Norrell is a miserly, reclusive, arrogant Yorkshire gentleman who, at the beginning of the book, is thought to be the last practicing magician in England. His dream of restoring magic to England becomes possible once he gets the opportunity to aid a Government minister in a very personal matter - but he finds that he must consort with dangerous and elemental forces, and unwittingly unleashes terrors that have been safely sealed away for hundreds of years.
Portrayed by Eddie Marsan in the BBC adaptation.
- Adaptational Heroism: In the miniseries Norrell's more proactive, which means that his darker traits are exaggerated (see below) - but he is similarly more driven in his more heroic acts, such as rescuing Arabella.
- Adaptational Villainy: In the miniseries, Norrell is more proactive in suppressing Lady Pole's attempts to incriminate him, and never initially warms to Strange to nearly the extent he does in the book, making his later opposition seem more like spite than the bitterness of rejection.
- Adorkable: He is ecstatic about studying magic with Strange, and acts like a boy on an adventure when travelling to Lost-Hope to rescue Arabella. His ridiculous dancing to blend in just increases the impression.
- Asexuality: Only interested in books, and believes that women and marriage are a detriment to magicians.
- Badass Bookworm: Quite a formidable magician, despite his bookishness and nerdiness.
- Broken Pedestal: In his youth, he was an avid admirer of the Raven King, and spent years trying to summon him - only to grow to believe that the King didn't care about England and should thus be hated and vilified in return.
- Control Freak: He greedily purchases and jealously hides away every single book of and about magic he can lay his hands on, and ruthlessly bullies and shuts down any possible opposing magicians who he crosses paths with. He does all this so that he can be the only one to control the direction and perception of English magic. This ends up being part of his downfall when public opinion turns against him after he casts a spell on Strange's book, full of contrary viewpoints to his own, to prevent anyone else from reading it.
- Deadpan Snarker: In writing more so than in speech.There was an air of sarcasm about the letter; the writer seemed to be mocking Mr Honeyfoot with every word.
- Driven by Envy: In the miniseries, he is jealous of Strange's intuitive grasp of magic and magical power, which is one of the things that leads to their rift. The book lacks this pretext, where Norrell instead delights in a clever apprentice who can even widen his own understanding.
- Fatal Flaw: Fearfulness, as noted in The Raven King's prophecy.
- Freudian Excuse: the miniseries provides him with one by implying that his defensive pride, arrogance and reclusiveness stem from mockery that he received as a young man for his studies in magic.Do not laugh. It is cruel to laugh.
- Horrible Judge of Character: If you put out a call for the most untrustworthy and selfish men in England, Drawlight and Lascelles would be at the head of the queue, but Norrell makes them close confidants. Later, he chooses Lascelles over Childermass, even though Childermass had previously been shot in saving Norrell from Lady Pole.
- Insufferable Genius: He believes himself to be the greatest - and only - magician of his age, and acts with according haughtiness. While neither part is true he is actually genuinely knowledgeable and talented... for a 19th-century magician, that is.
- It's All About Me: He's simultaneously paranoid and self-centered, which leads him to believe that everyone is plotting his downfall. In a notable example, when Childermass is shot Norrell is more concerned with his own feelings of shock than with Childermass's health).
- Jerkass Has a Point: in the miniseries he snaps at Sir Walter and Lord Liverpool when they demand that he confront Strange while trying to blame Strange's madness and the threat he poses on Norrell. As Norrell correctly retorts, he warned them repeatedly of the powers that Strange was meddling in, and not only did they refuse to stop Strange, but they encouraged him, and now it's coming back to bite them.
- Karma Houdini: While he's trapped in eternal darkness for the foreseeable future, he doesn't actually see this as a punishment, and he is never brought to justice for the horrible things he's done.
- Loners Are Freaks: He is quite content to spend his days in near-solitude.
- Non-Action Guy: he's terrified of the idea of going into battle and his spells are more technical, in contrast to the more daring and adaptable Strange, who learns to cast on the fly and becomes renowned throughout Europe for his exploits in the service of the Duke of Wellington. This is most aptly displayed when the two finally come to blows in the miniseries. Strange, despite being half dead from the effects of exhaustion, madness and the Man with the Thistledown Hair's spell, effectively has him on the run and laughs derisively at his fairly pitiful response.
- Order Versus Chaos: Norrell is fond of discipline and study, and represents order - as opposed to Strange, who is drawn to primal, instinctive magic and represents chaos.
- Possession Implies Mastery: Subverted. Norrell's hoards all the books of magic, but Strange, who only has access to books about, proves himself to be Norrell's equal (if not superior) in magical power.
- Red Oni, Blue Oni: The rational, cautious blue to Strange's energetic, impulsive red.
- Sheltered Aristocrat: He is sheltered not only from the lower classes, but from society in general, and believes that magic is a privilege that should only be available to rich white men.
- Socially Awkward Hero: He is able to conduct himself in polite society, but said society finds him to be a very tedious man to be around.
- Tarot Motifs: Mostly associated with The Hermit.
- Technician vs. Performer: His magic is a lot less showy than Strange's, but often more functional, and he has a much better grasp on its theory.
- There Can Be Only One: He makes it his special project to make sure no one practices magic except him. Later subverted when he meets Strange and is delighted to have an equal to himself to do magic with.
- The Woobie: it's very hard not to feel sorry for him in the miniseries when he comes up against his former student, who is everything he fears - younger, dynamic and Driven to Madness, being comfortable with the dark arts that Norrell worked so hard to suppress and arguably more powerful than Norrell - and how he is quite obviously terrified of Strange who quite literally laughs off anything Norrell throws at him. The tired, sad line he responds with speaks volumes, not only of his fear of Strange, but why he's so arrogant and obsessed with making English magic 'respectable'."Please do not laugh. It is cruel to laugh."
