Characters

The characters in the novel can be divided into four groups:

  1. Harbour Terrace Establishment: Hocken, Hunken, Bowldler, Burt
  2. Chandlery: Rogers; Tabb
  3. Farmers: Bosenna; Middlecoat
  4. Others: Toy, Bussa, Philp, Benny, the Nanjulians

Captain Caius (or Cai) Hocken

Read more

DOB: September 29, Michaelmas, 1842

POB: Troy

Commenced seafaring: 1856, aged 14

Retired: 1896, aged 54

Marital status: single

Status: Captain and majority owner of the barquetine Hannah Hoo

Crew: Nathaniel Berry, Ben Price and William Tregaskis

Returned to port: April 1896

Lodges: Mr Oke of the Ship Inn, Trafalgar Square, Troy

Residence from May, 1896: 2 Harbour Terrace, leased from Mrs Bosenna of Rilla Farm, through John Rogers, at £25 per year, paid quarterly.

Financial position: Various investments handled by ship’s-chandler John Rogers of Troy. Holds 30 shares as majority owner, probably with John Rogers, of the Hannah Hoo, to be redeemed following sale. Rogers advises proceeds in’safe ord’nary investments’  at 4%, bringing in £300 per year (p.17)

First meeting with Tobias Hunken: November 21, 1880, Rotterdam.

Only meeting with Robert Samuel Bosenna: in a boxing tent at Summercourt Fair.

Positions held after April 1896:

  • Member of the Regatta Committee
  • School Manager (co-opted to replace John Rogers) from September 1896
  • Steward at the Agricultural Demonstration run by the Technical Instruction Committee of the County Council.
  • President of the Stevedores’ Regatta, 1897
  • Chairman of the Parish Council (elected) with responsibility for the Jubilee celebration of June 1897

Has lessons in elocution from Peter Benny.

Literary forerunner: Captain Caius Hocken is a recreation of Captain John Barker of His Majesty’s Frigate Wasp in The Blue Pavilions, a novel of 1891. On October 11, 1673, Barker retired from the sea to the port of Harwich. In the local barbers he hears of the death of Roderick Salt and decides to seek the hand of his widow, Margaret. He finds himself in competition with friend and neighbour Captain Jeremy Runacles, who has also just retired.

Captain Caius Hocken is similar in some respects to Farmer Boldwood in Thomas Hardy’s Far From the Madding Crowd. He abjures women, being committed to his profession, until late in life, when a female advance leaves him smitten to the point of folly. He recovers while Boldwood does not. Mrs Bosenna enjoys the attention of the sea-captains while having her eye on wealthy Farmer Middlecoat. Hocken is a more balanced person than Boldwood with interests in the community and a sanguine temperament. At the close of the novel the damage withCaptain Hunken is repaired and harmony is restored. In Hardy, fate brings Boldwood to despair.

Hocken is not a deep character. He is not introspective and does not analyse his emotions. There is an honesty and integrity, as with his renunciation of Mrs Bosenna in chapter twenty-five, about him which makes him popular in Troy in spite of his follies regarding Mrs Bosenna. Hocken is a man who acts and shows his character through his actions.

Captain Tobias Hunken

Read more

POB: Padstow on the north Cornish coast

Retired: April, 1986

Marital Status: single

Occupation: Captain of the Salcombe built barquetine I’ll Away

First met with Captain Caius Hocken: Rotterdam, November 21, 1880

Residence from May 1896: 1, Harbour Terrrace, Troy, leased from Mrs Bosenna of Rilla Farm

Finances: His papers are held in the safe of John Rogers at the chandlery. He is not so well off as Caius Hocken

Physical description: Bearded, of substantial build, once a prize fighter seen by Mr Bosenna at Summercourt Fair. The owner of a talking parrot.

Character: Phlegmatic unless roused, with little knowledge of women. He has the principles and the moral courage to stand up to John Rogers over the loading of vessels to below Plimsoll mark (Chapter XXII). Is well-liked and respected in Troy.

