Mrs. Ballinger is the hostess of the Lunch Club, a regular gathering of several society women who discuss literature and other cultural pursuits. She is known for having a mind like a hotel - she possesses a lot of facts, but they flit in and out of her head.
The most snobbish and coldest member of the Lunch Club, Mrs. Plinth resents any perceived snubs to herself and eventually calls for Mrs. Roby's resignation.
A pretty but unintellectual woman who annoys the other members of the club with her lack of social graces. She saves the conversation with Osric Dane by mentioning Xingu, and triumphs over all of the other women with her keen joke.
A famed author that the Lunch Club invites to attend their meeting. Mrs. Dane is proud, haughty, and enjoys making others squirm under her intense gaze and opaque questions. Mrs. Roby's mention of Xingu, however, flummoxes her.
A member of the Lunch Club.
Miss Van Vluyck
A member of the Lunch Club.
A member of the Lunch Club. She is not very intelligent but that is why Mrs. Ballinger and Mrs. Plinth like having her around.
Mrs. Slade ("Roman Fever")
An American society woman, the widow of famous lawyer Delphin Slade, and mother to Jenny. She is proud and rather catty. She delights in shattering her friend Mrs. Ansley's belief that Delphin wrote her a romantic letter decades ago, but her overt rivalry leads to the revelation that Delphin actually fathered Mrs. Ansley's daughter.
An American society woman and mother to Barbara, who is actually the result of Mrs. Ansley's secret affair with Delphin Slade. She is quiet and pensive, and while she does not want to start trouble with Mrs. Slade, her friend's cattiness and spite lead her to confess that Barbara is Delphin's daughter.
Mrs. Slade and Delphin Slade's legitimate daughter. Pretty and well-mannered, but safe and lacking her friend Barbara's dynamism.
The love child of Mrs. Ansley and Delphin Slade who was conceived during a midnight rendezvous in the Colosseum. She is vivacious and beautiful, and has caught the eye of an Italian aviator.
Mrs. Slade's late husband who had a rendezvous with Mrs. Ansley many years ago in Rome and is thus the biological father of Mrs. Ansley's daughter.
Waythorn ("The Other Two")
Waythorn is the male protagonist of "The Other Two." He is initially wary of his new wife's two ex-husbands, but grows to tolerate and even like them as he realizes that neither poses a threat to his marriage. By the end of the story, Waythorn celebrates the virtues his wife has learned from her first two marriages, thinking himself the ultimate beneficiary of her past relationships.
Alice Waythorn is Waythorn's pretty new wife and the ex-wife of Mr. Haskett and Mr. Varick. At first, she seems unaffected by her two ex-husbands, but Mrs. Waythorn's true character emerges as she is forced to confront her past. She is capricious and shallow, which becomes apparent as the short story progresses.
Mrs. Waythorn's glamorous and congenial second ex-husband who ends up becoming one of Mr. Waythorn's clients. Eventually, the two men strike up a friendship.
He is Alice Waythorn's first husband, a quiet and wan man who loves his daughter more than anything else. He reveals his strong morales and good character to Waythorn as the story progresses.
The twelve-year old daughter of Mrs. Waythorn and her first husband, Mr. Haskett.
Paulina Anson ("The Angel at the Grave")
The granddaughter of the great literary figure Orestes Anson dedicates her life to preserving his legacy, even shunning marriage to live in his vast home. Her dedication suffers a blow when she realizes that Dr. Anson's work no longer popular. At the end of the story, though, young journalist George Corby renews her faith by pointing out one of Dr. Anson's groundbreaking discoveries that has been hidden for many years.
A great intellectual and man of letters, who, during his lifetime attains a place in literary history. His granddaughter dedicates her life to maintaining his legacy after his death, but his popularity soon lapses. At the end of the story, however, young journalist George Corby helps Paulina to uncover one of Dr. Anson's old pamphlets, which could have a huge impact on the world and revive his reputation.
The young scholar who arrives at Orestes Anson's home searching for the pamphlet that will revive Dr. Anson's reputation and legitimacy. Corby's enthusiasm for Dr. Anson's work wins over Paulina.
One of Orestes's two daughters. She is not very intellectual.
One of Orestes's two daughters. She is not very intellectual.
Mrs. Lidcote ("Autres Temps")
A middle-aged society woman who divorced her first husband and remarried, causing a scandal that permanently ruined her reputation. She has been living in Florence, trying to forget her past. However, she returns to New York upon hearing that her daughter, Leila, has also divorced and quickly remarried. Times have changed, though, and Leila does not face the same social ostracism that her mother did. However, even changing times cannot rehabilitate Mrs. Lidcote's reputation.
