Walter Pole

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Sir Walter Pole is a government minister. Though not perhaps of any great physical beauty - it cannot be pretended Sir Walter was ever an Apollo among men - he has birth, good breeding, the benefit of an excellent education, a sharp mind, a turn for politics and has charm as well as wit (and wit after all is a commodity not usually possessed by most Ministers). But like many men of wit Sir Walter found himself to be very much in debt, with the added vexation that the debt was not of his own doing. As a consequence of his father's and grandfather's poor and irresponsible choices he inherited an estate sadly embarrassed. With the assistance of a Lady Winsell, a very good friend, he therefore arranged a marriage with a young lady named Miss Wintertowne. As this young person was heiress to a thousand pounds a year her fortune would materially help Sir Walter with the debts he had been born with[6], and since she was moreover a great beauty and barely turned nineteen, it was agreed on all sides that theirs was in every way an ideal match. Just prior to their marriage however she died, leaving him without a hope - until Drawlight suggested that Mr Norrell try to bring Miss Wintertowne back from the dead. As was his wont Mr Norrell was deeply hesitant about the prospect of action, but eventually he was forced to admit that in the interests of promoting the cause of English Magic, he should try[7]. And when Mr Norrell was indeed successful - triumphantly, gloriously successful as it appeared at the time - Sir Walter was married to the young lady the very next day, and to his surprise found that the magic that had brought his wife back to life had (at first) given her three times as much life as anyone else! He was much inclined to talk more with her and to enjoy her company; but, as she pointed out to him, that was hardly possible, since he had a duties that required him constantly to be working. Indeed rather to his discomfiture it seemed that she was quite happily resigned to this outcome already[9].

When Lady Pole began to be dragged away to Lost-hope every night however she grew sorrowful and weary, and though the cause of her unhappiness was concealed from him the melancholy effects were soon evident to Sir Walter. He naturally could not understand what was wrong, since she was under a spell which prevented her from revealing the source of her distress. Sadly he was forced to conclude that her sanity was slowly deteriorating. He continued an affectionate husband to her however, even going out his way to ask the nearby churches of St Mary-le-bone and St Peter not to ring their bells, since their sound distressed her[27]. Eventually, after her unfortunate attempt on the life of Gilbert Norrell, he entrusted her to the care of Mr Segundus, who had by this time taken up the occupation of a mad-house keeper at Starecross Hall. Out of consideration for his lady Sir Walter had chosen Segundus because he was a very courteous, thoughtful sort of mad-house keeper, who would not impose his will upon Lady Pole in any officious way but only strive to make her comfortable[47].

Although Sir Walter generally appears to be taken up with matters of state and to have few moments of leisure he has a liberal mind well able to appreciate life's pleasures. He is a close friend of Jonathan Strange and has often enjoyed dining with him at the Bedford coffee-house[48], and although his straitened circumstances before his marriage probably did not allow him to indulge a taste for them it seems he occasionally enjoys country pursuits. At any rate at one point he buys a fine pair of greyhounds, and his menservants seem to expect he will use them in the field[59].

Sir Walter's most trusted servant is his butler Stephen Black, who also labours under a spell imposed by the same fairy who has enchanted Lady Pole. But when his hold upon her ladyship is broken the fairy - who is none other than the gentleman with the thistle-down hair - and who beforehand has seemed to value her ladyship greatly for her beauty and elegance, immediately declares his intention to murder her. It is to thwart this wicked design that Stephen is obliged to destroy him, and accidentally by this means ends his own enchantment and accedes to the throne of Lost-hope, a realm in Faerie formerly in thrall to The Gentleman. Thus, when our author lays down her weary pen to pursue the story no further, she leaves Sir Walter happy in the restoration of his wife, but deprived of the services of an excellent butler.