Positions held: Parish councillor.

In the novel Tobias Hunken acts as a foil to Caius Hocken. They are similar in most respects and the tension between them is the product of an external cause, the manipulation of Mrs Bosenna. However, she plays upon a certain acquisitive propensity, the attraction of the farm. Hocken’s character is revealed in his actions. He is sure of himself and the world in which he moves, with little need for reflection or introspection.

Mrs Sarah Bowdler

Read more

Origin: Probably London

Age: Middle to Late

Marital Status: Married to a one time fitter in a ladies establishment who left her but is still alive.

Relations: A sister called Martha who lives locally but is rarely mentioned.

Former occupation: Once a kitchen maid at Eaton Square, London

Speech: London

Character: She is honest and sound-hearted but given to flights of emotion and fancies. She is not a gossip, providing simple and effective service to the captains with commendable loyalty, even when they quarrel. She believes herself to have come down in the world, thus necessitating respect in her employers. Palmerston Burt does well under her authority. Maybe it is thanks to her that the captains’ quarrel does not destroy the household. It is quite possible that Q modelled Mrs Bowldler on someone he knew, possibly during his residence in London.

Palmerston (Pam) Pam Burt

Read more

Name: Palmerston Burt was named after the famous Victorian politician Lord Palmerston but that is where the similarity ends.

Background: Palmerston is second servant after Mrs Bowldler and was obtained by Fancy Tabb from the workhouse at Tregarrick (Bodmin). His father had been mate of the

Tartar Girl, a coal boat owned by John Rogers. The craft had foundered in 1891 coming from South Shields. There is an implication of overloading. With the loss of the father, Mrs Burt had placed Palmerston in the workhouse as unable to feed and clothe, a humiliation which affected his self-confidence. (Maybe this suggests that the boat was uninsured). He is amiable, over-sensitive, good at arithmetic and literate, with a secret desire to be a writer. Fancy perceives his potential and his weaknesses. Both had suffered at the hands of John Rogers which creates a bond between them. In possibly marrying him, Fancy Tabb sees a way out of her servitude and of establishing a position in society.

Palmerston Burt is a person and a symbol. He symbolises the innate drive in the young to learn, adapt and overcome difficulties when freed from adult oppressiveness and placed in an ordered environment, which Mrs Bowldler provides. This gives a good insight into Q’s educational ideas— the innate desire to learn when education is facilitated but not imposed. Although damaged by the behaviour of adults, Palmerston does not give in to victimhood or the idea of fate, but learns even in negative situations.

John Rogers the Ship’s-Chandler

Read more

The characters in the novel can be divided into two general categories. There are those, like Captains Hocken and Hunken, Simeon Toy, Peter Benny and William Philp, who are as they appear on the surface. There are others, like John Rogers, Mrs Bosenna and possibly Mrs Bowldler, who are more complex. If Hocken and Hunken is seen as ‘pure comedy’, as Brittain suggests (p.43), it is difficult to see how the plot accommodates John Rogers. He is not as morally corrupt as Dr Beauregard in Poison Island, Roderick Salt in The Blue Pavilions or the steward of Gleys in  The Splendid Spur; but he is morally ambiguous, with avarice as his besetting sin.

Initially, John Rogers is presented as an honest ship’s-broker and chandler who has scrupulously handled the financial affairs of Caius Hocken for 12 years and who arranges the leases of 1 and 2 Harbour Terrace for the captains with Mrs Bosenna. Thanks to Rogers’ astuteness, Hocken retires financially secure. However, when Hocken lunches with Rogers, the reader is introduced to Fancy Tabb, the young servant, and Elijah Tabb, her father. There is something mysterious, even dubious, about Rogers’ hold over them.

