This year I'm looking at some of the entries in the "The Diary of a Country Parson". This was a diary kept by an English clergyman, James Woodforde (1740-1803). Woodforde lived in Somerset and Norfolk, and kept a diary for 45 years recording all kind of ordinary incidents which paint a picture of the routines and concerns of what Ian Hislop terms "the middling folk" of 18th century rural England.
A few notes on the text:
Woodforde mentions the Treaty of Paris, often called the Peace of Paris, or the Treaty of 1763. This was signed on 10 February 1763, by the kingdoms of Great Britain, France and Spain, with Portugal in agreement. It ended the "Seven Years War". The Seven Years' War was a global military war between 1756 and 1763, involving most of the great powers of the time and affecting Europe, North America, Central America, the West African coast, India, and the Philippines. The Treaty was made possible by the British victory over France and Spain, and marked the beginning of an era of British dominance outside Europe
Woodforde mentions riots in London. These occurred when the radical political reformer John Wilkes returned to England from a period of self-imposed exile (to escape charges of seditious libel) in 1768 and stood as Radical candidate for Middlesex. After being elected Wilkes was arrested. Over the next fortnight a large crowd assembled at St. George's Field, a large open space by King's Bench Prison, where he had been taken. On 10th May, 1768 a crowd of around 15,000 arrived outside the prison. The crowd chanted 'Wilkes and Liberty', 'No Liberty, No King', and 'Damn the King! Damn the Government! Damn the Justices!'. The troops feared an attempt would be made to rescue Wilkes, and opened fire, killing seven people, and leading to disturbances all over London in anger at the military action.
"Surplice Fees" are those fees paid to Clergy in relation to Funerals and Weddings
One thing which is singular is the spellings. Archaic forms such as "plaid" and "crikett" come into his diary, and this was commonplace even before that, for example:
1621 R. Burton Anat. Melancholy ii. iii. vii. 425 He plaid on his drumme, and by that meanes madded her more.
Samuel Johnson began the trend to standardise English with his dictionary in 1755. "One great end of this undertaking," Johnson wrote, "is to fix the English language." Shortly afterwards, Bishop Robert Lowth produced a guide to English Grammar in 1762; the trend towards standardisation had begun:
The principal design of a Grammar of any Language is to teach us to express ourselves with propriety in that Language; and to enable us to judge of every phrase and form of construction, whether it be right or not. The plain way of doing this is, to lay down rules, and to illustrate them by examples. But, beside shewing what is right, the matter may be further explained by pointing out what is wrong. (Robert Lowth, Short Introduction to English Grammar, 1762).
The 18th and 19th centuries saw the advent of the these, large-scale, authoritative English dictionaries, and universal education, leading to the modern standardisation of English that was not the case when James Woodforde was writing.
Johnson himself realised later that his attempt to fix language was in fact doomed to failure, that words would change meanings and spellings, and that it was impossible to "embalm" a living language:
Those who have been persuaded to think well of my design, require that it should fix our language, and put a stop to those alterations which time and chance have hitherto been suffered to make in it without opposition. With this consequence I will confess that I flattered myself for a while; but now begin to fear that I have indulged expectation which neither reason nor experience can justify. When we see men grow old and die at a certain time one after another, from century to century, we laugh at the elixir that promises to prolong life to a thousand years; and with equal justice may the lexicographer be derided, who being able to produce no example of a nation that has preserved their words and phrases from mutability, shall imagine that his dictionary can embalm his language, and secure it from corruption and decay, that it is in his power to change sublunary nature, or clear the world at once from folly, vanity, and affectation.
April - The Diary of a Country Parson
MAY 14. Plaid at Crikett in Port Meadow, the Winchester against the Eaton, and we Winton: beat them.
MAY 20. Hooke, Boteler and myself went to Welch's of Wadham College, where we designed to sup and spend the evening, but our entertainment was thus, one Lobster of a Pound, a half-pennyworth of Bread, and the same of Cheese, half of an Old Bottle of Ale, Half a Bottle of Wine, and a Bottle of Lisbon, and then we were desired to retreat, which was immediately obeyed. . . . N.B. A Wadamite.
MAY 2. Sale spoke to me this morning concerning the Curacy of Newton-Purcell, which I have promised him to take and serve the Sunday after Trinity Sunday; it is about 20 miles from Oxford; and I am to receive per annum for serving it, besides Surplice fees £28. 0. 0. I am only to serve it during Mr. Sale's Proctorship.