Strange is a young, foppish landowner who discovers within himself a natural talent for magic and starts practicing it in order to impress his childhood sweetheart, Arabella. He becomes Norrell's first and only student and soon begins to rival him in ability. As his skills develop, Strange embarks on a path to rediscover the dark, hidden magic of the past - and in so doing, sows the seeds of his own tragedy, and becomes a very dangerous gentleman in his own right.
Portrayed by Bertie Carvel in the BBC adaptation.
- Abusive Parents: His father only cared about money and had no love to spare for his son.
- Adaptational Angst Upgrade: Book!Jonathan is absolutely heartbroken when Arabella supposedly dies - but TV!Jonathan has a complete breakdown and attempts to resurrect her with black magic, despite knowing that no good can come out of it.
- Adaptational Heroism: TV!Jonathan is much more considerate of his wife's feelings, more involved in his family life (e.g. trying to have a child), and mourns for Arabella's supposed death much stronger, even asking the Gentleman to bring her back from the dead.
- Attention Deficit... Ooh, Shiny!: His wife describes him as "the most easily distracted creature in the world". This quality only becomes more pronounced once he goes insane.
- Badass Bookworm: He plays a vital role in Wellington's campaign armed with nothing more than chests of books - and often magic he has to make up on the fly.
- Big Damn Heroes: Does his level best to pull this off in the finale, and largely succeeds.
- Black Magic: Unlike Norrell, he is very actively curious about the darker forms of magic and as events prove, instinctively talented at them.
- Byronic Hero: Circumstances turn the affable, light-hearted Strange into a brooding, crazed loner - and in the book's alternative history Lord Byron models the protagonist of Manfred (a classic example of the trope) after Strange.
- Childhood Friend Romance: With Arabella.
- Clear My Name: Thanks to Norrell and Lascelles, Strange is widely considered to be a madman and a wife-murderer - and this opinion on his character is only rectified once Arabella returns to England.
- Cool, but Inefficient: He is fond of showier types of magic, often to the detriment of their practicality - e.g. his sand horses, while visually striking, take too long to drag a stuck ship and rearrange the coast to create even more navigational hazards.
- Dark Is Not Evil: He does have an inclination towards darker magic, and once he's cursed with the Darkness he appears to people surrounded by an "eerie night", but he's not a bad guy.
- Desperately Seeking A Purpose In Life: He tries a number of gentlemanly occupations, from interest in agriculture to poetry, before he settles on magic. (Mostly to show Arabella that he's not just Idle Rich.)
- Determinator: Once he sets his mind to something, he will not be deterred by anything, be it a rival, or a ruined reputation, or madness, or a curse. The Gentleman actually feels fear in the face of Strange's tenacity.
- Fatal Flaw: Arrogance, as noted in The Raven King's prophecy. His forgetfulness and distraction also make his life far more difficult.
- Fisher King: After losing Arabella, Strange grows severely depressed and begins writing on the walls and living in squalor. Once he properly destroys his own sanity on purpose, his house becomes a nightmarish lair.
- Fleeting Passionate Hobbies: Before taking up magic he would change hobbies almost daily and tried everything from poetry to fossil hunting.
- The Generic Guy: He is initially described as being unremarkable in both appearance and personality - lacking in striking vices, notable virtues, and considered quite handsome but not universally so.
- Gentleman and a Scholar: Both a very capable magician and a very engaging human being.
- Happily Married: To Arabella - in the series more so than in the book.
- Heartbroken Badass: His belief that Arabella is dead makes him intentionally lose his mind - which increases his magical power.
- The Hero: Plays this role in the classic sense, since he's the one who's the driving force behind the return of English magic, freeing Arabella and Lady Pole, and the spell that, admittedly accidentally, empowers Stephen Black to destroy the Gentleman. Of course, Stephen is arguably the key player in the finale, and it's all suggested to be arranged by the Raven King, but Strange is the driving force.
- Idle Rich: Being a well-off landowner, he has no need for a job. Before taking up magic, "he had continually been forming plans to take up this or that profession or regular train of study".
- Locked into Strangeness: In both the book and the series, he starts going grey as a result of his intense magic use.
- Master of Illusion: His go-to tactic in Wellington's battles is to create images of dragons and angelic hosts to scare the French.
- Memetic Badass: In-universe. While he is a powerful magician, the stories about him tend to exaggerate his abilities.
- Missing Mom: He was only five when his mother died.
- Mundane Utility: proves himself useful to Wellington by learning to specialise in this over showier magic.
- Nice to the Waiter: Unusually for the elitist society of that time, Strange is polite and respectful towards women, Jews and servants, remarking to Mrs Bullworth that he finds a system of morality that punishes a woman but not a man for adultery (she had been in an unhappy marriage, was seduced by Lascelles, then cast off to deal with the consequences when she tried to run away with him) to be utterly abhorrent. His easy respect for others is most evident in his treatment of Childermass as an equal. After some initial discomfort and standoffishness on both sides, he also ends up getting on very well with many of the soldiers he serves with in Wellington's army.
- Nightmare Fetishist: He is drawn to all that is "unEnglish" and "otherworldly" - for example, the King's Roads enrapture him, whereas both his wife and Sir Walter Pole are creeped out by their description.
- Order Versus Chaos: Aligned with chaos, as opposed to Norrell who is aligned with order.
- Quirky Curls: In the miniseries, he has a mane of wild, flyaway curly hair - to showcase his whimsical, intuitive approach to life and magic, and to visually contrast him with reclusive, conservative Norrell, who wears a wig.
- Red Oni, Blue Oni: The energetic, impulsive, red to Norrell's studious, rational blue.
- Returning War Vet: He suffers PTSD in the TV series, particularly triggered for killing a man with magic which goes against his prior principles.
- Sanity Slippage: a rare self-induced example.
- Sheltered Aristocrat: Types one and three rolled into one.
- Spoiled Sweet: His mother's relatives pampered him in order to compensate for the lack of love he received from his father. As a result, he grew into an amiable and good-hearted - but also arrogant - man.And so it is not to be wondered that he grew up a little spoilt, a little fond of his own way and a little inclined to think well of himself.
