Author: C. P. Snow
First published: 1972: George Passant (originally Strangers and Brothers), 1940; The Light and the Dark, 1947; Time of Hope, 1949; The Masters, 1951; The New Men, 1954; Homecomings, 1956 (U.S. edition, Homecoming, 1956); The Conscience of the Rich, 1958; The Affair, 1960; Corridors of Power, 1964; The Sleep of Reason, 1968; Last Things, 1970
Lewis Eliot, later Sir Lewis, the narrator, whose life is traced from youth to old age. His character and experiences partially reflect those of the author. He is the elder son of Bertie and Lena Eliot and the brother of Martin. Eliot rises from humble origins in a small provincial town to be a clerk in a local government office, a barrister, and a Cambridge fellow. He later becomes a consultant to industry and a civil servant. His government service includes involvement with England's wartime development of atomic weapons. Eliot is an ambitious man who prides himself on his judgment and who is perceived by his friends as a man with great sympathy for others. He is emotional but is highly regarded by some for his ability to control his emotions, a talent that leads others to view him as cold and manipulative. His first marriage, to Sheila Knight, proves disastrous, as he is forced to see the mental deterioration of someone he once loved deeply. His second marriage, to Margaret Davidson, is a far more mutually supportive relationship and one in which Lewis learns to accept that he cannot control the lives of those whom he loves. In the course of the sequence, Eliot comes to better terms with himself and his ambitions, forced to do so by events (including near death while undergoing an eye operation) and by the support of those around him.
Martin Eliot, Lewis' younger brother. There is strong affection between the two but also conflict, because for a long time Lewis has greater hopes and ambition for Martin than Martin himself has. Martin is a physicist and a fellow of the same Cambridge college with which Lewis is affiliated. He is the principal character in The New Men, in which he becomes involved in the nation's nuclear weapons research. Lewis believes that his brother is unscrupulous in climbing over friends during an investigation to root out a subversive scientist, but when Martin is offered the post of administrator of the nuclear establishment at Barford, he turns it down and returns to academic life, eventually becoming senior tutor at the Cambridge college. He works closely with Lewis in seeking a reversal of the judgment against Donald Howard in The Affair.
Sheila Knight, the daughter of the Reverend Lawrence and Mrs. Knight. She becomes Lewis Eliot's first wife. She is described as very handsome rather than pretty, with magnificent eyes and a dramatic presence. The young Lewis loves her deeply and persuades her to marry him, though she is reluctant because she realizes a personal flaw that makes her incapable of reciprocating that love. She becomes increasingly neurotic, and Lewis must curtail his ambitions so as to pursue a lifestyle that allows him to devote considerable energy to caring for her. The marriage becomes an imprisonment, which ends when Sheila dies of an overdose of drugs.
Margaret Davidson, the younger daughter of art critic Austin Davidson. She becomes Lewis Eliot's second wife. Lewis meets her at a London clinic during the war and romances her, though she is still married to Geoffrey Hollis. After her divorce, she marries Lewis. She is the mother of Maurice Hollis and Charles Eliot.
Bertie Eliot, the father of Lewis and Martin. A mild, self-centered man, he has no great ambitions. He cares more for his position as organist for a church choir than he does for his family and never appreciates the success of his sons.
Lena Eliot, the wife of Bertie and the mother of Lewis and Martin. She is the dominant figure in the Eliot household and invests young Lewis with much of her ambition and drive for betterment.
George Passant, a solicitor's managing clerk in the town of Lewis Eliot's birth and a part-time lecturer at the local technical college. Passant, who is brilliant and unconventional, attracts and inspires a coterie of free-thinking young men and women who are eager to extend themselves and challenge the order of the day. Lewis gives Passant much credit for shaping his early career. Passant's influence on others is less beneficial: He is implicated in a fraud with two members of the group, Jack Cotery and Olive Calvert, and the sexual license that he encourages provides a backdrop for the crimes (including murder) committed by Cora Ross and Kitty Pateman, who were associated with the group after Lewis left town. Lacking discipline and subject to paranoia, Passant fails to achieve the greatness of which Lewis thought him capable.
Roy Calvert, the central figure in The Light and the Dark.A brilliant scholar, he is a fellow at the Eliot brothers' Cambridge college and is Lewis' closest friend there. Calvert is a romantic who wants to believe in God but cannot, and who is also subject to manic-depressive disorder. He can be very caring about others but is reluctant to commit himself in love until he marries Rosalind Wykes. He enlists in the military and serves in bombers during World War II, deliberately choosing that dangerous job. He is killed on a mission over Germany.
