This book charts the eccentric career of William Palmer of Magdalen, the only member of the Oxford Movement to take a serious interest in the Orthodox Church. Ordained an Anglican deacon, Palmer was destined for a conventional life as a classics don at Oxford, but in 1840 and 1842 he travelled to Russia to seek communion from the Russian Orthodox Church, on the basis that the Anglican Church was part of the Catholic and Apostolic Church world-wide. Despite their personal regard for him, the Russians remained unconvinced by his arguments, not least because of the actions of the Anglican hierarchy in forming alliances with other Protestant bodies. Palmer for his part exposed the logical inconsistencies in the claim of the Orthodox to be the one true church.
Increasingly disillusioned with the Church of England, and finding himself without support from the Scottish Episcopal Church, Palmer was urged by his Russian friends such as Mouravieff and Khomiakoff to convert to Orthodoxy. However, he baulked at making the cultural leap from West to East, and could not accept the Orthodox inconsistency over rebaptism and chrismation. After some years in ecclesiastical limbo, he followed the example of his Oxford friends such as Newman, and was received into the Roman Catholic Church in Rome in 1855. He lived in Rome as a Catholic layman until his death in 1879.