The French Lieutenant’s Woman

The French Lieutenant’s Woman

Mrs. Poulteney Character Analysis

One of the upper-class women of Lyme. Mrs. Poulteney is generally known to be a horrible person who mistreats her servants and judges those around her by skewed religious standards. Her secret is that she believes in hell and fears she’ll go there when she dies. She hires Sarah as her companion as an act of charity that she hopes will help her get to heaven, but she’s cruel to Sarah. Mrs. Poulteney makes quite a show of her religious faith, but in truth her charity is largely an attempt to one-up Lady Cotton, who’s known for her good deeds. Mrs. Poulteney exemplifies the rotten hypocrisy of the Anglican Church, and the narrator seems to revel in depicting her descent to hell when she dies.

Mrs. Poulteney Quotes in The French Lieutenant’s Woman

The The French Lieutenant’s Woman quotes below are all either spoken by Mrs. Poulteney or refer to Mrs. Poulteney. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
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). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Back Bay Books edition of The French Lieutenant’s Woman published in 1998.
Chapter 13 Quotes

In other words, to be free myself, I must give him [Charles], and Tina, and Sarah, even the abominable Mrs. Poulteney, their freedoms as well. There is only one good definition of God: the freedom that allows other freedoms to exist. And I must conform to that definition.

The novelist is still a god, since he creates...; what has changed is that we are no longer the gods of the Victorian image, omniscient and decreeing; but in the new theological image, with freedom our first principle, not authority.

Related Characters: The narrator (speaker), Charles Smithson, Sarah Woodruff, Mrs. Poulteney
Page Number: 97
Explanation and Analysis:

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Mrs. Poulteney Character Timeline in The French Lieutenant’s Woman

