Henry Lascelles

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Henry Lascelles (b.1768 - d.?) is a wealthy and fashionable man-about-town who, along with Christopher Drawlight, attaches himself to Gilbert Norrell when the latter first appears in London. Clever, shallow, arrogant and of a very decisive character, Lascelles is at first sceptical of Norrell's ability to do magic; he cultivates his society merely for cynical amusement, fully expecting to be entertained by his exposure as a deluded fraud [5]. Eventually however, when it transpires that Norrell can indeed perform powerful magic and thus becomes a person of the first consequence, Lascelles enjoys the reflected glory of being his confidant[12, 24].

Eventually Lascelles, who unlike the scholarly magician is tall, handsome and socially adept, gains such a powerful hold over Norrell that the latter chooses him as his right-hand man in preference to his long-time servant John Childermass[63]. Shortly after this point however Norrell vanishes into the eternal darkness shrouding Jonathan Strange, and soon thereafter Lascelles enters a fairy road and becomes trapped. He is trapped in the following way: after answering the challenge of a young man who proclaims himself the Champion of the Lady of the Plucked Eye and Heart, Lascelles kills his opponent in a duel. He is himself then bound by magic to take the dead man's place as the Lady's new champion.[64]. It is perhaps implied he faces a future of endless conflict and cruelty which will eventually induce in him a state of adiaphory similar to that of the opponent he has killed. Indeed it is to be feared that the parting comment the servant Lucas makes when Lascelles enters the fairy road is a prophetic one: "Oh, let him go!...Let him be damned if he wishes! I am sure no-one could deserve it more!" [64]

Lascelles is represented as a man of intelligence and taste[37] but depraved morals. His known misdeeds include seducing a married woman, Maria Bullworth[36]; spreading false rumours about Jonathan Strange and causing a libellous book to be printed in order to defame him[58]; mutilating the face of John Childermass[63]; and callously murdering a former friend, Christopher Drawlight[62]. He is however extremely proud of his rank and considers himself bound by the social code appropriate to gentlemen, at least so far as it applies to personal courage. For example, he will not willingly show fear or back down in the face of a threat. It is this trait which leads him deliberately to enter the fairy road and entangle himself in the challenge which the shrewder Childermass had previously refused.

It is curious that though Mr Lascelles seems entirely unfamiliar with Yorkshire [63] he also appears to be related to one of its foremost families, for Henry Lascelles, 2nd Earl of Harewood (1767-1841) was a member of Parliament from Yorkshire: and as the name Lascelles is hardly a common one, the two men are doubtless connected.

It could of course well be, knowing Mrs Clarke's knack for wordplay, that Lascelles as a name is related to the rather unlikable features of the character. Besides the (fairy) gentleman with thistle-down hair, Henry Lascelles is, arguably, the most evil human in the novel. Now, since the french are the defined enemy, perhaps Mrs Clarke, known for her subtle pun and artfully funny turns of phrase, gave us a hint in giving Lascelles a quintessential french name: "la selle" could be translated as "the saddle".