Mr Merdle is the Man of the Age, the richest man in London. However, far from enjoying his hard-earned status, he seems to find it a terrible burden. He shuffles around with his head held low, preoccupied with work-related worries and intimidated by all the pomp and splendour that surrounds him. He also complains of feeling unwell, but his doctor is unable to put his finger on what is wrong with him.
The fraudulent dealings (similar to a Ponzi scheme) of Edmund Sparkler’s stepfather, Mr. Merdle, end with his suicide and the collapse of his bank business, and with it the savings of both the Dorrits and Arthur Clennam, who is now himself imprisoned in the Marshalsea, where he becomes ill and is nursed back to health by Amy.
Mr Merdle was immensely rich; a man of prodigious enterprise; a Midas without the ears, who turned all he touched to gold. He was in everything good, from banking to building. He was in Parliament, of course. He was in the City, necessarily. He was Chairman of this, Trustee of that, President of the other.
Mrs Merdle is a striking and magnificent woman, married to the great Mr Merdle (who is her second husband). She is much admired as Society’s best dressed and most glamorous hostess. She is a terrible snob, and cares greatly for what Society thinks. She is a strong woman and is most definitely the one wearing the trousers in her marriage.
Sparkler is Mrs Merdle’s son from her first marriage and heir to the enormous Merdle fortune. He is a thoroughly well-meaning young man, but he’s not got much between the ears. He is more or less happy to be told what to do by his interfering mother. He’s got an eye for the ladies but, to his mother’s horror, he particularly adores the entirely unsuitable young dancer, Fanny Dorrit.