The reader’s suspicions are enhanced when Rogers’ position on the School Board is introduced. His sole aim appears to be to keep down the school rate and ensure his control of the coal contract. We learn that William Philp, and indeed Mrs Bowldler, believe Rogers to be suspect in delivering full weight, a suspicion Hocken later sees as justified. Rogers is therefore concerned to keep Philp off the board which means preventing an election he is sure Philp would win. He suggests resigning in favour of Hocken who could be co-opted without the necessity of an election; which is what happens (Chapter XI). Q’s intimate knowledge of the working of the education system is revealed here.

These shenanigans appear at one level to be no more than provincial satire, squabbles in the local community, as found in Troy Town. In fact, these are symptoms of a deeper malaise. To fully understand the darker side of John Rogers, some knowledge of shipping law and its evasion prior to the Shipping Act of 1906 is required and this is not generally found in the reading public today.

The reader first comes to the problem in Chapter III, ‘Tabb’s Child’. Elijah and Fancy Tabb, father and daughter, are controlled by Rogers at the chandlery. Elijah Tabb had once been the skipper of one of Roger’s boats called the Uncle and Aunt. Elijah Tabb had become involved with Rogers in a speculative venture (p. 264) which had failed, resulting in Elijah and Fancy being financially dependent upon the chandler.

Then the reader is introduced to Palmerston Burt who comes from the Tregarrick Workhouse to act as second servant to Mrs Bowldler at Harbour Terrace. In chapter eight, the reader learns that Burt’s father had been a crew member of a coal boat belonging to Rogers calledthe Tartar Girl which had foundered in 1891 sailing out of South Shields. Presumably, the boat was overloaded and any insurance did not cover the crew. As a result Mrs Burt was left with no male income and Palmerston had to be disposed of at a workhouse.

Thirdly, there is the case of the Saltypool. In Chapter XXII, Rogers challenges Tobias Hunken over the ‘Harbour Board, tryin’ to get the Commissioners to regylate the ladin’ of vessels’ (p.242). Hunken identified the Saltypool, on which the captains had unwittingly placed £200 of Mrs Bosenna’s money, as one of the worst examples. He had observed it leaving No. 3 jetty with a cargo of china clay well below Plimsoll mark. Rogers reacts with surprise: ‘the old sinner’s dismay was clearly honest.’ Hunken claims to be protecting the underwriters— he assumes the vessel to have been insured— and the seamen.

The reader learns in Chapter XXIV of the Saltypool being run ‘uninsured’. Its foundering near Philadelphia resulted in a total loss, causing John Rogers to have a second and near fatal stroke. Not only was it run uninsured, possibly because Rogers could no longer afford the insurance, it was the last vessel remaining to him. At one time he had been a successful speculator with a number of ships to his name. But misfortune had by 1896 left him with the Saltypool alone. It was the only available craft for him to place the £200 the captains had given him from Mrs Bosenna. All was forfeit.

As someone involved in the running of Fowey Harbour, Q was fully aware of the abuses in the sailing of merchant ships for which the various overseeing bodies and the harbour master— Bussa in the case of Troy— along with the ship-owners and sea-captains and mates, were equally responsible. In the novel Hocken and Hunken we have not romanticism or comedy but historical fact.

Fancy Tabb

Read more

Q’s educational activities and observations were based on his profound interest in the life of the child. At the time Hocken and Hunken was written he had been a member of the Cornwall Education Committee for a decade. He refused to see the mind of the child as a tabula rasa upon which adults had the right to impose their theories and beliefs— literary, scientific or religious. The exam-factory nature of the modern educational system would not have impressed him. He saw each child as motivated by an instinct to learn and explore, a process supported by the rational structure and order of the universe and its essential goodness. (The idea of a ‘chance’ universe leads to very different conclusions). From adults it required not imposition but opportunity and guidance.

In the moral realm he thought similarly. As with many early Church Fathers, he saw human nature as part of a God-given order, and therefore good, and not the creation of a demi-god or of nefarious chance. Q was a Christian not a secular humanist.

