The Night Circus

Known to many of the other characters in the novel as the mysterious man in the gray suit, Mr. A.H. is a magician, as well as Hector Bowen’s greatest rival. He and Hector have been competing by proxy for decades—if not centuries—to establish which one of them can train the best magician. When Mr. A.H. meets young Celia Bowen, he agrees to a new competition and selects a young boy from an orphanage to be his apprentice. He is an excellent teacher, but he isolates his young student, only letting him out into the world to attend magic shows; when his apprentice turns 19, Mr. A.H. gives him his own apartment in London and sets him free to the world; he has never learned his apprentice’s name, so the young man calls himself Marco Alisdair. Mr. A.H. is also one of the original organizers of Le Cirque des Rêves, where the competition will take place. The other organizers do not know what to make of him, and as the circus members develop a sense of family and community, he makes no significant connections to the people around him, clearly preferring both distance and control. He appears aloof and mysterious, but really Mr. A.H. is isolated from those around him by his magic, and especially by the fact that he is not entirely mortal and has lived for centuries beyond the normal human lifespan. His rivalry with Hector Bowen and the strained relationship he had with his student Marco are the closest things Mr. A.H. has to emotional connections in his life.

Alexander / Mr. A.H. Quotes in The Night Circus

The The Night Circus quotes below are all either spoken by Alexander / Mr. A.H. or refer to Alexander / Mr. A.H.. 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:
Rivalry and Competition Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Anchor edition of The Night Circus published in 2012.
Part 1: Primordium Quotes

“You would wager your own child?”

“She won’t lose.”

Related Characters: Alexander / Mr. A.H. (speaker), Hector Bowen / Prospero the Enchanter (speaker), Celia Bowen
Page Number: 19
Explanation and Analysis:
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“You will be coming to study with me […].”

“Do I have a choice?”

“Do you wish to remain here?”

“No.”

“Very well.”

Related Characters: Marco Alisdair (speaker), Alexander / Mr. A.H. (speaker)
Page Number: 27
Explanation and Analysis:
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“What am I bound to?”

“An obligation you already had, and a person you will not meet for some time.”

Related Characters: Marco Alisdair (speaker), Alexander / Mr. A.H. (speaker)
Related Symbols: Rings
Page Number: 35
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
Part 2: Illumination Quotes

“I’m not certain I understand the rules.”

“You don’t need to understand the rules. You need to follow them. As I said, your work has been sufficient.”

Related Characters: Marco Alisdair (speaker), Alexander / Mr. A.H. (speaker)
Page Number: 147
Explanation and Analysis:
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Part 3: Intersections Quotes

“Thirteen years with barely a word and now you wish to speak with me?”

Related Characters: Marco Alisdair (speaker), Celia Bowen, Alexander / Mr. A.H.
Page Number: 307
Explanation and Analysis:
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“She will win. Do not try to avoid the fact that she is a stronger player than yours and has always been.”

Page Number: 383
Explanation and Analysis:
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Part 4: Incendiary Quotes

“Our instructors do not understand how it is. To be bound to someone in such a way. They are too old, too out of touch with their emotions. They no longer remember what it is to live and breathe within the world. They think it simple to pit any two people against each other. It is never simple. The other person becomes how you define your life, how you define yourself.”

Page Number: 458
Explanation and Analysis:
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Part 5: Divination Quotes

“You think being imprisoned marvelous?”

“It’s a matter of perspective. They have each other. They are confined within a space that is remarkable, one that can, and will, grow and change around them.”

Related Characters: Alexander / Mr. A.H. (speaker), Widget Murray (speaker), Celia Bowen, Marco Alisdair
Page Number: 502
Explanation and Analysis:
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“You’d be better off letting the whole endeavor fade away into myth and oblivion. All empires fall eventually. It is the way of things. Perhaps it is time to let this one go.”

“I’m afraid I’m unwilling to do that.”

