Posted by Captain Everett on March 01, 1998 at 20:59:48:
In response to Vicars, written by Linden on February 28, 1998 at 20:54:34
] Jane Austen's vicars - lots of them. They're ghastly men (Mr Collins) or smashing men.... But what are they like as vicars?
] People were much more concerned about the issue later in the century (eg Trollope's Barchester novels), but JA seems remarkably unconcerned about it for someone who was a devout Christian.
] Any thoughts?
JA doesn't seem to be the only one who was unconcerned. Elie Halevy, points this out in his A History of the English People in 1812 (1924). [For those who are not familiar with the role of vicars in this period, here are a few comments.]
He points out that in about half of the parishes, the choice of vicar was in the hand of the landlord as a legal and incontestable right. In the remainder, the local gentry often had a hand in the decision. (Sometimes the potential vicar's abilities as a sportman was as much a factor in his favour as any religous training or conviction). The benefices were highly sought after; in some cases they were put up for what was almost a public auction. Whether obtained as a favour or purchase, the post was a common choice for the parents, or patrons, of young men. The social demands of being a member of good society often led to cost beyond what the stipends offered. Some vicars held two or more "accumulative benefices" or "pluralities." It seems that the recognition of the need for the vicar to be able maintain his social role made this acceptable.
Many vicars, especially those with pluralities, hired curates as a sort of subcontractor to the parish's souls. Sometimes these men were very ill-paid, often no better than the tenant farmer. Some did turn to farming to make ends meet. Sometimes, the vicars left the church empty most of the year, only ensuring that the four communions per yer (Easter, Christmas and Michaelmas) were performed.
This is the background against which one could try to rate the vicars in JA's work.
I remain, etc.
- So being a vicar was more a job than a calling? *nfm* Carolyn B 20:25:15 3/02/98 (0)
- Sorry, source is "A History of the English People in 1815" (nfm) Captain Everett 21:16:28 3/01/98 (0)
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