When young Frank Gresham came of age, the once-prosperous Greshamsbury estate had, by mismanagement, become greatly reduced in value. Boxall Hill, one of the glories of the property, had been sold to Sir Roger Scatcherd, who also held mortgages on the rest of the estate. It was evident that Frank must marry money and his mother, sister of the Earl de Courcy and very conscious of her rank, would hear of nothing else. Frank, however, was already in love with Mary Thorne, a niece of Dr. Thorne, his father's friend and the family doctor - a man of family but with no fortune.It was known only to the doctor that Mary was the niece of the wealthy Sir Roger, the illegitimate child of his only sister, and that her father was Dr. Thorne's scapegrace brother Henry. Roger Scatcherd, then a village stonemason, had killed his sister's seducer, and while in prison for the crime, she had married a former sweetheart and emigrated to America, telling her brother that the child had died. Dr. Thome adopted the infant, educated her and finally took her into his home as a loved daughter, where she had been intimate with the Gresham family.
After serving his prison term Roger became a contractor, made a large fortune and for some conspicuous service to the Empire was knighted. Dr. Thorne had remained on good terms with him, trying vainly to restrain the constant drinking that was slowly killing him. After a particularly violent attack of delirium tremens, Sir Roger asked the Doctor to be trustee for his fortune, explaining that his son Louis would inherit and after him the oldest child of his sister in America. The doctor was thus forced to reveal Mary Thorne's identity, whereupon Sir Roger wished to arrange a marriage between his two heirs. Dr. Thorne was appalled, as Louis Scatcherd was notoriously following in his father's footsteps, and in fact outlived him only by a few months.Mary's large fortune soon dissipated the cloud hanging over her because of her birth, and she was welcomed into the clan by all the Greshams and the De Courcys, and the family property was once more placed on a firm foundation.
"There are ... fire-and-thunder Trollopians who will die for Doctor Thorne. By not a few it is considered the best Trollope of them all."-Walpole