An “admirable” woman character – what F. Scott Fitzgerald realized his The Great Gatsby lacked. Seeing yesterday Wikipedia’s explanations of that book’s main characters, I thought I’d have a little similar fun for this post. I love characters: they are what I think make a story.
So I decided to produce for the first time character “briefs” all in one place of the major characters in my recent novel, Conventions: The Garden At Paris:
However, I do not go into too much depth with each one. These are just intros – based on who they are when we first “meet” them, with perhaps a “hint” or two dropped of what is to come. I don’t want even inadvertently to give too much of the actual story away.
Here we go:
- Robert Rutherford: age twenty-one; Catskills, New York-born; plans to take up the law, but instead sails to France and England in 1787 at his father’s request to seek new business for his father’s firm, which suffered during the American revolutionary war. Raised outside the small Dutch-speaking town of Kinderhook, well over six feet in height, and a formidable shot, he is underneath it all intimidated by the journey, but determined to do the best he can for his family.
- Marie-Thérèse Durand: age nineteen; daughter of Lucien and Claudine. Tall, reddish-brown-haired aristocrat, yet with clear feminist and republican sympathies, she is intrigued by Robert. She becomes Robert’s informal French language tutor.
- Carolina (pronounced “Caroleena”) Beckington: seventeen; daughter of Sir Samuel and Lady Margaret; blonde, petite, and at times still teen-like in manner. Quickly imposes herself on any situation. Surprises Robert with her quirky sense of humor about America, and she also makes it clear Robert is subservient to her.
- Henry Beckington: twenty-two; only surviving son of Sir Samuel and Lady Margaret; will become the 4th baronet upon his father’s death. Smug and arrogant in the manner of too many young, English gentry, he and Robert nevertheless become friends, although they often don’t see eye to eye.
- John Abbott: twenty-one; handsome son of South Carolina well-to-do – and slave-owning – parents; meets Robert at Manhattan upon Robert’s boarding their shared ship on en route to France. Outwardly self-assured, and even gallant, in demeanor, over time becomes increasingly homesick, and also increasingly disillusioned by Frenchwomen… until he encounters due to an introduction from William Short a woman like no other he had met.
- Héloïse d’Estaing: nineteen; relation of French Admiral Comte d’Estaing, a veteran of the American War for Independence. A beautiful, young aristocrat undaunted by the end of inherited privilege, she endears herself to all who meet her.
- William Short: twenty-eight; Virginia-born; Thomas Jefferson’s private secretary; French fluent; soft-spoken and genteel. He had been introduced to the married Duchess de La Rochefoucauld at a gathering in 1787, and falls in love with her.
- Alexandrine (Rosalie), Duchess de La Rochefoucauld: twenty-four; wife of the Duke de La Rochefoucauld. Had recently met William alongside her husband and Jefferson, and becomes quite attached to William.
- Amandine Guisier: nineteen; daughter of Brittany lower-middle-class parents; sister to a nun, and to a French army soldier. Her life changes beyond all recognition upon unexpectedly meeting Robert and Henry.
- Pierre Grasset: early forties; mayor of the small village of Aigremont, outside of Paris; veteran of the French army in the American War for Independence (1780-1783). Pleasant and thoughtful, and also disgusted by aristocracy and happy to see the end of the monarchy.
- Benjamin Rutherford: early fifties; Robert’s merchant/landowner father; had traveled to England in 1771, where he became re-acquainted with Sir Samuel Beckington, whom he had first met in New York about a decade before.
- Jane Rutherford: Robert’s mother; might be called the actual head of the family; immensely proud of both of her sons.
- Fanny Rutherford: Robert’s troubled younger sister.
- James Rutherford: Robert’s older brother; veteran of the American invasion of British-controlled Quebec in 1775.
- Richard Montgomery: thirty-seven; born in British Ireland and a veteran of the British army in the Seven Years’ War (called by Americans “The French and Indian War”) fought in America between roughly 1755-1763; resigns from the British army in London and emigrates to New York in 1772; becomes a major general in the American Continental Army; commander of the American invasion of British-controlled Quebec in 1775.
- John Adams: fifty-one; U.S. Minister (meaning then, ambassador) to Great Britain, 1785-1788. Robert’s family story stuns him.
- Abigail Adams: forty-three; wife of John Adams. Warns Robert about dealing with the overbearing British.
