The Cloister and the Hearth Author:Charles Reade This masterpiece re-creates the fifteenth century, presenting in the form of a novel for modern eyes the life of Holland, Germany and Italy as it appeared to people of the Middle Ages. — Set in the 15th century, it relates the story revolving about the travels of a young scribe and illuminator, Gerard Eliassoen, through several European countries... more ». The Cloister and the Hearth often describes the events, people and their practices in minute detail. Its main theme is the struggle between man's obligations to family and to Church.
Married to Margaret Brandt, Gerard sets off to Rome from Holland in order to escape the persecution of a vicious burgomaster as well as to earn money for the support of his family. Margaret awaits his return in Holland and in the meantime gives birth to his son. As Gerard is the favourite with his parents, his two dumb and ugly brothers decide to divert him from Holland and receive a larger share of fortune after their parents' death. They compose and dispatch a letter to Gerard informing him falsely that Margaret has died. Gerard believes the news and, stricken by grief, gives himself to a dissolute life and even attempts a suicide. After being saved from death by chance, he takes vows and becomes a Dominican friar. Later Gerard preaches throughout Europe and, while in Holland, discovers that Margaret is alive. He is afraid of temptation and in order to shun Margaret becomes a hermit. Margaret discovers Gerard's hiding place and convinces him to come back to normal life in which he becomes a vicar of a small town. Gerard and Margaret no longer live as a man and wife, but nevertheless see each other several times a week. A few years pass, Gerard's son grows up and is sent to a private school. Later, having heard that plague breaks out at the school, Margaret rushes to rescue her son, but contracts the disease herself and dies shortly afterward. Gerard takes her demise painfully, renounces his vicarship and dies in a few weeks.« less