Q was not always impressed by what he observed in academic life, neither when he went to Oxford in 1882 nor when he was appointed to Cambridge at the time Hocken and Hunken was being published. Just as in education he deplored the Mr Gradgrinds whom Dickens pilloried in Hard Times, so in academic life he deplored the influence of Hegelianism, Marxism, Freudianism and popular Darwinsism. Such influences are absent from Q’s town of Troy where life is too vital to be conditioned by theory.

Fancy Tabb is one of Q’s most intriguing creations. The reader has to assess her character from her speech and actions. She is free from introspection and the tendency to interior monologue. Q includes a series of curious observations regarding her, such as twitching movements when excited. These are easy to overlook. It is difficult to believe Fancy to be pure imagination, being almost certainly made up of at least one local Fowey character.

Fancy appears to have everything against her, yet she is neither vindictive nor vengeful. She is the antithesis of Dr Beauregard from Poison Island who was reared through the charity of others and came to see himself as intellectually superior to them, resulting in the desire for revenge. At the conclusion of Hocken and Hunken Fancy is in a position to take revenge but acts benevolently. Maybe Fancy Tabb is different because, unlike Beauregard, she has not rejected a religious view of life.

Q does not reveal her age. Although she is small Mrs Bosenna observes: ‘You’ve grown such a lot lately.’ (p. 29). As she works full-time for John Rogers she must be past school age, which was about 12. Rogers would not have wished to draw the attention of the magistrate to himself, as did Farmer Bosenna, by employing the under-aged. Presumably she learned to read and write at Troy Board School before leaving by arrangement of her father to work for Rogers. So although she was a ‘small short-skirted handmaiden’ (p. 18) who wears a ‘hat and small cloak’ (p. 216), she must have been in her early teens and reasonably robust. If nothing else Rogers fed her, so malnutrition was not an issue, as it certainly was for some in the 1890s.

Fancy Tabb is introduced to the reader in Chapter III ‘Tabb’s Child’ where John Rogers summons her with a handbell. She immediately speaks with authority regarding his smoking and drinking, with Rogers referring to her as a ‘tyrant’; yet with her departure he terms her a ‘nonesuch’, the daughter of a ‘brace of fools’, who had been obtained for a bad debt (pp. 1920). When she leaves the chandlery in the company of Caius Hocken, the captain recognises her father, who is keeping the store, as Elijah Tabb, former master of the Uncle and Aunt.

Fancy conducts Hocken to the prospective leasehold property where they encounter the owner, Mrs Bosenna, who had derived from a level of society only a little superior to that of Fancy and who Fancy can therefore see through. Apart from her figuring in a dream in the following chapter, Fancy disappears from the novel until Chapter VII, where she introduces the captain to Mrs Bowldler and Palmerston Burt, the prospective servants. These Fancy appears to have chosen, in the case of Palmerston for more than one reason, as the reader discovers later.

At the commencement of Chapter VIII the reader learns how Fancy has to attend John Rogers for all but two hours a day. The reader also learns of Mrs Bowldler’s sister Martha, and of Palmerston’s father having been lost aboard the Tartar Girl, a boat owned by John Rogers. Fancy is used to fill in details of importance later in the novel.

In Chapter XV, Fancy returns to 2 Harbour Cottage to become aware of the growing conflict between the captains. However, her reason for returning is to propose marriage to Palmerston Burt, something he hears with consternation.

In Chapter XVII we return to the normal course of affairs with Fancy attending John Rogers as Philp’s order for coal is bagged in his presence. Along comes Tobias Hunken, just in time to see Philp deceived by Rogers. Fancy looks silently on. She is less silent in Chapter XX when she reads to John Rogers an account of the ploughing contest between Hocken and Hunken which had been written by Shake Benny from information provided by William Philp. Rogers shows Hunken the account in the Troy Herald and Fancy takes the captain to Philp’s residence, waiting outside to hear the altercation, although farce is the only result.