Related Characters: Alexander / Mr. A.H. (speaker), Widget Murray (speaker)
Page Number: 506
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
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Alexander / Mr. A.H. Character Timeline in The Night Circus

The timeline below shows where the character Alexander / Mr. A.H. appears in The Night Circus. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part 1: Primordium
Rivalry and Competition Theme Icon
Magic and Illusion Theme Icon
Freedom and Agency Theme Icon
...Hector and Celia meet with a mysterious man in a gray suit, whom Hector calls Alexander, although that is not his real name. First, the man criticizes Hector for passing off... (full context)
Rivalry and Competition Theme Icon
Magic and Illusion Theme Icon
...that he knows of a theatrical producer named Chandresh Lefevre who could organize something appropriate. Alexander is uncomfortable with a public setting, but he finally relents, and the men also decide... (full context)
Family, Community, and Belonging Theme Icon
Freedom and Agency Theme Icon
Alexander, whose name is really Mr. A.H., goes to a London orphanage to choose a child... (full context)
Rivalry and Competition Theme Icon
Family, Community, and Belonging Theme Icon
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The boy lives in isolation with Mr. A.H. and studies from books and lectures, sometimes leaving the house to visit museums and libraries... (full context)
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Isobel hides in the study while Marco answers the door. Mr. A.H. does not enter, but stands in the doorway to inform Marco that he will be... (full context)
Family, Community, and Belonging Theme Icon
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...of everything” and will be indispensable for their keen eye for detail. There is also Mr. A.H. , whose role in the circus is not specified. Once the guests are ready, Chandresh... (full context)
Rivalry and Competition Theme Icon
Family, Community, and Belonging Theme Icon
Time and Mortality Theme Icon
Freedom and Agency Theme Icon
...proposals of marriage. Celia notes sarcastically that she is already married, touching the ring that Mr. A.H. placed on her finger. She receives one card that only states, “Your move.” Confused, she... (full context)
Part 2: Illumination
Rivalry and Competition Theme Icon
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Freedom and Agency Theme Icon
Marco’s only opportunity to see Mr. A.H. , his guardian and teacher, is at the Midnight Dinners at Chandresh’s house, and the... (full context)
Rivalry and Competition Theme Icon
Time and Mortality Theme Icon
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...Mr. Barris gave her and goes to the Midland Grand Hotel. When she asks for Mr. A.H. at the reception desk, there is no record of anyone by that name staying at... (full context)
Rivalry and Competition Theme Icon
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Mr. A.H. walks Tara to the station, suggesting that she find something to take her mind off... (full context)
Part 3: Intersections
Family, Community, and Belonging Theme Icon
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...age, except Widget and Poppet. After the speech there is dancing in the ballroom, and Mr. A.H. stays along the sidelines, except when he meets Herr Thiessen and speaks with him briefly,... (full context)
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...slip past, not noticing them. Marco touches her cheek and kisses her neck when suddenly, Mr. A.H. interrupts them, asking Celia if he can speak with Marco. Celia slips away without even... (full context)
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Marco moves their conversation into the game room, where he asks what Mr. A.H. suddenly wants, after thirteen years of silence. His teacher informs him that he doesn’t really... (full context)
Time and Mortality Theme Icon
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Marco throws a billiard ball at Mr. A.H. , who steps out of the way as the ball smashes into a stained glass... (full context)
Love Theme Icon
Family, Community, and Belonging Theme Icon
Freedom and Agency Theme Icon
...has never lied, he simply has chosen not to say certain things. Lainie asks if Mr. A.H. knows, and Mr. Barris responds that there is little he doesn’t know about. He then... (full context)
Rivalry and Competition Theme Icon
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...that Hector still pesters her a lot, and Marco notes that he has hardly seen Mr. A.H. in years, but he is still the closest thing to family that Marco has. Celia’s... (full context)
Rivalry and Competition Theme Icon
Family, Community, and Belonging Theme Icon
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...of Marco’s right hand, and he reveals the scar on his finger from the ring Mr. A.H. placed there when Marco was fourteen, with an inscription he doesn’t remember. Celia tells him... (full context)
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Marco asks Celia if Mr. A.H. gave the ring and scar to her, and she says yes, when she was only... (full context)
Rivalry and Competition Theme Icon
