The Rector of Justin: A Novel

The Rector of Justin: A Novel

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by Louis Auchincloss
     
 

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Louis Auchincloss has been celebrated as one of the best American novelists of our time. The Rector of Justin, originally published in 1964, is widely considered to be his most ambitious novel and his greatest achievement.

The terrain is familiar, vintage Auchincloss, in its astute dissection of the social mores of the Northeast's privileged establishment.… See more details below

Overview

Louis Auchincloss has been celebrated as one of the best American novelists of our time. The Rector of Justin, originally published in 1964, is widely considered to be his most ambitious novel and his greatest achievement.

The terrain is familiar, vintage Auchincloss, in its astute dissection of the social mores of the Northeast's privileged establishment. The story centers on a prestigious Episcopal school for boys and its commanding, charismatic founder, Frank Prescott, a man whose lifelong goal was to head such a school. With laser-sharp insight, Auchincloss portrays the evolution of this man and the sources of his virtues and failings, his successes, and his crises of faith. Seamlessly interweaving multiple points of view—from an adoring teacher to that of a rebellious daughter—Auchincloss captures the brilliant totality of a man. Through the personalities and memories of six intense observers, a psychologically complex social history of the eighty years of his life emerges.

This new edition contains an Afterword by the author.

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Editorial Reviews

Jonathan Yardley
Too often among the literati it is said of Louis Auchincloss that he is a "mere" novelist of the manners of upper-crust people whose lives are irrelevant to those led by the rest of us. That anyone could read The Rector of Justin and still believe this is all the evidence one needs of the human mind's bottomless capacity for obtuseness. This is fiction set in a small place but on a grand scale, wise, compassionate and utterly unsentimental. It is one of the central books of my life, and I treasure its every word.
—The Washington Post

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780451027191
Publisher:
Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
Publication date:
01/01/1960
Product dimensions:
7.00(w) x 5.00(h) x 1.00(d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1: Brian's Journal

September 10, 1939. I have always wanted to keep a journal, but whenever I am about to start one, I am dissuaded by the idea that it is too late. I lose heart when I think of all the fascinating things I could have described had I only begun earlier. Not that my life has been an exciting one. On the contrary, it has been very dull. But a dull life in itself may be an argument for a journal. The best way for the passive man to overtake his more active brothers is to write them up. Isn't the Sun King himself just another character in Saint-Simon's chronicle?

In Europe a world war has started while in this country Brian Aspinwall is about to go to work in his first job. Surely if I am ever to keep a journal, now is the time. A first job at twenty-seven! I shall be an instructor of English at Justin Martyr, an Episcopal boys' boarding school thirty miles west of Boston. The telegram from a Mr. Ives came in only yesterday. One of the masters wants to go to Canada to enlist in the RCAF which is why I have been taken on without interviews. It makes me feel better about my rejection by the British Army before I left Oxford in July. Naturally, they were not keen about an untrained Yankee student with a heart murmur! Perhaps had I stayed over there, now that war has actually come, they might have lowered their standards, but at least this way I can feel that I am releasing an able-bodied man to fight the antichrist in Berlin.

It is the obvious moment for stock-taking. In the questionnaire that was sent out this year by my class secretary at Columbia, I had nothing to contribute but the meager fact that I had gone abroad to study for amaster's degree. And now because I was too sensitive to stay in Oxford out of uniform I will not even get that! I suppose all I have basically done since my seventeenth year has been to seek refuge in literature from the agony of deciding whether or not I am qualified to be a minister. Perhaps life in a church school will help me. Please God it may.

But I must try not to be too hard on myself. That is, after all, another kind of conceit. It is a fact that I suffered all during my boyhood from ill health. It is another fact that as the only child of elderly parents I had to spend a great deal of time with them in their last illnesses. It was a joy, and I write the word sincerely, to be able to help them, but it was still time out of a career. So it is not altogether my fault that I have made so late a start; if it can be said I have even yet started.

With God's grace I shall learn my true capacities at Justin Martyr. It is a good size for a school (450 boys), and its headmaster and founder, the Reverend Francis Prescott, D.D., is probably the greatest name in New England secondary education. He is old now, nearly eighty, but he is a minister, and may have much to teach me. It may even turn out that I have been "called" to Justin.

I am shy and lack force of personality, and my stature is small. I stammer when I am nervous, and my appearance is more boyish than manly. All this will be against me. But I am not afraid to say what I mean, and I think in a real crisis I can be counted on to stand up for the right, if only because I have such a horror of letting God down. Let us hope I add up to a
teacher.

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What People are saying about this

Susan Cheever
Louis Auchincloss is one of the best writers alive. He has probed the American character more boldly and more intelligently than many of his more celebrated contemporaries.

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