Fancy comes centre stage in Chapter XX, ‘Fancy Brings News’. This is on the evening of the Passage Regatta, an event she appears not to have attended owing to her duties at the chandlery. The ‘News’ is revelatory, determining the rest of the novel in four directions of varying importance.

Firstly, the reader observes the developing relationship between Fancy and Palmerston, probably the least important item. Secondly, Fancy reveals how Rogers had involved her father in a speculation which went wrong, but had subsequently minimally provided for them. Thirdly, Fancy reveals how Rogers ran the Saltypool uninsured. Fourthly, that Captain Hunken’s securities had disappeared from Rogers’ safe. All this follows from the earlier news of the foundering of the Saltypool. Financial catastrophe appears to beckon for Hunken as it has for Elijah Tabb, and all through Rogers. This results in Fancy pointing a finger at Hocken for influencing Hunken in trusting the chandler.

In the following chapter the force of Fancy’s argument imposes itself upon Hocken, leading him to renounce Mrs Bosenna. In the final chapter, Fancy stands morally superior to all other characters, with the exception of Peter Benny. She supports Rogers even though he is totally incapacitated, has been unscrupulous and is helpless before her. Q rarely imposes religious ideas in his novels, but this points directly to the ‘Sermon on the Mount’.

Farmer Bosenna

Read more

First Name: Robert (p.52) and or Samuel (pp. 93, 203)

Farm: Rilla Farm, Troy

Born: 1830

Died: 1895

Marital Status: Husband of Mrs Bosenna. Relatively late in life Bosenna married an attractive young woman of humble parentage from Holsworthy in north-west Devon. Possibly he met her while attending Holsworthy market. They had no children. Whether he was married before is unknown but no children again resulted.

He was a capable, even scientific, farmer and an astute investor, favouring Egyptian 3% stock. He also enjoyed watching prize-fighting, smuggled tobacco and employed child labour. A magistrate fined him 5s for employing children to pick his apples when legally they should have been in school. The discovery was made when one of them broke his arm falling from a tree.

Bosenna liked drinking in Troy on a Saturday night, regularly returning home drunk. On the final occasion he fell from his horse at the Four Turnings and died before being discovered by a farm hand sent to help him to Rilla.

The reader does not meet Bosenna, the information about him being provided for the purpose of throwing light on Mrs Bosenna. In a novel full of characters, the loss of Bosenna is to be regretted but is not fatal. He is one of Q’s 'might have beens'.

Q’s grandfather, Dr Jonathan Couch, married for a third time and to a woman much younger than himself. The theme of disparities of age in marriage is one running through many of Q’s novels. 

Mrs Bosenna

Read more

Mrs Bosenna fits two categories commonly found in Q’s stories.

1.   The woman of humble origins who through her own sagacity marries into wealth and prospers in the role.

2. The younger woman who marries an elderly man.

The first can be seen in Shining Ferry. Lady Killiow of Damelioc (Boconnoc) in Cornwall had been before her marriage to the second Lord Killiow a London actress called Polly Wilkins. When Lord Killiow died in 1850, she ran Damelioc through her steward John Rosewarne of Hall and on his death Peter Benny of Troy— who also appears in Hocken and Hunken. As an actress she was more than capable of acting the part as Lady Killiow. Mrs Bosenna was not an actress but the daughter, it appears, of a landless labourer.

Linnet Lewarne of Troy in Q’s last and unfinished novel Castle Dor married the elderly landlord of the Rose and Anchor. The result is less successful as she falls in love with young Amyot Trestane. The problem of the younger woman marrying the ageing man is also found in the short story The Haunted Dragoon, where Madam Noy falls for a dashing dragoon and poisons her husband, Mrs  Bosenna, however, tolerates her husband, who kills himself, enabling her to marry at her own wish, although it is still more for money than love.

In Chapter IV the reader learns that Mrs Bosenna had been reared at Holsworthy in north-west Devon and had churned ‘many hundredwights of butter’ with her own hands. In other words, she had been a dairy maid, possibly on the farm of Sir Brampton Goldsworthy of Halberton Court. Mrs Bosenna had gone up in the world as Mrs Bowldler had gone down. How she had encountered Robert Bosenna is unknown, but it was probably at Holsworthy market.