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...more than an hour before she is approached by the man in the grey suit, Mr. A.H. She speaks to him briefly, he nods, and she curtseys and leaves. (full context)
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Love Theme Icon
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Isobel thinks about how Marco told Mr. A.H. that everything he has done in the circus was for Celia, and how Isobel has... (full context)
Time and Mortality Theme Icon
Magic and Illusion Theme Icon
Freedom and Agency Theme Icon
...circus this evening, donning a mask and paying full admission, slipping into the crowd unnoticed. Mr. A.H. is also in attendance for the first time ever, and he does not wear a... (full context)
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Mr. A.H. seems to be enjoying himself at the circus. He visits the fortune-teller, who attempts to... (full context)
Time and Mortality Theme Icon
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...his silver knife from his pocket and throws it through the air, aiming straight at Mr. A.H. , who moves at the last second, almost imperceptibly. The knife lodges itself in the... (full context)
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Mr. A.H. lowers Thiessen to the ground, whispering in his ear the whole time and then closing... (full context)
Rivalry and Competition Theme Icon
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London, 1901: As Mr. A.H. walks out of the crowd and towards the gates of the circus, he is met... (full context)
Rivalry and Competition Theme Icon
Love Theme Icon
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Mr. A.H. notes incredulously that perhaps Hector hasn’t noticed that Marco and Celia are in love, and... (full context)
Rivalry and Competition Theme Icon
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...again, because she will win, because “she is a stronger player” than Marco is. But Mr. A.H. amplifies the sounds coming from near Thiessen, so that Hector can hear Celia sobbing over... (full context)
Love Theme Icon
Family, Community, and Belonging Theme Icon
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Freedom and Agency Theme Icon
He doesn’t know why Mr. A.H. was at the circus, but Celia tells Marco that she invited him because she wanted... (full context)
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...him that she doesn’t care what her father thinks anymore. Marco offers to speak with Mr. A.H. , to see if he can provide a verdict, or maybe consider the death of... (full context)
Part 4: Incendiary
Rivalry and Competition Theme Icon
Love Theme Icon
Magic and Illusion Theme Icon
Freedom and Agency Theme Icon
...tells her that she should stop imagining that she will play “whore to that nobody Alexander [Mr. A.H.] plucked out of a London gutter” after the competition is over. Celia ignores... (full context)
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...because he doesn’t understand it. Hector calls it messy work, overly complicated like all of Mr. A.H. ’s magic. Celia responds that anyone can do it, if they study enough, which contradicts... (full context)
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He mentions Chandresh, and Celia realizes that it was Hector who told him that Mr. A.H. would be at the circus the night Thiessen died. He sent Chandresh there. Hector defends... (full context)
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...she should not let her emotions take away her power. She replies that he and Mr. A.H. are both cowards, fighting by proxy because they fear challenging each other directly, afraid to... (full context)
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...uses ink to inscribe an A on the window of his flat, and waits for Mr. A.H. When he arrives, he stands in the hallway expectantly. Marco tells him that Celia thinks... (full context)
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...that they both had the same teacher, which confuses him. She notes her surprise that Mr. A.H. used such an open venue for this competition, that he always preferred seclusion, and that... (full context)
Part 5: Divination
Rivalry and Competition Theme Icon
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Widget is in Paris with Mr. A.H. , who is talking about the nature of stories. He sadly notes that stories have... (full context)
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Mr. A.H. tells Widget that, once upon a time, he and his student had a difference of... (full context)
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Widget explains to Mr. A.H. that Marco and Celia are not dead, and they are inside of the circus. When... (full context)
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Mr. A.H. comments that perhaps he chose too well, that they were too well matched, and now... (full context)
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Widget asks Mr. A.H. if magic is enough to live for, and he responds that what most people see... (full context)
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Widget accuses Mr. A.H. of trying to distract him, and he asks if the game is finished. Mr. A.H.... (full context)