The Miss Alans
Miss Catherine and Teresa Alan are elderly spinsters whom Lucy meets at the Pension Bertolini in Florence. Later Lucy invites them to come stay at Cissie Villa, but Cecil intervenes and invites the Emersons there instead. The Miss Alans represent good breeding and propriety, but on the other hand, they have an adventurous spirit. At the end of the story, they embark on a trip to Greece and Turkey. It is Miss Catherine who points out, while talking of Mr. Emerson, that “there are people who do things that are most indelicate, and yet at the same time—beautiful.”
Charlotte is Lucy’s older, unmarried cousin and chaperone on the trip to Italy. Prim and proper, she strongly disapproves of the Emersons and thwarts Lucy’s involvement with George. Charlotte represents the repressive polite society of the Edwardians that holds Lucy back from living a true and authentic life. However, her friendship with the flamboyant Miss Lavish and her mysterious role in reuniting Lucy and George at the end of the novel hint that there is more to Charlotte than meets the eye.
Reverend Arthur Beebe
Reverend Beebe, who becomes the rector of Lucy’s parish, is a wise and likeable clergyman with a youthful and playful spirit. He sees the potential in Lucy to live an extraordinary life, and does not approve of her choice of Cecil, whom he sees as ascetic. In Italy, Mr. Beebe is one of the only guests at the Pension Bertolini who is social with the Emersons, although, perhaps because of his conservatism, he does not quite approve of their influence on Lucy.
Minnie is the thirteen-year-old niece of Reverend Beebe who comes to stay with the Honeychurches at Windy Corner.
Signora Bertolini is the proprietor of the Pension Bertolini in Florence. She is from England and has a Cockney accent, which disappoints Lucy who had been hoping for a more truly Italian experience while in Florence.
The Italian carriage driver who takes the English group on a ride through the hills of Florence has an important role in the story as a champion of romance. He is the person who leads Lucy to George, saying, “Courage! Courage and love.” The driver probably witnesses the kiss, which worries Charlotte, who thinks he may tell about it in the taverns of Florence.
Reverend Cuthbert Eager
Reverend Eager, an English clergyman living in Florence, is a supercilious man who affects the air of an intellectual. Lucy first meets him at the Santa Croce cathedral when his lecture on the frescoes of Giotto is interrupted by Mr. Emerson. Reverend Eager spreads gossip that Mr. Emerson “murdered his wife in the sight of God,” when this is far from the truth. Lucy despises Reverend Eager as an insincere, conceited snob.
Mr. Emerson, named for the transcendentalist philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson, represents a free thinker. Formerly a journalist who wrote for socialist newspapers, Mr. Emerson is a man whose ideas fly in the face of the strict class distinctions of Edwardian society. He means well, but constantly offends those around him because of his failure to follow societal rules. Reverend Eager blames Mr. Emerson as having committed a terrible sin because he refused to have his son baptized. However, Mr. Emerson’s devotion is not to what is “proper” but to what he believes is right, and he has raised his son to think the same. It is Mr. Emerson who teaches Lucy to throw the etiquette out the window and follow her heart.
George Emerson is a melancholy young man troubled by the questions of the universe. His mother having died while he was young, he was raised by his freethinking father. After witnessing a murder with Lucy Honeychurch, George finds a new will to live. George’s passionate, earthy, and open-minded nature contrasts with the ascetic, cerebral, and snobbish personality of Cecil.
Freddy is Lucy’s nineteen-year-old brother. Since Mr. Honeychurch is dead, he is the man of the house at Windy Corner, but he is really just a boy. He is interested in anatomy and leaves bones lying about the house, and enjoys singing silly songs and teasing Lucy. Freddy dislikes Cecil because of his uptight and snobbish attitude. In Freddy’s mind, Cecil “is the sort of man who will not wear another fellow’s cap.”
Lucy, the heroine of the novel, is a young English girl on the brink of discovering herself. Having grown up in a comfortably well-off family on a sleepy country estate outside of London, Lucy is ready to experience the adventure and passion that is to be found in the wider world. A trip to Italy awakens something in her. However, unsure of herself, Lucy struggles to do what is “proper” in the eyes of Edwardian polite society, rather than listen to her heart. Lucy’s capacity for heroism comes out through her piano playing, which reveal an expression entirely her own. As the Reverend Beebe observes of her, “If Lucy Honeychurch ever takes to live as she plays, it will be very exciting—both for us and for her.”
Mrs. Honeychurch, mother to Lucy and Freddy, is a typical provincial lady, fussing over the servants and minor household mishaps at the family’s country estate, Windy Corner. By her own admission, she is “neither artistic nor literary nor intellectual nor musical,” but in her way she is very wise. She wants to like Cecil because he is clever, rich, and well-connected, but she cannot tolerate his supercilious attitude.
Miss Eleanor Lavish
Miss Lavish is a novelist whom Lucy and Charlotte meet in Florence. Miss Lavish is busy writing a steamy novel about Italy, the plot of which involves “love, murder, abduction, revenge.” The novel is eventually published with the title Under a Loggia and contains a scene inspired by the kiss between George and Lucy. Miss Lavish styles herself a Radical with democratic views, but her view of the “simple” Italians seems patronizing, and her gossip about the other English tourists reveals her as petty.
Sir Harry Otway
Sir Harry is a prominent man in Lucy’s sleepy country town. Well-meaning but a bit of a snob, Sir Harry has purchased the two villas Cissie and Albert and is looking for “suitable” tenants for Cissie—that is, nobody from the lower classes. Cecil thinks Sir Harry intolerably small-minded and vulgar, pointing out that he would be a nobody in London.
Cecil becomes Lucy’s fiancé after spending time with her in Italy. Good-looking and intelligent, he is also arrogant and supercilious, and often comically uptight. Having been raised in the upper-class of London, Cecil looks down on Lucy’s family and the people in her village. He thinks of women as mysterious creatures to be admired in the abstract, as figures in a painting, rather than as people equal to himself, with their own thoughts and ideas. Lucy realizes that he is not capable of loving her for herself, and breaks off their engagement.
Mrs. Vyse is Cecil’s mother. Her home is well-appointed and she entertains the descendants of famous people. She is not a bad person, but is so caught up in the snobbish society of London that she no longer has the ability to think for herself. Mrs. Vyse likes Lucy and thinks that with the influence of Italy and London, the girl is losing her provincial habits and becoming refined, “purging herself of the Honeychurch taint.”