On the death off Robert Bosenna, Mrs Bosenna had taken over the running of the farm, something that caused less stir at Troy than Bathsheba Everdene encountered when she took on the farm in Dorset. Widows running a farm in Cornwall were far from rare.

Q indicates that marriage to Robert Bosenna was not altogether easy, at least initially. Presumably the service took place in Holsworthy. On repairing to Rilla Farm the climbing roses greeted her, ‘an old man’s bride’, smoothing ‘some rebellion of young blood and helped to reconcile her to a lot which, for a shrewd and practical damsel, was, after all, not unenviable.’ (p. 200).

Her looks must have attracted Bosenna, but a farmer’s wife also needs to be ‘shrewd’ and ‘practical’. When conducting Caius Hocken around Rilla Farm, in Chapter III, she exhibits knowledge of animal husbandry, field drainage and the work of the dairy. This reveals her upbringing in farm-work. She was well able to run the establishment following the death of her husband. No farm manager is indicated, although there possibly was one. A good, practical intelligence is suggested, along with a degree of reading in current agricultural literature. Bosenna must have been a good farmer, leaving the establishment in a prosperous state, but she had taken over in a seamless transition.

 

Farmer Middlecoat

Read more

Mr Middlecoat is younger than Mrs Bosenna and has his farm adjoining Rilla. Uniting the two freeholds is in the interests of both, but Mrs Bosenna wishes to command the arrangement. Her relationship with the two captains is a ploy to put her in a stronger position with Middlecoat, one she exploits at the end of Chapter XII. In Chapter XXI, Hocken observed Middlecoat leaving Rilla ‘angry as a bull’, maybe having been turned down by Mrs Bosenna, although the lady claims the conversation to have been about the auction propposed for January 4, 1897. At the auction Middlecoat endeavours to impress Mrs Bosenna. Yet they appear in collusion. By the time of the Jubilee Day they are united.

Simeon Toy, Hairdresser

Read more

When in The Blue Pavilions Captain John Barker comes into Harwich in October 1673, having returned from the Dutch Wars, he immediately repairs to the barbers to have a shave and hear the local news. When Captain Caius Hocken comes into Troy he repairs to Simeon Toy’s for the same purpose. He hears of the widowhood of Mrs Bosenna of Rilla Farm just as Barker hears of the widowhood of Meg Salt. It is through Toy that we learn of the background to the marriage of the Bosennas and the nature of Farmer Bosenna’s death.

In Chapter II, Q was historically correct in identifying the post office and the barbers as the two centres of local information. Toy as a character is nothing in himself but he is essential to the development of the plot.

Peter Bussa, Quaymaster

Read more

Peter Bussa strikes the reader in Chapter I as a figure of fun, the typical relaxed quaymaster of a small provincial port. Yet it is this type of laxity which Dr Hammer castigates in the novella Ia, where refuse on the quay contributes to the spread of disease. When Bussa is identified as having disregarded the Harbour Commissioners’ bye-laws, Q knew exactly what the bye-laws were and why they were important because he was chairman of the commissioners of Fowey harbour. Interestingly, although Troy was a small provincial port, it was a very busy one and had been for over two thousand years, even into neolithic times.

It is Bussa who is ultimately responsible for the discharge of ballast into the harbour and the broken crane. More importantly, he is complicit in the activities of John Rogers in allowing overladen boats to come and go from the jetties.

In Chapter IX, the reader discovers Bussa to be the secretary of the Regatta Committee, who had some years before overseen the fireworks display on the town quay with hilarious consequences. Bussa is presented as public spirited but incompetent and inefficient, yet sufficiently well-liked for the quay to work after a fashion. Q sees both side of Bussa.

