(Critical Guide to British Fiction)

A Glass of Blessings begins and ends in one place, at the Anglo-Catholic church of St. Luke in the select West London neighborhood called Holland Park. As the novel opens on the feast day of St. Luke, Wilmet Forsyth notices her old acquaintance Piers Longridge at the church she has recently started attending. The story ends approximately a year later. Wilmet, now firmly established in the “charmed circle” of regular members, comes back with her fellow parishioners from seeing Father Marius Ransome instated as a suburban vicar and turns her thoughts and steps toward her husband, Rodney, in their new flat.

The time between these two events is a period of change and growth for Wilmet. As she is first seen, Wilmet is a privileged but idle woman. Beautiful, elegant, and perceptive, she is married to a good and successful man some years her senior. They have no children and live stylishly with his widowed mother. Apart from her war years in Italy, where she met Rodney, Wilmet has never done anything, largely because she has never needed to do anything. Now, after years of comfort, she has grown restive. Feeling the need to exert herself, Wilmet half deliberately and half accidentally enters into new experiences.

First is her growing involvement with the Church, that arena of choice for so many Pym heroines. Initially reserved, Wilmet gradually makes the acquaintance of the parishioners and their three clergymen: the epicurean rector amusingly named Father Thames, the more priestly if less courtly Father Bode, and Father Marius Ransome, a handsome newcomer in whom Wilmet takes a romantic interest which she vaguely sees as altruistic.

Besides taking Wilmet beyond the sphere of her household (both Rodney and Sibyl are agnostics), this...

(The entire section is 725 words.)


(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

A Glass of Blessings takes place in a small Anglo-Catholic parish, St. Luke’s, in London. The first-person narrator is Wilmet Forsyth, an attractive young matron with time on her hands. The novel traces her attempt to fill her time and find meaning in her life.

Through her friend, Rowena Talbot, Wilmet meets Rowena’s brother, Piers Longridge; like Wilmet, he is underemployed and works part-time as a teacher of Portuguese. Wilmet begins the study of the language and engages in a mild flirtation with Piers before learning that he is homosexual. Harry Talbot, Rowena’s husband, is romantically interested in Wilmet, who is initially pleased by his attention but becomes skittish and nervous when he gives her an expensive enamel box. Wilmet is not seriously interested in either Piers or Harry but flirts with them to pass the time.

More assiduous than either Harry or Piers in annexing Wilmet to his circle is Father Thames, the rector of St. Luke’s Church. Thames lives in the rectory with his assistant, “mild, dumpy Father Bode,” and their housekeeper, Wilf Bason. A worldly minister, Thames collects expensive curios such as Fabergé eggs and attempts to enlist women to do all the work of the parish not performed by Bode. Complications arise when a new curate, Father Ransome, is sent to be the third minister of the parish. Thames is so selfish that he will not give Ransome a room in the large rectory; consequently, the newcomer must...

(The entire section is 595 words.)


(Critical Guide to British Fiction)

Benet, Diana. Something to Love: Barbara Pym’s Novels, 1986.

Long, Robert Emmet. Barbara Pym, 1986.

Nardin, Jane. Barbara Pym, 1985.

Pym, Barbara. A Very Private Eye: An Autobiography in Diaries and Letters, 1984.