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Sunday, February 13, 2011

Roger Carbury

A Squire with his Tenants (1849), Henry John Boddington
Roger Carbury is the head of the Carbury family and a distant cousin to the late husband of Lady Carbury.  A man nearly 40 years of age, he lives alone in the English countryside of Suffolk, away from London.  As a bachelor, he sees only one person worthy of being his wife:  Hetta Carbury.  He declares that he will never any other, having resolved that she is the only one fit to be his wife. 

Roger is a man of traditional values, who has not embraced the greed-based principles of the day.  He is the owner of the original Carbury property and lives in a small, older house, described as "picturesque rather than comfortable" (Ch. 14), not new and gaudy like that of his neighbors.  Roger believed that a "man's standing in the world should not depend at all upon his wealth" (Ch. 6).  Whereas Felix had accumulated an enormous amount of debt, Roger "never owed a shilling that he could not pay" (Ch. 6).  Neither did Roger believe that me should hold titles without money.

 Sir Patrick, to his thinking, had been altogether unjustifiable in accepting an enduring title, knowing that he would leave behind him no property adequate for its support.  A baronet, so thought Roger Carbury, should be a rich man, rich enough to grace the rank which he assumed to wear.  A title, according to Roger's doctrine on such subjects, could make no man a gentleman, but, if improperly worn, might degrade a man who would otherwise be a gentleman (Ch. 14)

Ultimately, Roger refused to conform to "the way we live now."  He was not one to allow money to control his life.  He did not have any vast designs of fame or fortune.  He did not wish to marry a duchess but enjoyed the quiet, country life, which explains his support of the marriage of John Crumb and Ruby Ruggles. 

Roger is the voice of opposition to Melmotte, whom he describes as "dirt in the gutter" (Ch. 15).  Roger avoids contact with the Melmottes, refusing to attend any balls or banquets at their residence, out of fear of contamination:

That condonation of antecedents which, in the hurry of the world, is often vouchsafed to success, that growing feeling which induces people to assert to themselves that they are not bound to go outside the general verdict, and that they may shake hands with whomsoever the world shakes hands with, had never reached him.  The old-fashioned idea that the touching of pitch will defile still prevailed with him.  He was a gentleman;—and would have felt himself disgraced to enter the house of such a one as Augustus Melmotte (Ch. 8).

Roger wants nothing to do with a "French swindler...buying his way into society" (Ch. 7).

The reader comes to trust Roger, agreeing with Hetta when she states succinctly, "Roger is always right" (Ch. 38).  He is the perfect husband for the selfless Hetta, but even she prefers one (Paul Montague) somewhat innocently contaminated by the money-grubbing vultures of the day.  Though Paul himself seems innocent enough, he is in danger of being influenced by Melmotte by being a member of the infamous Board.  The reader, who likes Hetta and wants the best for her, feels like Roger would be the better mate, though he has been rejected twice.

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