William Philp

Read more

Even more essential to the development of the plot than Simeon Toy is the 60-year-old William Philp, invariably referred to simply as Philp. It is Toy who sums him up: ‘Philp don’t mean any harm: he just makes mischief like a bee making honey.’ (p. 99). Yet he makes mischief for the good and bad alike and is not unpopular.

We first meet Philp at the barber’s shop in Chapter II, having just come from the post office where he has been reading the postcards and conversing with the postmistress. He informs the company of the imminent arrival of Captain Tobias Hunken and the cost of leasing one and two Harbour Terrace  as £25 per annum. This leads Toy into his disquisition on the death of Farmer Bosenna and the origin of his widow. Between Toy and Philp the reader receives the necessary background for the rest of the novel.

Philp is the one person Rogers fears. It is Philp who suspects that Rogers fails to give full weight in coal; and Philp’s election to the School Board might threaten Rogers’ coal contract, an election Philp is popular enough to effect. Philp is a gossip but an honest one. He is honest enough to intuitively see through the chandler, as does Toy. This leads to the confrontation of Rogers and Philp in Chapter XVII, when Hunken and the reader perceive the nature of Rogers’ deceitfulness.

The antagonism between Philp and Rogers is the reason why Rogers wants to manipulate Hocken onto the School Board without an election. The antagonism between Philp and Rogers becomes the same between Hunkin and Philp when Rogers informs Hunken of a report of the ploughing contest between himself and Hocken at the Agricultural Demonstration as reported by Philp and written up by Shake Benny in the local newspaper.

Philp’s last contribution to the plot is to announce, at the conclusion of the Passage Regatta, the loss of the Saltypool 50 miles from Philadelphia and the second stroke suffered by Rogers as a result. He later provides the information that the Saltypool was uninsured and therefore a total loss to all who had invested in her.

 

Peter Benny and Shakespeare (Shake) Benny

Read more

Peter Benny was for many years clerk to John Rosewarne of Hall, but on his death quickly fell out with his son Samuel Rosewarne. He was then for five years the steward of Damelioc, the estate of Lady Killiow. His devotion to literature resulted in his sones being named after literary figures, hence Shakespeare Benny.

In Hocken and Hunken, Peter Benny is ‘a white-haired little man who had known many cares in life, but had preserved through them all a passionate devotion to literature and an entirely simple heart’ and who had brought up a long family ‘to fear the Lord and seen fairly started in life.’ (p.138).  His dwelling was a cottage with an outhouse or study where he wrote letters for illiterate seamen. His brother, Joshua Benny, was employed in Fleet Street, London. Hocken and Hunken both repair to Benny’s office when requiring letters for Mrs Bosenna.

His son, Shakespeare Benny, had originally been apprenticed to a firm in Exeter before returning to Troy to set up a haberdashery. As a salesman Benny was able to sell Caius Hocken a hat, which was wanted, and a coat, which was not. Benny (and Q) was aware of Troy as a largely Liberal town, thus used the name of Lord Rosebery, one time Liberal Prime Minister, to sell his goods, using labels on his goods such as ‘If you admire Lord Rosebery, Now is Your Chance.’ (p. 41). From the perspective of 1912, the label is satirical, because after leaving the premiership Rosebery was repeatedly called to office – he could probably have been prime minister in 1906 —but repeatedly evaded the call.

Peter Benny was a man of total integrity. He could be seen as an idealisation but such individuals exist. He is religious, important to Q, but not of an aggressive or intolerant type. He is, therefore, a foil to Samuel Rosewarne and to John Rogers, although for different reasons. Material self-interest does not interest him but being guided by Providence does.

The Nanjulians

Read more

The elderly John Peter Nanjulian and his sister Susan Nanjulian live in a decayed mansion with a garden being slowly sold off for building plots. They represent a traditional Troy family which has run to seed; or rather has failed so to run and is on the point of extinction. John Peter is a cultured man with many skills from which making money is absent. Caius Hocken consults him on the cleaning of the musical box. Q would have known similar families in the Fowey area.