The timeline below shows where the character Mrs. Poulteney appears in The French Lieutenant’s Woman. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 2
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...then abandoned her. She’s waiting on the quay for him to return. She works for Mrs. Poulteney . Charles insists that they continue on towards her. (full context)
Chapter 4
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Mrs. Poulteney ’s house stands on a hill above Lyme Regis. Today, no one would put up... (full context)
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Mrs. Poulteney is obsessed with dirt and immorality, and she keeps a close watch over both in... (full context)
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Mrs. Poulteney made this shocking decision a year earlier. The main secret of her life is that... (full context)
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One day when the vicar is visiting, he tries to reassure Mrs. Poulteney about her security after death, telling her that she mustn’t question God’s understanding of her... (full context)
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After a silence, Mrs. Poulteney decides that she will take a companion, someone who has fallen on hard times. She... (full context)
Chapter 6
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Mrs. Poulteney ’s face is very good at expressing disapproval. She looks rather like a Pekinese, and... (full context)
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...who gave her a good education. When he died, she became governess to the Talbots. Mrs. Poulteney wanted a letter of reference, but the vicar reminded her that this was a case... (full context)
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...out why. Sarah joined the Frenchman in Weymouth, though she stayed with a female cousin. Mrs. Poulteney still couldn’t excuse her actions, but the vicar reminded her that the lower classes are... (full context)
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Mrs. Poulteney obtained a letter of reference from Mrs. Talbot, though she disapproved of Mrs. Talbot’s lenient... (full context)
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When Mrs. Poulteney asked Sarah about the French lieutenant, she refused to talk about him. She owned no... (full context)
Chapter 9
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...to list reasons for her actions. At first she couldn’t decide whether to interview with Mrs. Poulteney , so she went to see her former employer, Mrs. Talbot. Mrs. Talbot was kind... (full context)
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Let’s imagine that on the afternoon that Charles is walking down the shore, Mrs. Poulteney makes a list of pros and cons about Sarah. First, Sarah has created a happier... (full context)
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The second item on the list would be Sarah’s voice. Mrs. Poulteney demands that her servants attend frequent religious services, some of which she presides over. They... (full context)
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Sarah is very good at taking on small household responsibilities, and on Mrs. Poulteney ’s birthday Sarah gave her a chair covering that she embroidered. Whenever Mrs. Poulteney sees... (full context)
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On the other side of things, Mrs. Poulteney is irritated that Sarah goes out alone. She originally had one afternoon free every week,... (full context)
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Furthermore, Sarah can’t always be present when there are visitors. Mrs. Poulteney wants everyone to see how charitable she’s being, but Sarah’s sadness and silence make guests... (full context)
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The worst thing about Sarah is that she still seems attached to the French lieutenant. Mrs. Poulteney has repeatedly tried to get her to talk about the situation, but Sarah refuses to... (full context)
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...Cobb whenever it wasn’t crowded. It’s assumed that she feels closest to France there. When Mrs. Poulteney heard of this routine, she challenged Sarah, saying that the fact that she looks out... (full context)
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Mrs. Poulteney allowed Sarah to walk by the sea sometimes, but not always, and not to stare.... (full context)
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But one day soon before the beginning of this story, Mrs. Fairley came to Mrs. Poulteney , saying that she had to tell her something about Sarah because it was her... (full context)
Chapter 11
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Mary got a job with Mrs. Poulteney because she’s related to Mrs. Fairley, but Mrs. Poulteney fired her when she caught her... (full context)
Chapter 12
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It still must be explained why Mrs. Poulteney was so horrified to hear that Sarah was walking in Ware Commons. In short, this... (full context)
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...that goes on. Over time, the custom will disappear as sexual mores become more lenient. Mrs. Poulteney has led a committee of ladies in the fight to close off the path through... (full context)
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On the evening that Mrs. Fairley reported Sarah’s movements to Mrs. Poulteney , the lady was waiting for Sarah when she returned. It was clear that she... (full context)
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In truth, Mrs. Poulteney has never even seen Ware Commons. Furthermore, she’s an opium addict, though she’s unaware of... (full context)
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Sarah dispassionately read the Bible passage that Mrs. Poulteney had marked for her, about the undefiled being blessed. Long after everyone was asleep that... (full context)
Chapter 13
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...herself, and she continued to frequent Ware Commons. It was clear that sooner or later, Mrs. Poulteney would find out. Sarah did go less often, and she’s begun to take a different... (full context)
Chapter 14
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...so happens that the morning after Charles’s adventure in the Undercliff, they go to visit Mrs. Poulteney . Neither Mrs. Poulteney nor Charles have any interest in each other, but due to... (full context)
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When Mrs. Tranter, Ernestina, and Charles are announced, Sarah makes to leave, but Mrs. Poulteney makes her stay. She wants to embarrass Ernestina and Charles. Mrs. Tranter and Mrs. Poulteney... (full context)
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...how Sarah will deal with his presence, but she entirely avoids him and acts deferentially. Mrs. Poulteney and Ernestina ignore her. Though Charles and Aunt Tranter try to include her in conversation,... (full context)
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Mrs. Poulteney asks whether Mary is being troublesome to Mrs. Tranter, but Mrs. Tranter says she’s a... (full context)
Chapter 15
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...that they could elope. He kisses her, and she blushes, her heart pounding. They imagine Mrs. Poulteney ’s reaction if she could see them, and Ernestina has a fit of giggles. They... (full context)
Chapter 16
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...he worries what would happen if she twisted her ankle here. Since she doesn’t want Mrs. Poulteney to know she comes here, he’d be the only person who would know where to... (full context)
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...good name. He says he doesn’t believe she’s truly disreputable, and he doesn’t care what Mrs. Poulteney thinks of him. He feels that his experience of the world is superior to hers,... (full context)
Chapter 17
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...The Assembly Rooms are pleasant, and will one day be replaced with a public bathroom. Mrs. Poulteney and her kind object to the place because people have a good time there, and... (full context)
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...her, and find out who she is. On the morning that Charles and Ernestina visited Mrs. Poulteney , Sam and Mary discussed the jobs they’ve had, and Sam confessed what he’d never... (full context)
Chapter 19
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...her than he does. Dr. Grogan says he can’t let anything bad be said about Mrs. Poulteney , who is his patient. No one can fathom what goes on in Sarah’s mind,... (full context)
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...could easily tell that she had melancholia, and he believed it was from living with Mrs. Poulteney . He wants to burn her house to the ground with her in it, and... (full context)
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...make an assumption about this pair, but it must be remembered that it’s 1867. If Mrs. Poulteney had seen them lying there, the reader might imagine that she would be enraged and... (full context)
Chapter 24
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...to change the subject, and asks what’s happened while he was gone. Ernestina reveals that Mrs. Poulteney has fired Sarah. Charles is shocked. Aunt Tranter explains that it happened the previous night,... (full context)
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Ernestina says that Sarah should never have been employed by such an awful woman as Mrs. Poulteney . Charles asks whether there’s any danger that Sarah might have committed suicide. Aunt Tranter... (full context)
Chapter 27
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...says he’s already given a lot of advice that day about what to do to Mrs. Poulteney as punishment. When Charles says that’s what he wants to talk about, Dr. Grogan assumes... (full context)
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...accusation that Sarah meant to be fired. The doctor says that he was called to Mrs. Poulteney ’s house that morning, and Mrs. Fairley told him what had happened. Sarah clearly walked... (full context)
Chapter 30
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...minutes, Mrs. Fairley took her chance. She came to Sarah’s room and triumphantly told her Mrs. Poulteney was waiting for her. When Sarah went into the drawing room, Mrs. Fairley listened at... (full context)
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Sarah demanded to know why she was being dismissed. Mrs. Poulteney said she would have her locked away, and commanded her to leave. Sarah said it... (full context)
Chapter 31
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...into the barn. Sarah confirms that she spent the night here. Charles tells her that Mrs. Poulteney is better, and comments that Sarah shouldn’t have been working for her in the first... (full context)
Chapter 44
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However, Mrs. Poulteney dies soon after Charles returns to Lyme. When she arrives at the gates of heaven... (full context)
Chapter 48
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...uncrucify him. Charles begins to pace again, seeing a new world. In a similar moment, Mrs. Poulteney went from thinking of going to heaven to thinking of Lady Cotton. Now, Charles thinks... (full context)
Chapter 61
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...Charles says he didn’t understand her true selfish nature, and that she’s far worse than Mrs. Poulteney . Sarah asks whether she wouldn’t be selfish if she let him marry her though... (full context)