After finishing St. Leon, I still could not understand why Reginald was attached to his son Charles more than his daughters. I wanted to chalk it up to the fact that Charles is basically his heir and a way to pass on the family name, but that explanation fell flat. Charles had taken up his mother’s name so I do not think that his children would have the name St. Leon. I then shelved that theory and reread the ending of St. Leon and came upon this quote: “[Charles] was my constant attendant, my careful nurse, and my affectionate friend” (Godwin 449). Reginald is talking about how Charles had been so close to him and so dear, but I could not see the relationship as Reginald did. I saw his wife Marguerite in that role more than Charles. However, then I read Wordsworth’s poem “Michael” and reevaluated my understanding of Charles and Reginald’s father-son relationship.
In “Michael,” a family of three live in almost total isolation, much like Reginald and his family. Michael and his son Luke work tirelessly every day and spend so much time together that Michael says: “—But we were playmates, Luke; among these hills/As well thou know’st, in us the old and young/Have play’d together . . .” (Wordsworth ll. 363-365). Michael says this after describing raising and loving his son Luke as a father and then proceeds to describe their relationship akin to friendship. After reading about Michael and Luke’s relationship in which friendship and family bleed into each other, something clicked in my brain about Reginald and Charles: they were a lot like Michael and Luke. Though Reginald has a considerably bigger family than Michael, he lacks male companionship like Michael. Reginald does not seek out friend for much of the book and what male friends he does gain end up dying. That leaves Reginald not exactly lonely, but instead isolated from male companionship. He has his family, but he has no father, uncles, male cousins, or any friends. He has only his son Charles to have any sort of male conversation and companionship that he seeks for often in the novel, illuminating a touch of humanity in Reginald that I often thought was missing.
(Word count: 368)