- Tall, Dark, and Handsome: His appearance fits with the general public's idea of magicians (although he is ginger rather than dark-haired in the book).
- Tarot Motifs: He is closely associated with the Knight of Wands - a card which symbolises energy, a visionary outlook on life, a commitment to making ideas come to life, and a disregard for consequences.
- Technical Pacifist: He is reluctant to outright kill with magic, but has no qualms about magic being indirectly responsible for death and destruction. He will not use a spell to directly snuff out a man's life force, but readily creates hands out of mud to grab cavalry and make the French trample their comrades.
- Technician vs. Performer: Compared to Norrell, he has a much better intuitive grasp on magic but a lot less theoretical knowledge concerning it.
- Teleporters and Transporters: The most obvious demonstration of his power takes this form, and he gets so good at it that when a Spanish city is found to be ten miles further away than the maps say it is, it is considered more convenient for Strange to move it closer than to change the maps. His steady rearrangement of the Spanish countryside (including once swapping the positions of two churches on what was essentially a drunken bet) and the Spanish complaints about it - and Wellington's total apathy to said complaints - become a Running Gag. He does it most spectacularly on his second campaign, when Napoleon is bearing down on Brussels, briefly moving Brussels to somewhere on the Great Plains of America. Wellington's response is merely to raise an eyebrow, take notice of some Native American warriors trotting past, remarking that they look like good fighters, and telling one of his aides to ask them if they want to join the battle.
- Took a Level in Badass: The book comments upon how his experiences with Wellington have changed him into a far more direct man willing to use magic to get his way.
- Trademark Favorite Food: If he is shown eating something, it is usually a hard boiled egg.
- Unskilled, but Strong: Strange lacks Norrell's vast knowledge, but he's far more intuitive, imaginative and better at improvising, having been forced to adapt based on his lack of knowledge. By the end of the book and the series he's by far the more powerful magician out of the two, shrugging off Norrell's pitiful attempts at battle magic with mocking laughter, despite being near death.
- Upper-Class Twit: At the beginning of the book he's interested in little more than gambling, drinking, dancing and vying for Arabella's affections; however, later on it becomes apparent that he's quite intelligent, with a natural talent for magic.
- Walking Wasteland: A variation; after the Gentleman curses him with the Darkness, Strange carries "an eerie night" with him wherever he goes, which causes all living beings (except cats) to flee his vicinity.
- "Well Done, Son!" Guy: In the miniseries, he is eager for approval from the authority figure in his life. His father, Wellington and even Norrell are all targets for this.
- Wild Card: Repeatedly described as "contradictory", "whimsical" and "unpredictable" - just the sort of person who may resort to Black Magic during war, or decide to publish against himself.
- You Have to Believe Me!: Played with; Strange has a devil of a time convincing anyone that his wife is actually alive, and that Lady Pole and Stephen Black are operating under an enchantment, but the fact that he actually is deliberately driving himself mad at the time (for numerous reasons) hardly helps his credibility.
Arabella Strange (née Woodhope)
The daughter of a clergyman, Arabella Strange is a charming, intelligent, caring and humorous young lady. She has loved Jonathan Strange since she was a girl, but wishes him to make something of himself: not for her own sake, but for his. When he - quite unexpectedly - heeds her advice and becomes a magician, she joins him on the exciting journey into the realms of English Magic. Knowing that with his new profession comes jealousy, rivalry, and danger, she seeks to protect him from these as best she can.
Portrayed by Charlotte Riley in the BBC adaptation.
- Childhood Friend Romance: With Jonathan.
- Deadpan Snarker: In the series, she is a master of put-downs, especially where her husband is concerned, with such gems as "Do take an egg before he eats them all", "Calm down you'll give yourself a nosebleed", etc. etc.
- English Rose: Modestly dressed, attractive, pale-skinned, petite English young woman, able to behave with decorum in any situation. Good-humoured and vivacious, too.
- Happily Married: To Jonathan - more obviously so in the series, where they're much more passionate, than the book, where their relationship is more of a wry friendship with romantic overtones.
- Morality Chain: She is much more concerned with the moral and the ethical than her husband, and often tries to steer him to the path of good - and she is more or less the one person he's actually inclined to listen to, in this regard. Indeed, Jonathan's affection for Arabella is one of his most notable redeeming features. It is partly a product of this and his grief that once she dies Jonathan goes straight off the deep end.
- Preacher's Kid: Both her father and brother are clergymen, and Arabella is a rare sweet version of the trope.
- True Beauty Is on the Inside: She's described as "moderately pretty" rather than beautiful - but her good humour and vivacity make her incredibly attractive to those around her.
- When She Smiles: "In repose her looks were only moderately pretty <...> but it was the sort of face which, when animated by conversation or laughter, was completely transformed."
Stephen Black aka the Nameless Slave
Born on a slave ship, Stephen Black was adopted by the slavers family, christened, schooled, and set to work as a servant and a free man. As he grew older, so he rose in the service of his adopted family, ending up as butler to Sir Walter Pole (the slaver's son) and becoming one of most intelligent, capable and respected servants in London. He is happy as the king of his own little land below stairs at Harley Street, until he finds himself on the receiving end of unwanted affections from a fairy... a fairy who believes that Stephen is to become King of England.
In the BBC adaptation he is played by Ariyon Bakare.
- Blessed with Suck: A powerful fairy takes an interest in him and promises to raise his station in life... by spiriting him away to a nightmarish fairy kingdom each night and leaving him dazed in the real world, continually threatening to kill his Benevolent Boss, and then actually murdering dozens of people. All for his benefit.
- Casual Danger Dialogue: Does his best to invoke this whenever the gentleman spirits him away to somewhere particularly hazardous, like a Scottish bog, because he's afraid of being killed or discarded if he loses his composure.
- Chekhov's Skill: He is a butler, used to managing a household - which comes in handy once he's the ruler of Lost-Hope.
