Vanity Fair Characters

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

Author: William Makepeace Thackeray

First published: serial, 1847–1848; book, 1848

Genre: Novel

Locale: England and Europe

Plot: Social satire

Time: Early nineteenth century

Rebecca (Becky) Sharp, an intelligent, beautiful, self-centered, and grasping woman whose career begins as an orphaned charity pupil at Miss Pinkerton's School for girls and continues through a series of attempted seductions, affairs, and marriages that form the background of the novel. Unscrupulous Becky is the chief exponent of the people who inhabit Vanity Fair—the world of pretense and show—but she is always apart from it because she sees the humor and ridiculousness of the men and women of this middle-class English world where pride, wealth, and ambition are the ruling virtues.

Amelia Sedley, Becky Sharp's sweet, good, and gentle schoolmate at Miss Pinkerton's School. Although married to George Osborne, who subsequently dies in the Battle of Waterloo, Amelia is worshiped by William Dobbin. Amelia does not notice his love, however, so involved is she with the memory of her dashing dead husband. Eventually, some of Amelia's goddess-like virtue is dimmed in Dobbin's eyes, but he marries her anyway and transfers his idealization of women to their little girl, Jane.

Captain William Dobbin, an officer in the British Army and a former schoolmate of George Osborne at Dr. Swishtail's school. He idolizes Amelia Sedley, George's wife, and while in the background provides financial and emotional support for her when she is widowed. After many years of worshiping Amelia from afar, he finally marries her.

George Osborne, the dashing young army officer who marries Amelia despite the fact that by so doing he incurs the wrath of his father and is cut off from his inheritance. George, much smitten with the charms of Becky Sharp, slips a love letter to Becky on the night before the army is called to the Battle of Waterloo. He is killed in the battle.

George Osborne, Jr., called Georgy, the small son of Amelia and George.

Captain Rawdon Crawley, an officer of the Guards, the younger son of Sir Pitt Crawley. He marries Becky Sharp in secret, and for this deception his aunt cuts him out of her will. Charming but somewhat stupid, he is a great gambler and furnishes some of the money on which he and Becky live precariously. He lets Becky order their life, and even though she flirts outrageously after they are married, he does not abandon her until he discovers her in an intimate scene with the marquis of Steyne. He dies many years later of yellow fever at Coventry Island.

Rawdon Crawley, the son of Rawdon and Becky. He refuses to see his mother in her later years, though he gives her a liberal allowance. From his uncle, he inherits the Crawley Baronetcy and estate.

Joseph (Jos) Sedley, Amelia's fat, dandified brother whom Becky Sharp attempts unsuccessfully to attract into marrying her. A civil servant in India, acting as the Collector of Boggley Wollah, Jos is rich but selfish and does nothing to rescue his father and mother from bankruptcy. Persuaded by Dobbin, finally, to take some family responsibility, he supports Amelia and her son Georgy for a few months before Dobbin marries her. For a time, he and Becky travel on the Continent as husband and wife. He dies at Aix-la-Chapelle soon after Amelia and Dobbin's marriage. His fortune gone from unsuccessful speculations, he leaves only an insurance policy of two thousand pounds, to be divided between Becky and his sister.

Sir Pitt Crawley, a crusty, eccentric old Baronet who lives at Queen's Crawley, his country seat, with his abused, apathetic second wife and two young daughters, Miss Rosalind and Miss Violet. Immediately after Lady Crawley's death, Sir Pitt proposes marriage to Becky. His offer reveals her secret marriage to Rawdon Crawley, his younger son. Later, grown more senile than ever, Sir Pitt carries on an affair with his butler's daughter, Betsy Horrocks, much to the disgust of his relatives. He eventually dies, and his Baronetcy and money go to Pitt, his eldest son.

Miss Crawley, Sir Pitt's eccentric, unmarried, and lonely sister. Imperious and rich, she is toadied to by everyone in the Crawley family and by Becky Sharp, for they see in her the chance for a rich living. She finally is won over by young Pitt Crawley's wife, Lady Jane, and her estate goes to Pitt.

Pitt Crawley, the older son of Sir Pitt Crawley. A most proper young man with political ambitions, he marries Lady Jane Sheepshanks, and after his brother's secret marriage so endears himself to Miss Crawley, his rich, domineering aunt, that he gains her money as well as his father's.

Lady Jane Crawley, Pitt Crawley's wife. Like Amelia Sedley, she is good, sweet, and kind, and is, above all else, interested in her husband's and their daughter's welfare.

The Reverend Bute Crawley, the rector of Crawley-cum-Snailby and Sir Pitt's brother. His household is run by his domineering wife.

Mrs. Bute Crawley, who dislikes Becky Sharp because she recognizes in her the same sort of ambition and craftiness that she herself possesses. Mrs. Bute Crawley fails in her plans to gain Miss Crawley's fortune.

James Crawley, the son of the Bute Crawleys. For a time, it looks as if this shy, good-looking young man will win favor with his aunt, but he ruins his prospects by getting very drunk on his aunt's wine and later smoking his pipe out the window of the guest room. Miss Crawley's maid also discovers that James has run up a tremendous bill for gin at the local inn, treating everyone in one of his expansive moods. This fact, combined with his smoking tobacco, puts an end to the Bute Crawleys' prospects of inheriting Miss Crawley's money.

Horrocks, Sir Pitt Crawley's butler.

