Name: Denholme Cavendish

Age: Unknown, 60+ years old
Affiliations: Cavendish Holdings, Timothy Cavendish, Account #1390931, Mickey Kwan
First appearance: Ghostwritten, Hong Kong
Subsequent appearances: Cloud Atlas, The Ghastly Ordeal of Timothy Cavendish


Sir Denholme Cavendish is the owner of Cavendish Holdings, a firm that employs financial attorney — and Hong Kong narrator — Neal Brose. The glib Cavendish routinely forgets Brose’s name, and refers to him as “Nile,” leading the irritated Brose to observe that Cavendish is a man “educated beyond his intellect.”

Denholme Cavendish, played by Hugh Grant in the 2012 movie adaptation of Cloud Atlas.

Denholme Cavendish, played by Hugh Grant in the 2012 movie adaptation of Cloud Atlas.

In his first and only appearance in David Mitchell’s debut novel, Ghostwritten, Denholme Cavendish instructs Brose to take custody of “a special account” for his Hong Kong portfolio — Account #1390931, belonging to “a Russian chap in St. Petersburg” named Andrei Gregorski. Cavendish says he’s putting Brose in charge of the account because Brose is an attorney who can “recognize the invisible goal posts” and use “whatever means are at [his] disposal to score.”

Only Cavendish, Brose, Gregorski and Cavendish’s lieutenant, an American named Jim Hersch, are aware of the account’s existence until an investigator named Huw Llewellyn approaches Brose for “a friendly little chat” to offer the crooked lawyer “a way out.” Llewellyn tells Brose that Cavendish will use him as “a bullet-proof vest” to avoid prosecution, forcing Brose to take the fall. Brose is shaken, but declines to provide Llewellyn with information.

Denholme Cavendish appears for the second time in the Cloud Atlas chapter, The Ghastly Ordeal of Timothy Cavendish. By that time, it appears Denholme’s illicit dealings have caught up with him — when his brother, Timothy, asks for a loan, Denholme says he has nothing to give. After reconsidering, Denholme tells his brother he can help put him in a hotel, tricking Timothy into checking in at Aurora House, a nightmarish nursing home.