The Rector of Justin

by Louis Auchincloss

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Last Updated September 6, 2023.

Francis “Frank” Prescott

Frank is the rector of Justin Martyr Academy, a school near Boston, for most of the novel. He retires in 1941. The book uses other character’s memoirs and diaries in constructing Frank’s biography, beginning with his orphan status. A man of deep Christian faith, Frank decides to start a Christian preparatory school. His determined character is matched by his short, bullish build. After his university studies at Harvard and Oxford, Frank experiences a crisis of faith, but he soon enters divinity school and, after ordination, founds Justin. During this period, he marries Harriet. The novel delves into the daily operations of the school and Frank’s educational philosophy and practices. Generally a beloved and respected figure, Frank molds many successful young men in more than 50 years of service.

Brian Aspinwall

Brian is a teacher at Justin who joins the faculty in 1939. He cannot do military service because of a heart condition. Brian, who is “sensitive,” later becomes Frank’s biographer. The novel draws heavily on Brian’s diary entries.

Harriet Winslow Prescott

Harriet becomes Frank’s wife. Growing up in Boston Brahmin society, she has a strong service ethos. Their courtship and marriage overlap with Frank’s divinity studies and ordination. A co-founder of Justin Martyr, she is crucial to its administration. Harriet is depicted as intellectual but plain.

Cordelia Prescott Turnbull

Cordelia is Frank and Harriet’s rebellious daughter. She runs away at seventeen and marries a young Catholic man, who she later divorces. Following a Parisian affair with Charley Strong, she marries the wealthy Guy Turnbull—and later divorces him as well.

Horace Havistock

Horace has been Frank’s friend since their school days. He serves as Frank’s foil; he is a sophisticated bachelor. Horace’s memoir is an important source for Brian’s biography.

David Griscam

David is a Justin student who becomes a successful attorney after graduation and later serves as a trustee for the school. Frank’s mentoring is crucial in helping the young David put his father’s illegal financial dealings behind him.

Charley Strong

Charley is a highly-regarded Justin. He serves in World War I. Severely wounded, he loses his faith, and his relationship with Cordelia worsens this crisis. Frank helps his restore his faith, which leads to his breakup with Cordelia.

Duncan Moore

Duncan succeeds Frank as rector. His liberal changes upset the old guard, but Griscam supports his reforms.

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