Character Profile: George Whitlocke
FULL NAME: George Edward Whitlocke
BORN: 16 October 1760, London (aged 33-34 in Lust & Liberty; 54-55 in Sin & Secrecy)
EYE COLOUR: Blue
HAIR COLOUR: Blond
FAMILY: Amethyst Whitlocke (née Cheshill) (wife)
ALLIES: Lord Wilson Vyrrington, Amethyst Whitlocke, Abel Stirkwhistle, Lady Oliviera Vyrrington (sometimes), the Vyrrington children
ENEMIES: Lady Oliviera Vyrrington (sometimes), Jesse Blameford, Luke Warwick
PERSONALITY: Loyal, dogged, stern, officious, generous, discrete
Who is George Whitlocke?
Labelling the Vyrrington butler Whitlocke is complicated. In Lust & Liberty, he is not really a protagonist, as he poses a lot of threats and obstacles to Lady Vyrrington, the main anti-heroine. However, he is not a villain either, since his motives are not evil. They stem from his loyalty to his master, Lord Vyrrington. Whitlocke is one of those ambiguous characters.
And this role continues in Sin & Secrecy. He assists both Abel Stirkwhistle and Lady Vyrrington as a sort of scout for information, but also as a messenger. His relationship with his mistress is very much the same; since Abel is the main focus of S&S, I thought it would be fun to explore his friendship with Whitlocke a little further. They have known each other for years and, despite the class difference, they're of a similar intellectual level. That was why I thought it fitting and believable to make them drinking partners. It gives me an outlet to have Abel talk about things he couldn't necessarily confide in Lady Vyrrington...
from Chapter XV of The Berylford Scandals: Sin & Secrecy
Whitlocke was stood at the bar when Abel entered the tavern, almost knowing psychically that the arrival of the ageing crustacean of a man was imminent. The butler handed Abel a glass of red wine, which he took with the keenness of a child at the sight of sweets.
“What’s wrong?” Whitlocke asked Abel, leading him through a glass-paned door into the snug of the tavern. It was more of a private lounge for the two men; they were the only ones who ever went in there. It had been installed for the benefit of the Berylford ladies, but none would dare even enter The St. Barbara’s Arms, much less drink in there, however privately.
Abel’s response to Whitlocke’s question was prefixed by a heavy sigh and he wearily took his seat.
“This schoolteacher thing will be the death of me,” he groaned, gulping his wine.
“It’s only been a few days!”
“And a few days too long. Last time we advertised a job at the schoolhouse we had responses left, right and centre in no time at all!”
“Yes, but if I remember rightly, the woman your sister hired was on the run, was she not?” returned Whitlocke snidely.
“One schoolmistress dies in mysterious circumstances, that’s not enough to put off the criminals,” he observed, “But two die in such circumstances, even the amoral among us won’t answer the advertisement. The only ones we can’t put off are those who aren’t remotely qualified.”
“For someone who hates the job so much, you don’t seem to be in too much of a hurry to pass it along to someone else!” he said.
“I don’t know what you mean.”
“Berylford isn’t Kensington, Abel. The children here aren’t going to be great statesmen or thinkers or writers. Those that live to see fourteen will either end up in the army or on the farms. Or in service.”
“You could have been a statesman if I recall correctly. You chose service.”
“I chose Lord Wilson Vyrrington. It was you and your family that made me believe service wasn’t something to be ashamed of.”
“Perhaps. But I fail to see the point you’re trying to make here, Whitlocke.”
“It doesn’t matter how qualified they are,” the butler replied, “As long as they can read, write and manage arithmetic, and can teach the children to do the same, that’s all they need to fit them for the world. What’s more important for you is to get out of that place. Before you add yourself to its increasing body count!”
Abel finished his glass of wine. His mouth formed a stilted smile.
“See?” he said, “Such wisdom and common sense are wasted in service! Even to one such as Lady Vyrrington! I’m going to buy you another drink.”
Origins and Basis
George Whitlocke's surname was originally Burgess, which I changed to name him after one of my great-grandparents. He was of the original 40 characters created back in 2008 for the first definitive Berylford story. His relationship with Lady Vyrrington was always acrimonious, even in those early drafts. I had not decided why at the time, however, since the story involving the affair with Jesse Blameford had not been written or even thought about.
When we think of butlers and other servants, we generally see them as loyal people who are devoted to their employers' every need. I wanted to challenge that. And the simple way to do that was to have Whitlocke and Lady Vyrrington mutually hate one another. But they tolerate each other for the sake of their other loved ones: Lord Wilson and Amethyst. However, it made sense for them to put aside their differences in times of grief, such as the death of Lord Wilson and those of the Vyrrington children.
Like Abel, Whitlocke is somewhat based on Dickens' Jeremiah Flintwinch from Little Dorrit. Not physically, of course - primarily in his relationship with his employer. Flintwinch is both an ally and an obstacle to Mrs Clennam in the same way that Whitlocke is to Lady Vyrrington. Otherwise, the character is quite original. However, I have heard a reader of Lust & Liberty compare him to Tommy Lascelles, as portrayed by Pip Torrens in The Crown on Netflix. That rigid and unwavering devotion to the proper order of things. This was quite accidental, but something I'm bearing in mind as I revise Sin & Secrecy.