Septimus Hardy is that rarity – an honest, “disinterested”, Church of England cleric. For 10 years, he has held the living as warden at a charitable “hospital”, founded centuries ago for impoverished but worthy tradesmen. When in the interest of reform, John Bold, Warden Hardy’s daughter’s suitor, brings a suit against the church for diverting alms to the clergy rather than the poor.
All manner of trouble arises when Mr. Hardy’s conscience clashes with the plans of his Arch Deacon, who also happens to be his son-in-law. Employing subtle (and sometimes not) satire to age old conflicts between right/wrong, church/society, rich/poor, law/common sense, Trollope prods his readers to consider the nature of charity and society’s obligations to the less fortunate. He presents both sides with fairness, providing no easy solution to a problem that is always with us. Thought provoking and still topical, though originally published in 1855.