- Clueless Chick Magnet: He catches the eye of a beautiful young widow, who falls in love with him, and sets about trying to make him her husband. Unfortunately, by the time she starts being more obvious about it, Stephen's sunk deep into a depression thanks to his treatment by the Gentleman.
- Deuteragonist: He has very little to do with the Strange/Norrell rivalry, but is a major figure in one of the book's other plot threads.
- Irony: The death of Vinculus is what finally breaks Stephen and causes him to abandon England, reasoning that, as a black man, he would never be able to avoid a wrongful execution for the murder of a white man. By the time he makes this decision, however, he is unaware that Vinculus has been brought back to life, rendering the whole dilemma null. Of course, Stephen has increasingly been disillusioned with his life in England to begin with, so it was likely only a matter of time anyway.
- The Jeeves: Not only is Stephen an exemplary butler - his knowledge, skills and duties far exceed those pertaining even to the most distinguished members of the profession.
- Klingon Promotion: He kills the Gentleman - and becomes that particular land's new king.
- The Leader: Even though he's black, he can effortlessly lead all the servants of Sir Walter's household without their complaining. This quality serves him in good stead when he becomes the new king of Lost-Hope.
- Meaningful Name: "Stephen" means crown - a motif associated with the character.
- Morality Pet: Subverted. He really tries to talk the Gentleman out of the various acts of careless brutality he commits, but to no avail.
- No Name Given: Stephen's real name - the one his mother gave him - has been lost to the ages; when the book ends he is referred simply as "the person who had been Stephen Black".
- The Resenter: carries a deeply buried resentment for English racism and as the book goes on, grows to dislike and distrust the English more and more (and not without reason), though he remains loyal to Sir Walter (who was genuinely kind to him, and is mentioned to have shared what he had with Stephen when he was an Impoverished Patrician), and fond of Lady Pole. He's also sympathetic to Arabella, largely because he's familiar with her plight.
- Spanner in the Works: He pretends to be deaf and ignores the small box containing Lady Pole's finger that Strange managed to wangle out of the Gentleman, on the grounds that he knows that Strange can use it to free Lady Pole (which, indirectly, he does, via Childermass).
- Sympathy for the Devil: Despite all the burden and grief that the Gentleman brings him, Stephen feels some pity for him, realising that the fairy operates by a Blue and Orange Morality and doesn't really understand human morality. He is also horrified by the Gentleman's casual murder of English people including Vinculus despite having ample reason to hate and distrust the English.
- Tall, Dark, and Handsome: Regarded as such In-Universe, with the Gentleman's aesthetic interest in him, and his Clueless Chick Magnet status.
- Token Minority: In-universe, it's stated that one reason for his high station in the household is to provide visible proof of Sir Walter's liberal credentials (though another reason is that he's actually very good at his job).
The Gentleman with the Thistle-down Hair
A powerful fairy who lords over the realm of Lost-Hope and takes a very unfortunate interest in several of the book's human characters.
Portrayed by Marc Warren in the BBC adaptation.
- Adaptation Personality Change: In the book, he is a whimsical and superficially charming - if absolutely psychotic - creature. In the series, he is decidedly sinister in both appearance and behavior, with none of his book counterpart's sense of fun and mischief.
- Asexuality: He remarks upon women's beauty, and frequently compliment's Stephen's looks, but never expresses any sexual behaviour. He seems to instead collect attractive individuals in the same manner one would collect dolls or obtain pets.
- Ax-Crazy: He thinks that murder and bodily harm are superior ways of entertainment.
- Be Careful What You Wish For: He wants to make Stephen a king. Stephen eventually does this by killing him and taking over Lost-Hope.
- Beauty = Goodness: He professes this belief when explaining his admiration of Stephen.
- Big Bad: The closest thing the book and the series have to an outright villain.
- Big Ol' Eyebrows: Has these in the miniseries, giving him a vaguely feral, animalistic appearance.
- Blue and Orange Morality: As a classical example of The Fair Folk, he is not malicious per se - merely very different, with no notions of regular human morality, love, ethics and societal norms. He's casually sadistic, yet also cannot comprehend racism; he shows a genuine liking for King George, yet is more than happy to murder him. It gets to the point where Stephen apologises to the Gentleman for having to kill him, acknowledging that the latter is merely acting according to his nature and trying to express friendship to him.
- Can't Argue with Elves: In all his actions, the gentleman is absolutely convinced that his beloved humans enjoy his games as much as he does. The idea that they are consistently horrified by their slavery on his account is so far removed from his own frame of reference that they just can't convey the notion to him.
- The Caligula: He's not a good, emotionally stable ruler, to put it mildly. Just when you think he can't get more terrifying and degenerate, he'll surprise you - and Stephen - with some new misdeed.
- Comically Serious: Whenever he's not in a rage. The BBC adaptation amplifies this quality by removing his more playful side.
- Even Evil Has Loved Ones: For all his selfishness, he does seem to care about Stephen.
- Expy: He's basically Jareth.
- The Fair Folk: One of the few members of his race actually seen in the novel/series, he's a textbook example of the classical English mythological version.
- Fairy Godmother: To Stephen Black, in a Deconstruction of the trope - having an incredibly powerful being with a set of customs and morality far removed from humanity's intent on being your friend and champion is described as a hellish life.
- Faux Affably Evil: All his flamboyance and charm fail to mask his unstable, sadistic nature. He's implied to be destructive and cruel even by the standards of his race.
- Fisher King: The land of Lost-Hope is a cold, uninviting, illogical and dark place surrounded by the remnants of ancient battles and tortures, that reflects the gentleman's cruel, sadistic and mercurial nature. When Stephen kills him and takes his place, the land begins to heal and become more inviting, reflecting Stephen's nobler and kinder nature.
- The Hedonist: He is mostly concerned with having fun - usually at the expense of others.
- It's All About Me:The gentleman looked doubtful. Any reasoning that did not contain a reference to himself was always difficult for him to follow.
- Kick the Dog: A lot of his actions fall under this category - even though he has no idea as to how cruel they actually are. For example, he (in just one task) burns a house to the ground with women, children and the elderly inside, strangles a woman with her own pearl necklace, and breaks into an elderly widow's home leaving her exposed to a bitter and probably lethal winter cold.
