The heroine of the novel. Evelina is seventeen years old, virtuous, sweet, innocent, and ignorant of the ways of the fashionable society that she is entering. She is also, however, intelligent and intuitive, and is thus able to identify vice and ill-breeding. She is ultimately able to emerge relatively unscathed from her London adventures, and ends up with a good husband. Though she is by birth a Belmont (daughter of Sir John Belmont), she uses her mother's family name of Anville.
Reverend Arthur Villars is Evelina's guardian. He was her mother's guardian, and was present at Evelina's birth. Mr. Villars is very traditional, and fears that innocent Evelina's entry into fashionable London society will bring disaster. He counsels and advises her about the dangerous behavior she observes in others. He ultimately approves of her decisions once the obstacles to her happiness fade away.
The mother of Mrs. Mirvan, and the grandmother of Maria. Lady Howard resides at Howard Grove, and is an old friend of Mr. Villars. It is Lady Howard who helps introduce Evelina into society by inviting her to Howard Grove and then to London with her family.
The wife of Captain Mirvan and the mother of Maria Mirvan. She takes Evelina with her to London. She ignores her husband's gross behavior.
The daughter of Captain and Mrs. Mirvan, she is Evelina's age and her closest female friend. She is referred to primarily as Miss Mirvan in the novel.
The husband of Mrs. Mirvan, and father to Maria Mirvan. At novel's opening, he has been away at sea for seven years. He is incredibly vulgar, coarse, cruel, intolerant, and malicious. He hates foreigners and fops, and delights in torturing Madame Duval and Mr. Lovel. Evelina can barely stand his presence, and writes often of his embarrassing behavior.
A young aristocrat who first meets Evelina at a London assembly and pursues her throughout the novel. Lord Orville stands in sharp contrast to the other men of the novel; he is well-mannered, polite, virtuous, protective, sensible, rational, and respectful. He admires Evelina's beauty and sweetness, and takes pains to protect her in vexing situations. He also reveals a disinterest in family history by proposing to her. Brother to Lady Larpent.
Sir Clement Willoughby is an English baronet who pursues Evelina relentlessly and tastelessly throughout the novel. After meeting her at an assembly and torturing her when she declines to dance, he continues to create situations to be around her. While he does possess some charm and conversational charm, he is foppish, superficial, and obnoxious. His behavior towards her is excessive and unacceptable, both to her and hopefully to the reader, as it is motivated by lust and not respect.
A London fop and member of Lord Orville's social circle. He is initially attracted to Evelina but insults her after he is rejected. He is disliked by several people, including Evelina, Lord Orville, and Captain Mirvan.
Evelina's grandmother, Madame Duval is a Frenchwoman who travels to England to claim guardianship of the girl from Mr. Villars. She is bold, brassy, opinionated, ill-bred, and irrational. Her desire to educate Evelina into high society is counteracted by her poor taste and annoying relations the Branghtons. She uses the threat of withholding Evelina's inheritance as a tool to keep the girl under her control, but ultimately allows Evelina to stand as heiress after the girl's marriage. She is also presented as primary antagonist to Captain Mirvan.
Monsieur Du Bois
A friend and traveling companion of Madame Duval, Monsieur Du Bois is friendly and respectful, though he speaks very little English. Madame Duval considers him to be her suitor, and for much of the novel he is one of the few in her circle whom Evelina can stand. His kindness is somewhat tempered by his attempts to seduce Evelina later in the novel.
Sir John Belmont
Evelina's father, and a baron. He is initially characterized as a cruel reprobate for denying his marriage to Caroline Evelyn (Evelina's mother), behavior that led to her death. It seems he has written his daughter off, though later revelations show he was the victim of a nursemaid's lie, which convinced him to raise Miss Belmont as his daughter and heiress. He is redeemed by novel's end by his willingness to accept Evelina as his true daughter.
Father to Young Branghton, Miss Branghton, and Miss Polly, he is also the nephew of Madame Duval. He is a London silversmith, and generally unlikeable for his xenophobia, class pretensions, and cheapness.
The eldest daughter of Mr. Branghton, and sister to Young Branghton and Miss Polly. She is haughty, irritable, and unkind to Evelina.
Miss Polly Branghton
The youngest sister to Young Branghton and Miss Branghton, and daughter to Mr. Branghton. She is pretty, superficial, and ignorant. Mistress to Mr. Brown.
The son of Mr. Branghton, and the brother of Miss Branghton and Polly Branghton. Young Branghton pursues Evelina awkwardly, believing he will marry her. She finds him weak and overly fond of money, as well as prone to noise and disturbance.
Initially considered by his landlords the Branghtons to be a "Scottish poet," Mr. Macartney is later revealed to be Evelina's brother by birth. He is plagued with the tragedy of having been denied the hand of his beloved in Paris by her father Sir John Belmont, who he later learns is his own father. By keeping him from pursuing a life of crime, Evelina reveals her angelic side and engineers events that ultimately lead to her own happiness. When he learns that Miss Belmont is not actually his sister, he is free to marry her.
A lodger in the Branghton home, Mr. Smith is forward in his attempts to seduce Evelina. He, like the Branghtons, is coarse and disrespectful.
A newly-titled nobleman who keeps company with fashionable London society, including Lord Orville, Lady Louisa (his fiancee), Mr. Lovel, Mrs. Beaumont, and others. He is bold and uncouth, and treats Lady Louisa with barely-disguised contempt as he attempts to seduce Evelina.
The sister of Lord Orville and the fiancee of Lord Merton, Lady Louisa Larpant is cool, affected, and languorous. She ignores Evelina and seems irritated by her brother's attention to her, until she later learns that Evelina is actually noble by birth.
A friend of Mr. Villars who brings Evelina to Bristol when the latter shows signs of illness. Mrs. Selwyn is remarkable for her frank, masculine, and ironical attitude. She is prone to satire and invokes the ire of her companions for speaking the truth and avoiding any pretensions to feminine softness or decorum. She is instrumental in bringing together Sir John Belmont and his true daughter, Evelina.
A kinswoman of Lord Orville and his sister Lady Louisa, Mrs. Beaumont hosts them both during their stay in Bristol. It is there that many of Evelina's adventures in Bristol transpire. Mrs. Beaumont believes noble birth and virtue to be synonymous.
The young woman initially believed to be Sir John Belmont's daughter. She is later revealed to be the daughter of a nursemaid who lied to Sir Belmont after Mr. Villars took responsibility for Evelina (his true daughter). She ends up married to Mr. Macartney.
A fashionable London friend of Mrs. Mirvan. Mrs. Stanley hosts the balls where Evelina first encounters the difficulties of high society.
Miss Polly's lover. A bit of a doofus, though sweet and generally unoffensive to Evelina.
Mr. Villars's housekeeper, and formerly Evelina's nurse.
Evelina Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for Evelina is a great
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Evelina followed the young man upstairs to stop him from committing suicide. She rushed into his room and grabbed his arm, falling down by his side. He was utterly shocked, and Evelina grew embarrassed. She tried to take the pistols, imploring him...
Evelina, or, the History of a Young Lady's Entrance into the World study guide contains a biography of Frances Burney, literature essays, quiz questions, major themes, characters, and a full summary and analysis.