Mrs. Lidcote's daughter, who has taken after her mother and divorced one man to marry another. Unlike her mother, though, Leila is untainted by scandal and has maintained her place in society. She is secretly ashamed of her mother although she plays the role of a modern, liberated woman.
Leila's ex-husband who is also about to remarry.
Leila's second husband who comes from a wealthy and prominent New York family. He is a foreign diplomat who, thanks to Mrs. Lorin Boulger, earns an appointment in Rome.
A member of society and old friend of Mrs. Lidcote's. He professes his love to Mrs. Lidcote and assures her that she is not being ostracized. However, by the end of the story it is clear that he also feels ashamed to be seen with her in society.
Mrs. Lidcote's talkative single cousin, who supports Leila's choices and is embarrassed of Mrs. Lidcote.
Mrs. Lorin Boulger
Mrs. Lidcote's ex-mother-in-law who has made it a ritual to "cut" Mrs. Lidcote ever since the divorce.
A young society girl who speaks to Mrs. Lidcote and seems to enjoy her company. However, Charlotte's mother, Margaret, disapproves and calls Charlotte away when she learns that Mrs. Lidcote is present.
Anson Warley ("After Holbein")
A fastidious and gregarious man much admired by the society set, Warley is also judgmental and callous. He represses his quieter impulses and seeks out social situations that are advantageous to him. It becomes clear, though, that he is experiencing the early stages of dementia and is unaware of it.
An elderly society woman once famed for her lavish dinner parties, she is now afflicted with dementia and believes she is still hosting parties in her home. She prepares for them every night, and her servants and maids help her to keep up the charade.
Mrs. Jaspar's night nurse who often finds cruel amusement in her employer's imaginary dinner parties and Lavinia's overwrought devotion.
Mrs. Jaspar's day nurse.
Mrs. Jaspar's devoted and emotional elderly maid who is fiercely dedicated to her lady and keeps up the charade of the nightly lavish dinner parties.
Mrs. Jaspar's elderly butler who does not show up on the evening that Anson Warley arrives for dinner.
Warley's long-suffering valet who tries to prevent him from going out so often.
Lydia Tillotson ("Souls Belated")
Lydia is a society woman who has just divorced her husband and run off with a writer named Ralph Gannett. As Lydia and Gannett travel through Europe by rail, Lydia is hesitant to marry Gannett because she prides herself on her unconventionality and predicts that marriage will ruin their love. However, she ends up realizing that she wants society's approval more than she had originally believed. At the end of the story, Wharton insinuates that Lydia has agreed to marry Gannett.
Lydia's Tillotson's lover is a writer and a poet who wants to marry her but is surprised that she claims not to want the same. He prefers quiet environments so he can write, so they settle down at a hotel together. Eventually, Lydia agrees to marry Gannett although he admits that some of the passion has left their relationship.
Mrs. Linton is the fake name of Mrs. Cope. She and her lover, Lord Trevanna (publicly 'Mr. Linton') are guests at the same hotel as Lydia and Gannett. One day, Mrs. Linton asks Lydia for her help and when Lydia refuses, Mrs. Linton threatens to reveal that Lydia and Gannett are not married. Mrs. Linton is elegant and confident but also quite conniving.
Mrs. Cope (Mrs. Linton) left her husband for Lord Trevanna (Mr. Linton).
Paul Garnett ("The Last Asset")
A young American reporter based out of London who is traveling in Paris. When his old friend Mrs. Newell asks him to do her a favor, he ponders the ethics of the task while trying not to become another one of Mrs. Newell's compliant marionettes.
A once-wealthy American society woman who is trying to orchestrate her daughter's wedding to a French count to regain her place on the social ladder. She is cold, calculating, and manipulative, which always seems to get her what she wants.
The only daughter of Mrs. and Mr. Newell. Garnett initially perceives her to be rather lifeless, but she turns out to be quite protective of her father and emphatically prevents her social-climbing mother from meddling in his life.
The estranged husband of Mrs. Newell, now living a bachelor's life in Paris. He does not want to re-engage with his wife, as there is clearly some bad blood between them. However, he eventually comes to their daughter's wedding to make his child happy.
A disdainful nobleman who hopes that his reputation will be restored through his friendship with Mrs. Newell and her daughter's marriage into a noble family.
Roman Fever and Other Stories Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for Roman Fever and Other Stories is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.
Marriage is one of the most common themes in Edith Wharton's novels and short stories. The author does not reflect one immutable view on the institution, but rather, she takes care to present marriage in many different permutations with...