Belinda, having loved the Archdeacon when she was twenty and not having found anyone to replace him since, had naturally got into the habit of loving him, though with the years her passion had mellowed into a comfortable feeling, more like the cosiness of a winter evening by the fire than the uncertain rapture of a spring morning.
‘No, a single curate is in many ways more suitable,’ said Belinda thoughtfully. ‘More in the tradition, if you see what I mean. And then of course there’s the celibacy of the clergy isn’t there?’ she added quickly.
‘Is there?’ said Edith scornfully. ‘I thought St Paul said it was better to marry than burn.’
‘Well, it is hardly a question of that,’ said Belinda in a confused way. ‘I mean, of burning. One would hardly expect it to be.’
Middle-aged spinster sisters Belinda and Harriet Bede live together in an English village, where the meek romantic Belinda quietly nurses her unrequited love for the pompous, married Archdeacon Hoccleve while her plump, jolly sister dotes on an endless parade of curates and gently turns down repeated marriage proposals from an Italian count. Barbara Pym started this novel shortly after coming down from Oxford in the mid-1930s, and she based the characters on herself, her sister Hilary, and many of her friends from Oxford, projecting them into their fifties. Pym’s spinsters and clergymen, literary quotations, wry humor and unique style are all present in her first published novel.