- Lack of Empathy: See Blue and Orange Morality and Can't Argue with Elves, above.
- Mood-Swinger: He is of a most capricious, unpredictable character....none of the gentleman's moods lasted long; he was the most mercurial being in the world. The smallest word could turn his fear into a blazing rage and hatred.
- Narcissist: He believes himself to be the most powerful, beautiful and virtuous of all the Fairy Folk.
- No Name Given: He is only ever referred to as "the gentleman with the thistle-down hair". Given the power of names in this setting, this is likely deliberate on the gentleman's part. In the miniseries, he's indirectly referred to once or twice as "Cold Tom Blue", but it's made pretty clear that this isn't actually his name.
- Obliviously Evil: He has no idea that what he's doing to his human "friends" is anything but kind and generous.
- Poisonous Friend: He plays this role towards Stephen Black, ruining his life and encouraging his resentment of Englishmen.
- Power Echoes: In the miniseries all his dialogue has a distinct reverb, accentuating his otherworldly nature.
- Smug Super: The fairy considers himself superior to Strange and Norrell due to his greater magical powers. This leads directly to his downfall when Strange accidentally, then intentionally, outsmarts him, forces him into a duel that nearly drains him, and uses similar methods to outmanoeuvre him.
- Stalker with a Crush: To Stephen Black.
- White Hair, Black Heart: Evil and with hair the colour and texture of thistle.
Norrell's man of business, manipulator and closest advisor - a clever, wily Yorkshireman with all the reverence for magic, plain-speaking and thrift that characterises that ancient and noble county. Once a common pickpocket, now a man of many talents - with magic and divination among them - and of murky, enigmatic motivations; he seems to have a bigger investment in seeing magic return to England than he lets on.
Portrayed by Enzo Cilenti in the BBC adaptation.
- Adaptational Attractiveness: in the book, he's described as looking a twisted old tree. In the series, he's closer to Tall, Dark, and Handsome, if far from as clean cut as Bertie Carvel's Strange.
- Artful Dodger: One of the few things known about his past was that he belonged to a gang of child-thieves.
- Blue-Collar Warlock: Norrell, who promotes the respectability of magic, is appalled to discover that his servant wields the sort of magic that he despises - though he does ask Childermass to cast spells from time to time, which Childermass calls him out on, pointing out that Norrell taught him most of the spells he knows.
- Cards of Power: He owns a pack of Tarot cards which he uses to read the future and divine truths. They are almost unfailingly accurate.
- Casting a Shadow: He specialises mainly in shadow magic.
- Deadpan Snarker: His dialogue practically oozes sarcasm.
- Death Glare: One of his favourite facial expressions - so stern that it can shame even Norrell.
- Enigmatic Minion: Childermass is loyal to Norrell but shows a surprising degree of autonomy, and his motives never become quite clear. It's implied that he supports Norrell largely because that is likely to promote English magic, and perhaps prompt the return of the Raven King. In the miniseries, Lascelles accurately notes that Childermass always does things for his own reasons.
- The Gadfly: Frequently, with his last line in the book summing it up: "Vinculus! Stand up!" (For context, Vinculus' body is tattooed with the book of the Raven King. Meaning that to read it, he has to be naked)
- Kavorka Man: In the book, being described as looking like a twisted old tree, yet three of the maids in Norrell's household have fallen for him, as does the youngest and prettiest of Vinculus' wives, being typically Tall, Dark, and Snarky. In the series, he's on the more roguish end of Tall, Dark, and Handsome.
- Laser-Guided Amnesia: He can't remember his encounter with the Raven King.
- Mysterious Past: He used to be a common pickpocket, which is all that is known of his past. The only solid clue is in the book, when Vinculus draws the Tarot Cards for him and an amused Childermass remarks that he's got Childermass' life laid out in front of him, but doesn't know how to read it. It is unclear as to why he puts up with being Norrell's servant, although both book and miniseries imply that he's chiefly driven by his desire to restore English magic - specifically, the magic of the Raven King.
- Nice Hat: In the series, he wears a (very well-worn, but obviously well-loved) top hat.
- Oop North: He is a very proud Yorkshireman, complete with the accent and the reverence for magic. His actor, Enzo Cilenti, is a Yorkshireman himself.
- The Rival: To Lascelles, for the position of Norrell's right-hand man.
- He also tells Strange, who offers him a position as effectively his peer, rather than continuing to act as Norrell's servant, that if Strange falls for some reason, he'll leave Norrell's service and become this to him, taking up Strange's position on magic. However, if Norrell does the same, then he'll act as the champion of the Norrellite view.
- Servile Snarker: He's the master of the eye roll, the biting remark - which he deploys equally to all levels of society - and the Death Glare, and has been "a law unto himself" since coming into Norrell's employ.
- Squishy Wizard: The only magician in the book/series to invert the trope, as he is surprisingly tough and stoic.
- Supernatural Sensitivity: Like Segundus, he senses the presence of strong magic very acutely.
- Taking the Bullet: For Norrell, when Lady Pole makes an assassination attempt on the latter. He survives.
- Tall, Dark, and Snarky: He fits the stereotypical image of what a magician should look like remarkably well - to the point that Drawlight decides that he must be the magician of Hanover-Square upon seeing him.
- Undying Loyalty: He is willing to protect Norrell with his own life, but even greater is his loyalty to the Raven King and the noble cause of restoring magic in England.
- Weak, but Skilled: He is a weaker magician than the two title characters, but his magical senses are much more acute.
Vinculus, magician of Threadneedle-street
One of London's most famous "magicians". Vininculus is a charlatan who uses various tricks and instruments to cheat people with false spells. And yet there's something about him that isn't quite disingenuous. He barges his way into Norrell's house to give an ominous prophecy before departing London.
- Bunny-Ears Lawyer: A half-mad criminal, but he does have insights into magic and as Childermass remarks, a significant amount of genuine talent.