- Lucien Durand: fifty-ish; French gentilhomme; father of Marie-Thérèse; business associate of Sir Samuel; lived briefly in America prior to U.S. independence. Receives Robert upon his arrival in France after his ocean voyage from America, and his warmth makes the nervous young American feel at home.
- Sir Samuel Beckington: early fifties; 3rd Baronet of Langley Hall; served in the British army in America (1759-63); briefly a New York colony resident; old friend of Benjamin Rutherford. Sympathetic to the colonial cause during the American War for Independence (1775-83), now friendly to the new United States, and pleased to be able to meet and to be of help to his friend’s son. He is also surprised to see his daughter apparently has an interest in the young American.
- Lady Margaret Beckington: upper forties; wife of Sir Samuel; takes the visiting Robert in as almost another of her children.
- Duke de La Rochefoucauld: forty-four; close friend of Jefferson’s; liberal advisor to France’s king, Louis XVI.
- Emma Loughborough: nineteen; friend of Carolina’s. Robert is the first American she claims she has met.
- Thomas Jefferson: forty-four; U.S. Minister to France, 1785-1789; rumored to be the main author of the U.S. Declaration of Independence (1776). His magnificent rented home is a major center for American life in Paris.
- Elizabeth, Comtesse de Carnot: sixty-ish; older sister of Sir Samuel; lives in Paris with her French husband, Michel, Comte de Carnot.
- Alexandre-Théodore-Victor, Comte de La Meth: twenty-one; veteran of the French army in the American War for Independence; present at the British Lord Cornwallis’s army’s surrender to the Americans and the French forces at Yorktown, Virginia, October 1781. Although a monarchist, hopes France shall follow the American example of greater liberty.
- Marquise Adrienne de La Fayette: twenty-eight; wife of the Marquis de La Fayette (who fought in the American army during the American War for Independence). She is a great admirer of George Washington, whom she dreams to meet someday, and urges to visit France.
- Clark Johnson: forty-ish; intrepid Virginian merchant ship captain. Seems to Robert always to have some plan hidden unspoken beneath his cocked hat.
- Matthew Stewart: twenty-ish, from Pennsylvania; assistant/secretary to Minister Morris; arrived in France eager to see the revolutionary country, but quickly becomes disenchanted by it for understandable reasons.
- Jacques Desailles: forty-ish; Bordeaux-born shipowner; veteran of the French navy in the American War for Independence (1778-1783). Falls in love with a much younger woman who does not love him in return.
- Gouverneur Morris: thirty-nine; U.S. Minister to France, 1792-1794; close ally of George Washington; missing much of a leg for some unexplained reason, so relies on a wooden one. Becomes employer, friend, and mentor to Robert. Never seems to be lacking a woman’s companionship, with his most “constant” lady “friend” said to be the married Adélaïde de Flahaut (and apparently even her – much older – husband knows).
Historical people mixing with fictional characters:
Some of them will be back in the new book, Tomorrow The Grace:
And there will be some new characters as well.😊 Three examples:
- Edward Floyd: twenty-one; nephew of Declaration of Independence signer, Long Island, New York’s, William Floyd; going to Europe “to find himself.” Along with Robert, he meets Ana Sánchez on board their ship heading to Amsterdam, and he is immediately smitten by her.
- Ana Sánchez de Calderón García-Ruiz: twenty-one; born in Cartagena, Viceroyalty of New Granada; her father is South American and her mother Spanish; lived in Philadelphia for a time; traveling to Europe with her father, a South American independence leader, who wishes she marry there. Meets Edward on the ship bound for Amsterdam.
- John Marshall: forty-two; known as General Marshall; served in the Continental Army and idolizes George Washington; appointed by President John Adams to be U.S. special emissary to France despite the fact Marshall speaks little French. Relaxed, even at times sloppy, in manner, yet also possesses a stature and exudes a presence that dominates any room.
If you think I’m going to be revealing any of the real-life people I know who may be the basis for, or whom I drew upon for, the fictional characters? I won’t be doing that anytime soon. (Do I appear to be completely insane?) Maybe I’ll leave “evidence” of “who inspired them” in my, uh, personal papers to be bequeathed to my nephews and niece AFTER I’m dead, which they’ll then be free to share with academics, and of course also with the book’s Wikipedia page editors, to debate endlessly.😂
Have a good reading and writing day, wherever you are in the world.🇬🇧😊🌏