Betsy Horrocks, the butler's daughter and old Sir Pitt's mistress. She is done out of any inheritance by the interference of Mrs. Bute Crawley.

Mr. John Sedley, the father of Amelia and Joseph, a typical middle-class English merchant of grasping, selfish ways. After his failure in business, his family is forced to move from Russell Square to a cottage kept by the Clapps; the daughter of the Clapp family is a former servant of the Sedleys. Never able to accept his poverty, Mr. Sedley spends his time thinking up new business schemes with which to regain his former wealth.

Mrs. John Sedley, the long-suffering wife of Mr. Sedley and mother of Amelia and Joseph. She, like her daughter, is a sweet woman. Her only expression of wrath in the entire story comes when she turns on Amelia after her daughter has criticized her for giving little Georgy medicine that was not prescribed for him.

John Osborne, George Osborne's testy-tempered father, provincial, narrow, and mean. Never forgiving his son for marrying the penniless Amelia Sedley, Mr. Osborne finally succeeds in getting the widow to give up her adored Georgy to his care. Amelia regains her son, however, and when Mr. Osborne dies, he leaves to his grandson a legacy of which Amelia is the trustee.

Jane, Maria, and Frances Osborne, George's sisters, who adore their young nephew. Maria finally marries Frederick Bullock, Esq., a London lawyer.

Mr. Smee, Jane Osborne's drawing teacher, who tries to marry her. Mr. Osborne, after discovering them together, forbids him to enter the house.

Lord Steyne, Lord of the Powder Closet at Buckingham Palace. Haughty, well-born, and considerably older than Becky, he succumbs to her charms. Her husband discovers them together and leaves her.

Wirt, the Osbornes' faithful maid.

Mrs. Tinker, the housekeeper at Queen's Crawley.

Lord Southdown, Lady Jane Crawley's brother, a dandified London friend of the Rawdon Crawleys.

Miss Briggs, Miss Crawley's companion and later Becky Sharp's “sheepdog.” She fulfills Becky's need for a female companion so that the little adventuress will have some sort of respectability in the eyes of society.

Bowles, Miss Crawley's butler.

Mrs. Firkins, Miss Crawley's maid. Like the other servants, she is overwhelmed by the overbearing old lady.

Charles Raggles, a greengrocer, at one time an assistant gardener to the Crawley family. Having saved his money, he has bought a greengrocer's shop and a small house in Curzon Street. Becky and Rawdon live there for a time on his charity, unable to pay their rent.

Lord Gaunt, the son of Lord Steyne. He goes insane in his early twenties.

Major O'Dowd, an officer under whom George Osborne and William Dobbin serve. He is a relaxed individual, devoted to his witty and vivacious wife.

Mrs. O'Dowd, the Irish wife of Major O'Dowd. She is an unaffected, delightful woman who tries to marry off her sister-in-law to William Dobbin.

Glorvina O'Dowd, the flirtatious sister of Major O'Dowd. She sets her cap for Dobbin, but because she is only “frocks and shoulders,” nothing comes of the match. She marries Major Posky.

General Tufto, the officer to whom Rawdon Crawley at one time serves as aide-de-camp. He is a typical army man with a mistress and a long-suffering wife.

Mrs. Tufto,hiswife.

Mrs. Bent, his mistress.

Dolly, the housekeeper to the Rawdon Crawleys in London. She fends off tradesmen when they come to demand their money.

Mrs. Clapp, the landlady of the Sedleys after their move from Russell Square.

Polly Clapp, a young former servant of the Sedleys. She takes Dobbin to meet Amelia in the park after the former's ten-year absence in the Indian service.

Mary Clapp, another daughter of the Clapps and Amelia's friend.

Lady Bareacres, a snobby old aristocrat who cuts Becky socially in Brussels. Later, Becky has her revenge when she refuses to sell her horses to the old woman so that she can flee from Napoleon's invading army.

Lady Blanche Thistlewood, Lady Bareacres'daughter and a dancing partner of George Osborne when they were young.

Mr. Hammerdown, the auctioneer at the sale of the Sedley possessions.

Major Martindale, Lieutenant Spatterdash, and Captain Cinqbars, military friends of Rawdon Crawley who are captivated by his charming wife.

Tom Stubble, a wounded soldier who brings news of the Battle of Waterloo to Amelia Sedley and Mrs. O'Dowd. They care for him until he regains his health.

Mr. Creamer, Miss Crawley's physician.

Miss Pinkerton, the snobbish mistress of the academy for girls at which Amelia Sedley and Becky Sharp met. She dislikes Becky intensely.

Miss Jemima Pinkerton, the silly, sentimental sister of the elder Miss Pinkerton. She takes pity on Becky and tries to give her the graduation gift of the academy, a dictionary, but Becky flings it into the mud as her coach drives off.

Miss Swartz, a rich, woolly-haired mulatto student at Miss Pinkerton's School. Because of her immense wealth, she pays double tuition. Later, the Crawley family tries to marry off Rawdon to her, but he already has married Becky.

Mr. Sambo, the Sedleys' black servant.

The Reverend Mr. Crisp, a young curate in Chiswick, enamored of Becky Sharp.

Miss Cutler, a young woman who unsuccessfully sets her cap for Joseph Sedley.

Mr. Fiche, Lord Steyne's confidential man. After Becky's fortunes have begun to decline, he tells her to leave Rome for her own good.

Major Loder, Becky's escort in the later phases of her career.

Categories: Characters