Alworth had denied Miss Denham the money she needed to fulfill her marriage plans, but when Harriot offers to pay, Mrs. Alworth is surprised by her spirit of generosity and forgiveness, and decides to provide the funds after all.
Neighbors Susan, Rachel and Jane: Women who have benefited from the philanthropy of the society of the Hall.