- Living MacGuffin: He is a living copy of the King's Book, which is tattooed on his body. Before his tattoos told the Raven King's prophecy.
- Kavorka Man: The text describes his appearance in highly unflattering terms, but he did manage to snag five wives (with the youngest being a pretty teenager!)
- Meaningful Name: Latin for "bond". His body contains the Raven King's Book of Magic, describing all the supernatural contracts the King forged with the land itself on his kingdom's behalf.
- One Name Only: Only known as "Vinculus", which, for all we know, may not be even his real name.
- Seers: Gives Norrell and Strange The Prophecy about the revival of English magic... whether they want to hear it or not.
- He also correctly draws the Tarot cards for Childermass, as confirmed by the latter in amusement and surprise, but he has no way of reading them.
- Snake Oil Salesman: His street magic is a load of cobblers, like the mouth organ he uses to speak with the voice of the Thames.
- Strong, but Unskilled: Vinculus is a naturally talented magician, but has almost no magical knowledge. Childermass notes the contrast between him and the English magicians of the last couple of centuries: they were all learning and no talent, where he's all talent and no learning.
- Tattooed Crook: With the tattoos being not quite what they seem.
- The Trickster
Emma Pole (née Wintertowne)
A lively and charming nineteen-year-old engaged to marry a Cabinet Minister, Emma Wintertowne becomes the subject of much London gossip when she dies before the wedding - and is subsequently resurrected by Norrell. However, something seems to go wrong with the magic, making Emma increasingly listless, eccentric, and tired - one might even say insane. And being insane is a very difficult thing to reconcile with being the wife of a Minister of the Crown.
Portrayed by Alice Englert in the BBC miniseries.
- Back from the Dead: Her resurrection is an event with major ramifications on the plot.
- Came Back Wrong: Played with - it's not the process itself that undoes her, but rather the Gentleman's enchantment. Once she's free of it, she returns back to her normal self, though changed somewhat by her experience.
- Driven to Suicide: She makes an attempt at it.
- English Rose: She fits this description - but then, she goes mad.
- Ill Girl: She starts out as this. And then it gets worse.
- Incurable Cough of Death: Her unspecified illness.
- Locked into Strangeness: In the miniseries, she starts turning prematurely grey.
- Loophole Abuse: In the miniseries, Lady Pole thinks of an ingenious way to work around the spell that prevents her speaking or writing of her magical predicament: she creates a tapestry out of her dresses, showing her, the gentleman and Stephen Black at Lost-Hope. Sadly, Norrell's efforts ensure that Mrs Strange does not get the chance to truly comprehend it and write about it to her husband.
- Super Strength: She temporarily gains this power as a result of the Gentleman's enchantment.
Christopher Drawlight and Henry Lascelles
When they find their position threatened, they demonstrate some of the remarkable feats that they are capable of - none of which do them very much credit, and none of which they can bring themselves to be even remotely ashamed of.
In the BBC series they are portrayed by Vincent Franklin and John Heffernan, respectively.
- Adaptational Ugliness: Drawlight, who is described as young and feminine in the book, is neither in the TV series.
- Ambiguously Gay: Drawlight is described as very feminine in appearance and demeanour, and is interested mostly in fashion, interior decorating and gossip - but not in women.
- And I Must Scream: In the TV series Lascelles is turned into porcelain, with the mouth still screaming and an eye rotating when they are stepped on.
- Blood Knight: Lascelles, who is quite happy to perform violent deeds. In the book, he becomes the new champion of the Castle of the Plucked Eye and Heart after killing the previous champion.
- Cloudcuckoolander's Minder: Drawlight and Lascelles are darker versions of the trope, profitting from being corrupt go-betweens for the socially awkward Norell.
- The Dandy: Drawlight. Even when he turns up in Venice reduced to abject poverty, he makes his raggedy clothes into an imitation of high Venetian fashion.
- Deadpan Snarker: Lascelles.
- Dirty Coward: Drawlight, who bitterly admits to being afraid all the time after encountering Strange in Venice - though by this stage, Strange terrifies almost everyone.
- Even Evil Has Standards: Lascelles, for all his numerous faults, absolutely despises cowardice. However he has a somewhat odd definition of cowardice and corrects it with an ignorant disregard for danger.
- Evil Redhead: Lascelles, in the miniseries.
- Gossipy Hens: Or gossipy roosters. Drawlight in particular; Lascelles complains of having to hide every bit of paper whenever Drawlight visits because otherwise its contents will be all over town.
- Honor Before Reason: In the book, Lascelles is very fixated upon a very pick-and-choose code of honor which dictates that he must never show cowardice; this leads to his downfall when, while in Faerie, he kills the champion of the Castle of the Plucked Eye and Heart in a duel and is forced to take his place for all eternity).
- Idle Rich: The well-off Lascelles regards jobs as best left to lower classes.
- Impoverished Patrician: Drawlight is not nearly as rich as he tries to appear, and lives "upon his wits and debts".
- Jerkass: They are both extremely unpleasant characters, with no redeemable features. Drawlight can at least evoke pity for his understandable fear in the face of strong magic and his terrible death, but Lascelles is the most despicable character in the book.
- Kick the Dog: Drawlight once threw a cat out of a third-story window.
- Poisonous Friend: To Norrell, driving away any other possible influences on him, much to his detriment.
- The Rival: Lascelles vies against Childermass for the position of Norrell's right-hand man.
- Smug Snake: Lascelles, who deigns to be as contrary and as condescending toward everyone as possible for his own amusement, and mistakes caution for cowardice.
- The Sociopath: A likely interpretation of Lascelles, as he acts impulsively and violently, cares only for his own interests, and is capable of only superficial charm.
- Those Two Bad Guys: The dark counterparts to Honeyfoot and Segundus.
- Underestimating Badassery: Lascelles is incapable of perceiving just how dangerous Childermass is, partly because he refuses to think of the lower classes in a favourable light, and because of his own inflated ego. This really doesn't work out in his favour.
