Melmoth the Wanderer Characters

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

First published: 1820

Type of work: Novel

Type of plot: Gothic

Time of work: Early nineteenth century

Locale: Ireland

Characters DiscussedJohn Melmoth

John Melmoth the WandererMelmoth, a young Irishman who inherits his uncle’s property, including a portrait of an early ancestor, which he is directed to destroy. He discovers a manuscript that tells about Melmoth the Wanderer, who visits John. Then a shipwrecked Spaniard tells of visitations of Melmoth the Wanderer. The Wanderer appears to John to tell him that he has finished his earthly pilgrimage of a century and a half. John hears strange noises in the night, and the next morning, his dread kinsman is gone.

John Melmoth’s Uncle

John Melmoth’s Uncle, who, though not a superstitious man, believes a stranger has been lurking about his house. He dies and leaves his property to his nephew with instructions to destroy a hidden portrait of an earlier John Melmoth.

Melmoth the Wanderer

Melmoth the Wanderer, a seventeenth century ancestor of young John Melmoth, also named John. He is doomed to wander the earth for a century and a half while trying to seduce souls to Satan. He wins not one soul in that time. Finally, he returns to his home in Ireland. He ends his life by plunging, or being thrown, over a cliff.

Mr. Stanton

Mr. Stanton, an Englishman who leaves a manuscript telling the strange story of Melmoth the Wanderer. Stanton met the Wanderer in Spain, angered him, and was cursed. Because of the curse, Stanton was confined in Bedlam as a madman; he was visited by the Wanderer, who offered to secure Stanton’s release from the asylum if Stanton would sell his soul to Satan. Stanton refused.

Alonzo Moncada

Alonzo Moncada, a Spaniard shipwrecked near the Melmoth home. While imprisoned by the Inquisition, he was approached by the Wanderer, who offered freedom in exchange for Moncada’s soul. Moncada refused, but he later escaped prison anyway.

An Old Jewish Doctor

An Old Jewish Doctor, who makes a study of the history of the Wanderer. He tells Moncada about the daughter of Don Francisco di Aliaga, who was shipwrecked as an infant and grew up on an uninhabited island where she was visited by the Wanderer and fell in love with him. After she was found and returned home, the Wanderer visited her again, and they were married in a Satanic ceremony. Found out, she was turned over to the Inquisition. She died shortly after giving birth to the Wanderer’s child. Her dying words expressed the hope that both she and the Wanderer would enter Heaven.

Bibliography:Coughlan, Patricia. “The Recycling of Melmoth: A Very German Story.” In Literary Interrelations: Ireland, England, and the World, edited by Wolfgang Zach and Heinz Kosok. Vol 2. Tübingen, Germany: Narr, 1987. Demonstrates the imaginative impact of Melmoth the Wanderer on contemporary authors. Versions of the story by Honoré de Balzac and James Clarence Mangan are given a detailed analysis. Highlights some of the novel’s social and political implications.Fowler, Kathleen. “Hieroglyphics in Fire: Melmoth the Wanderer.” Studies in Romanticism 25, no. 4 (Winter, 1986): 521-539. Focuses on the novel’s artistic methods and the relation between these methods and the novel’s religious preoccupations. Discusses the use of the Book of Job in Melmoth the Wanderer.Kiely, Robert. The Romantic Novel in England. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1972. A significant contribution to the study of genres of the novel. Includes a chapter on Melmoth the Wanderer, emphasizing its religious and political elements. The novel’s psychological interest and cultural implications are also assessed.Kramer, Dale. Charles Robert Maturin. New York: Twayne, 1973. Succinct account of Maturin’s life and career, and an extended consideration of Melmoth the Wanderer. Discusses the novel’s folkloric dimension and the organizational principles governing the cohesiveness of the various tales.
Categories: Characters