Francis Getliffe, later Sir Francis and then Lord Getliffe, one of Lewis Eliot's oldest friends and a close confidant throughout his career. Getliffe is a brilliant physicist and a fellow of the Cambridge college. He is noted for his strong moralism and personal integrity. He is leftist in his politics. During the war, he is a key figure in England's application of scientific knowledge to develop new weapons and plays a key role in the development of radar. In devoting his energies to the nation, he sacrifices his chance at great scientific discoveries. In the postwar decades, he emerges as a voice against Great Britain's nuclear armament. He is married to Katherine March.
Herbert Getliffe, the half brother of Francis Getliffe. He is a barrister whose chambers Lewis Eliot entered as a young man. Getliffe gives the appearance of being befuddled but is a shrewd, capable man. He is leading counsel for the defense in the trial for fraud of George Passant, Jack Cotery, and Olive Calvert.
Charles March, the son of Leonard March, who is the patriarch of a wealthy Anglo-Jewish family that befriends Lewis Eliot. The Conscience of the Rich is the story of Charles March's gradual repudiation of his background as he gives up the law to become a medical general practitioner and then marries outside the Jewish faith. His actions cause his father to disinherit him at great personal cost to both.
Leonard March, the father of Charles March. He is a wealthy Anglo-Jewish banker who has great ambitions for his son and heir, Charles. He is unbending in his opposition to Charles's efforts to carve out his own life, and the clash between them leads to a permanent estrangement.
Ann Simon, an avowed Communist with whom Charles March falls in love and marries. She is a friend of Lewis Eliot, though critical of him for not being as advanced as she would like on various political positions. She is a contributor to the Note, a political newsletter.
Donald Howard, the central figure in The Affair.Heisafellow of the Cambridge college and is unpopular with many of his colleagues because of his strong communist views. He is dismissed when it is discovered that he incorporated fraudulent data in the scientific publication that earned for him his fellowship. His wife, Laura, forces a reconsideration of the dismissal. Lewis and Martin Eliot, Francis Getliffe, and others defend Howard, whom they dislike, because they believe that an injustice has been done. Lewis is able to persuade the Court of Seniors of the college that Howard's mistake was not fraud but uncritical acceptance of falsified data offered to him by the aged professor under whom he had been working.
Walter Luke, later Sir Walter and then Lord Luke of Salcombe, a brilliant physicist and fellow of the Cambridge college. He spearheads the drive for nuclear weapons during the war and becomes chief superintendent of the Atomic Energy Establishment and later chief scientist in the Ministry for Defense. Intensely patriotic, he is also brash and impulsive and not well adapted to the compromises of political life.
Roger Quaife, a Conservative member of Parliament who becomes parliamentary secretary in the Ministry for Defense and then is elevated to the post of minister. He is the central figure in Corridors of Power. With the support of Lewis Eliot and Francis Getliffe, he tries to turn England away from a policy of nuclear armament, but his career is brought to an end by an extramarital affair with Ellen Smith, the wife of a fellow member of Parliament, whom Quaife eventually marries.
Paul Jago, the senior tutor of the Cambridge college in the years before World War II. He is Lewis Eliot's candidate for master when Vernon Royce dies. His wife, Alice, is socially inept and a political liability. His devotion to her contributes to his defeat in the election and to his eventual withdrawal from college affairs.
Arthur Brown, a junior tutor at the time of the mastership election. He considers Lewis a protégé and has much affection for the younger man. He is an extremely shrewd political tactician whom Lewis respects. He becomes senior tutor after Jago leaves the position. Lewis believes that his role in the Howard affair (supporting the original dismissal) was one of his few political misjudgments.
R. T. A. Crawford, a distinguished scientist who is elected master in preference to Paul Jago. Lewis later acknowledges that Crawford was a good choice because his international scientific reputation contributed to the college's visibility and stature.
Godrey Winslow, another fellow of the college, who served as bursar. He is a man embittered by personal tragedies and a difficult person with whom to get along.
R. E. A. Nightingale, a priggish and contentious fellow to whom Eliot is invariably opposed when he appears in The Masters. He succeeds Winslow as bursar after Crawford becomes master and seems to be revitalized, doing much good for the college. At the conclusion of The Affair, however, he is found to have destroyed evidence that would have helped Howard, acting to preserve the reputation of the college.
Kitty Pateman and Cora Ross, residents of the provincial town of Lewis Eliot's youth. They were once affiliated with George Passant's group. They are lesbian lovers who abduct, torture, and kill a young boy in The Sleep of Reason.