- You Kill It, You Bought It: In the book only, Lascelles follows a fairy bridge and ends up in Faerie, where he kills the Champion of the Castle of the Plucked Eye and Heart to prove he is braver than Childermass but instead is forced to take up the knight's place until someone kills him.
Mr Honeyfoot and John Segundus
Segundus and Honeyfoot are two gentleman magicians from York, similar only in their kind-heartedness and their love of magic. Segundus is young, pessimistic, and willing to go against the current state of affairs; Honeyfoot is older, cheerier and willing to help Segundus with whatever projects his friend undertakes. The two of them are responsible for discovering that Norrell is a pratical magician, thus setting the events of the plot in motion.
- Adaptational Badass: They are even cleverer in the TV series, and at one point manage to bluff Childermass into retreat with a worthless blunderbuss.
- Ascended Extra: TV!Honeyfoot has a larger role compared to Book!Honeyfoot, and basically shares Segundus's plotline with him.
- Foil: The two of them are foils to Norrell and Strange: both pairs feature an older, more learned magician and a younger, more innately talented one - but where Norrell and Strange are suspicious rivals, Honeyfoot and Segundus are friendly and co-operative, and by working together they achieve things they could not have managed alone.
- Gut Feeling: Segundus has a number of highly accurate gut feelings, mostly premonitions that some venture he's just embarked on is about to fail.
- Happily Married: Mr Honeyfoot has a lovely, spirited wife and three equally lovely daughters.
- Innocent Blue Eyes: In the BBC adaptation, the extremely sweet-natured Segundus has very bright blue eyes. (In the book, he's described as "dark" and "Mediterranean" in looks).
- Laser-Guided Amnesia: Mr. Segundus can't clearly remember his visit to Mr. Norrell's.
- Nice Guy: Both of them. Segundus is amiable, shy, and obliging; Honeyfoot is gregarious and generous. It gets to the point where Mrs Lennox remarks that she's amazed and pleased that the cruel world has not taken advantage of such a kind and scrupulously honest man as Segundus.
- The Pollyanna: Honeyfoot. Even after the York society is dissolved by Norrell, Honeyfoot remains upbeat and simply devotes himself to solving the crimes detailed by the cathedral statues.
- Those Two Guys: Normally appearing as a pair, like good-guy versions of Drawlight and Lascelles.
- Supernatural Sensitivity: Segundus, much like Childermass, is very sensitive to the presense of strong magic.
- Unable to Support a Wife: Segundus is so poor that he can barely support himself, let alone another human being.
- Unskilled, but Strong: Segundus lacks Strange and Norrell's knowledge and can't really control his abilities, but he can still see and do things that they can't.
- Unwitting Instigator of Doom: Segundus's curiosity about the state of practical magic is what sets the entire plot in motion although it's hinted that this was the Raven King's plan all along.
- "Well Done, Son!" Guy: Segundus is implied to want the approval of his peers and most particularly Jonathan Strange.
John Uskglass aka the Raven King, the nameless slave, the King in the North, the Black King
The legendary John Uskglass, more commonly known as The Raven King, is the person accredited with bringing magic back to England after a long absence and codifying it. Born human but brought up in Faerie, he conquered Northern England at the tender age of fourteen or fifteen and proceeded to govern it for the next 300 years (along with two other kingdoms - one in Faerie and one in Hell). A wise and benevolent ruler, he eventually left England for Faerie, though some prophesize that he might be coming back...
- The Ace: He is both a just, capable ruler and an incredibly powerful magician - an unrivaled combination of talents.
- Animal Motifs: The raven, obviously.
- Bullet Catch: Stops a bullet fired by Childermass in mid-air, then turns it into a bird.
- Changeling Tale: He's a human who was stolen by fairies as a child. Unlike most examples, he didn't just survive, he thrived.
- The Chessmaster: The entire plot, and the lives of every character within, is controlled by him.
- Dark Is Not Evil: He wears all black and is associated with the raven, but by all accounts he was a just and kind king, whose disappearance is hinted to have been motivated by his going to protect his kingdom from mystical dangers.
- The Determinator: Once he sets his mind to something, he does so completely until victory.
- Disproportionate Retribution: The only flaw mentioned, and best illustrated by his conquering of half the country in return for the lack of just punishment of his supposed father's murderers, and his resurrection and torture of Henry Barbatus (a son of a traitor).
- From Nobody to Nightmare: He went from an abandoned child, possibly of a minor Norman Knight, to an apparently immortal King with literally god-like powers.
- The Ghost: Until the end of the story.
- The Good King: Contrary to Norrell's condemnation, he appears to have been a good ruler who cared for his people. He may have saved them from the Black Death, probably left England to fight supernatural threats to it, and heals Childermass' face. Of his few appearances in Britain after vacating his throne, one story involved greeting and thanking a humble farmer for his aid, and in another he led a young girl who was lost in his house down into the city.
- His name was used by multiple pretenders in the late 15th and early 16th century (except for the Summer King, who didn't give a name) - in the same way that Real Life pretenders Perkin Warbeck and Lambert Simnel both claimed to be one of the surviving 'Princes in the Tower' - and his banner, the Raven-in-Flight, is used as a symbol by 'Johannites', a variation on Real Life Luddites. In general, Sir Walter is likely not to be far wrong when he complains that most of Northern England would give up rule from London in favour of a returned Raven King in an instant.
- Criticisms of him being a tyrant are undermined somewhat by the King's decision not to conquer the South too, when he was completely capable of it: he considered such an act unjust.
- I Have Many Names: He possesses many titles, but no true name. John Uskglass and "the nameless slave" are the two names by which he commonly referred to himself, and he was given a Faerie name that probably meant 'starling' while captive/a foster-child of Oberon, but no one was entirely sure of his true name, perhaps not even the King himself.
- Modest Royalty: When he first appeared he was dressed in rags. He wore richer clothes later, though.
- Older Than They Look: He's hundreds of years old but looks to be in his twenties.
