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Salem Chapel

Margaret Oliphant

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The sleepy town of Carlingford includes two Anglican churches and one dissenting chapel. They draw their congregations from very different strata of society, even in as small a town as theirs. Arthur Vincent has just been called as pastor to his first charge, Salem Chapel. He’s a young man of ability, but he’s also prideful and ambitious. As his ministry settles, he finds himself both repulsed by his crude and claustrophobic flock, and attracted by the brighter members of the town’s society.

Vincent’s social entanglements complicate his ministry in predictable ways. What could not be predicted, however, are the crises into which his wider family is plunged as their lives intertwine with those of strangers.

This second Chronicle of Carlingford brings readers into a realm of society which is seldom glimpsed in Victorian fiction: the lives of shopkeepers, dissenting thought and culture, the distinctive piety and “tea meetings” of the Chapel—all of which finds its closest parallels in the later fiction of Mark Rutherford. While Salem Chapel may not yet be the artistic high point of the series, still, as one critic puts it, with it “Mrs. Oliphant gave the surest sign of genius.”

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