Frank Wentworth is the popular Perpetual Curate of the beautiful church of St Roque's in Carlingford. The position is poorly paid and has no district attached, though he has unofficially taken over the poor district of Wharfside and is proud of the "great work" in progress there. He has yet to declare his love for Lucy Wodehouse, who works alongside him.
Then numerous events shatter his calm: the arrival of a new Rector, determined to put an end to Frank's work in Wharfside; the arrival of Frank's three Evangelical aunts, who are withholding a family living from him because of his "high" principles; rumours of a strange shabby man somehow connected to Frank; and even worse rumours of Frank's supposed relationship with a shopkeeper's adopted daughter.
The Perpetual Curate is the fifth of seven works set in the delightful country town of Carlingford. This witty, entertaining novel has remained one of Mrs Oliphant's most popular.
Biographical and other notes
While Mrs Oliphant was still writing installments of this novel for Blackwood's Magazine, she was stunned by the sudden death of her 10-year-old daughter Maggie, a loss she never fully recovered from. She dedicated this novel in Italian to her close friends Jane Tulloch and Geddie Macpherson who were in Rome with her when Maggie died:
Alla padrona mia; ed a te, sorella carissima! Consolatrici gentillissime della desolata.
(Translation:) To my lady*; and to you, dearest sister! [Both] the gentlest of consolers of one who is desolate.
*How to translate the affectionate nickname padrona mia is discussed further in the biographical note to The Three Brothers.
British publishing information
Periodical: Blackwood's Magazine Jun 1863 - Sep 1864