- Pet the Dog: His resurrection of Vinculus and healing of Childermass suggests a tenderness for individual loyal subjects, in addition to his desire to prosper England as a whole with the return of magic.
- Physical God: Incredible feats of magic are credited to him in histories, such as stealing the moon out of the sky so its reflection could travel through his rivers, banishing winter for four years, and enchanting all his subjects so they build a tower in their dreams (which possibly saved them from the Black Death). He's apparently so powerful he can challenge the Devil, if the latter actually exists. Plus, there's the small fact that he hasn't aged for over seven hundred years.
- Really 700 Years Old: He's pretty much exactly seven hundred years old, though no one's entirely sure how he managed it.
- The Quiet One: He's noted as being softly spoken.
- Warrior Prince: The King of three kingdoms and a commander of a large human/fairy army.
Sir Walter Pole MP
A pragmatic, fashionable, well-spoken man, Sir Walter Pole is a Cabinet Minister who has inherited his family's immense debts and is thus forced to look for a rich bride. He eventually finds a suitable match in Emma Wintertowne, and their engagement becomes the talk of the town - especially when the young bride dies days before the wedding and is resurrected by Mr Norrell. Thus Sir Walter becomes the political face of English Magic and plays a vital role in bringing magic into the public consciousness.
In the BBC miniseries he is portrayed by Samuel West.
- Adaptational Attractiveness: the book version would never be described as good looking, while the series version is certainly no worse than average.
- Benevolent Boss: Stephen describes him as a very fair employer and notes how Sir Walter funded his education when he could hardly afford to, and in poorer times, they ate the same food and warmed themselves at the same fire.
- Impoverished Patrician: Leading to his marriage to Emma Wintertowne.
- Nice Guy: Is generally and near-universally regarded as a kind and decent man, even by Stephen, who has more than adequate reason to resent English people in general and Sir Walter's family in particular, and at the end of the series, his wife - who's got a fiery temper and has spent many years under enchantment, largely as a result of his unwitting choices, and who might understandably (if unfairly, since it was Norrell's fault) blame him - lets him down gently.
- Nobility Marries Money: The reason behind his arranged marriage to the very rich Emma Wintertowne.
- Only Sane Man: Is often the voice of reason, most particularly in Jonathan and Arabella's dispute over his traversing the King's Roads, pointing out that Jonathan doesn't know everything about them yet.
- Perfectly Arranged Marriage: At first, he and Emma Wintertowne/Lady Pole are very happily married, and it is to be assumed that if the Gentleman had not got involved it would have remained so. Even after, in the series, she takes the trouble to let him down gently, at least for the time being.
- Reasonable Authority Figure: He is dedicated to serving his country.
- Silver Tongue: He's noted as being an exceptionally gifted and eloquent speaker.
- Truth Twister: His rivals complain of his talent for twisting their words.
Field Marshal Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington
- Deadpan Snarker: As in Real Life.
- Four-Star Badass: Naturally, as Wellington is as capable as his real-life counterpart and quickly learns to effectively deploy Strange's talents in warfare.
- Mr. Fanservice: In-Universe he is noted to be a focus of many teenage crushes and something of a flirt, to the misfortune of his wife. As in Real Life, Wellington and his wife had a very unhappy marriage, as it was essentially a Childhood Friend Romance gone wrong - he loved her as a young man, wanted to marry her, was turned down for being poor and without prospects, returned a war hero and married her thirteen years later... only to find out that the marriage wasn't as he'd hoped. The book isn't wrong when it notes that his wife was a small and unhappy woman whose opinion was not much cared for by her husband. However, he did still love her, in his own fashion.
- Mundane Utility: Is much more impressed by magic of this kind - i.e. better roads for marching on, mud to impede French cavalry - than flashier stuff.
- Reasonable Authority Figure: While he expects much of his subordinates, he defends them vigorously to others, retaining his faith in Strange, even after he goes mad.
- The Nick Namer: Almost exclusively refers to Strange as Merlin.
- The Stoic: Has little reaction to the Neapolitan undead and his main reaction to Brussels being moved temporarily to America is to glance out the window, notice some Native American warriors riding past, remark that they look badass and send someone to inquire if they'd like to join the battle. He is also unfazed by Strange apparently going completely insane, despite knowing far better than most how dangerous he's capable of being.
Major Colquhoun Grant
An outstanding intelligence officer in Wellington's army, famous for doing all of the spying and scouting behind enemy lines while in full uniform. He becomes one of Strange's closest friends after the two of them go through war together.
Portrayed by Jamie Parker in the BBC miniseries.
- The Ace: As in Real Life, he was the most brilliant of Wellington's exploring officers, and after escaping capture, he spent several weeks in Paris in full uniform, passing it off as the uniform of the US Army.
- Composite Character: In the miniseries, Grant combines his book counterpart with some aspects of Col. De Lancey (who also appears in the series) and Captain Whyte, essentially standing for every officer who is friendly to Strange before Wellington comes to accept him.
- Fire-Forged Friends: In the miniseries, Strange and Major Grant become friends after Strange saves both their lives by creating cover with a magical mist. Before Grant showed a measure of contempt for magic. (In the book, the two start off on good terms after Strange saves Grant from imprisonment).
- Officer and a Gentleman: He is very decidedly a man of honour, to the point of spending all his time behind enemy lines while in full uniform. Strange remarks, amused, on a conversation about how Wellington would have appreciated shapeshifting spies after Sir Walter says that Grant would not have liked to be a fox, that Grant would have been perfectly happy to be a fox so long as he could be a fox in a uniform.
Jonathan Strange's manservant.
- Alliterative Name: Jeremy Johns.
- David vs. Goliath: He incurs the wrath of Lawrence Strange soon after coming into the latter's employ, which leads to a battle of endurance during which Strange freezes to death.
- Death by Adaptation: in the TV series, he is killed in the Peninsular war protecting Jonathan.
- Heroic Sacrifice: in the miniseries, he saves Jonathan during the war at the cost of his life.