MAY 5. . . . This is the Thanksgiving day for the late Peace between France, Spain and England.
MAY 11. . . . I was offer'd this afternoon by Fitch of Queen's Coll: a Curacy worth £40 per annum, and to be enterd upon at Michaelmas -- It is in Somersett, near Taunton, the name of the Place is Thurloxton, in the Gift of Fitch's Father. I shall write to my Father concerning it to-morrow morning; I have got to the 20th of this month to consider of it.
MAY 23. . . . I went this afternoon at five o'clock to C.C.C. to Mr. Hewish the Bishop of Oxford's Chaplain, before whom I was examined for deacon's Orders, and I came of very well. I was set over in the middle of the fifth Chapter of St. Paul to the Romans and construed that Chapter quite to the end. I was quite half an hour examining. He asked a good many hard and deep questions. I had not one question that Yes, or No, would answer. . . . Mr. Hewish is a very fair Examiner, and will see whether a Man be read or not soon. . . .
MAY 24. Breakfasted in my own Rooms again. Took a ride this morning towards Elsfield and round by Staunton upon the Grey. For half a pint of ale at Boys Water pd. 0. 0. 1. Gave Jackson's other man for taking care of the Grey and saddle etc. 0. 0. 6. For fruit pd 0. 0. 1. For wine on the green pd 0. 2. 0. The reason of my paying so much was the Impudence of two Gentlemanlike Persons (whose names were Messrs. Mercer and Loyd) pushed themselves into the Temple in our Garden while Hooke and myself were drinking there, and drank two Bottles of Wine with us. Mercer's wife and 2 more Ladies were with us. Mercer (who wore a gold-laced Hat) was very drunk and very abusive to us and Mr. Loyd: Loyd is a Schoolmaster at Abington, and Mercer's son went to School to him. Mercer's son was with us. Mercer went away about ten o'clock this evening, and made a great noise going through College. Mr. Mercer behaved very much unlike a Gentleman. Loyd came into the B.C.R. afterwards with Hooke and myself; Mr. Loydwas drunk. Mercer broke two glasses in the Temple for which Hooke and myself pd. 0. 1. 0. I went to bed at eleven and left Mr. Loyd in the B.C.R. with Hooke and some more Gentlemen. . . .
MAY 27. For an ounce of Green Tea pd 0. 0. 8. For an ounce of Bohea Tea pd. 0. 0. 4d.
MAY 28. Went to Dr. Hunt's of Christ Church, with Nicholls, Geree and Pitters, and subscribed to the 39 Articles before the Bishop. We paid Pope Beaver for our Letters of Orders, which we receive Monday next, in Doctor Hunt's rooms; each of us 0. 10. 0. . . . Oglander Senr. gave a very handsome glazed Lanthorne for the use of the Bowlers to light their Pipes with, this afternoon in the Temple in the Green. . . .
MAY 29. At nine o'clock, this morning went to Christ Church with Hooke, and Pitters, to be ordained Deacon; and was ordained Deacon there by Hume Bishop of Oxford. There were 25 Ordained Deacons and 13 Priests. We all received the Sacrament. . . . We were in C. Church Cathedral from nine o'clock this morning till after twelve. For wine this afternoon in the B.C.R. pd. 0. 0. 6.
MAY 24. . . . We got home to Ansford to dinner, where I dined, supped and laid at my Father's house. Blessed be Almighty God for sending me safe home to my dear Parents again. . . .
On May 26th he begins his curacy at C. Cary, and gets £20. 0. 0 a year from his father for it: this means he can only take one service at Babcary on Sunday.
MAY 27. Breakfasted, dined, and laid at home again. Brother John dined, breakfasted, and laid here again. After dinner Jack went to Wincanton to a Pony Race, and he did not return till after ten this evening. I am greatly afraid Jack is rather wild, but I hope not.
MAY 28. . . . Brother John spent the evening at the Fair [at Castle Cary].
MAY 29. . . . I read Prayers this morning at C. Cary, it being the commemorating the Restoration of King Charles the Second. . .
MAY 9. . . . never saw a Peacock spread his tail before this day at Justice Creeds and most Noble it is. -- How wonderful are Thy Works O God in every Being.
MAY, 13. . . . Terrible Riots in London 1, by the Paper have been and likely to be.
[These were the Wilkes Riots on May 10th in St. George's Fields.]
MAY 29. . . . I read Prayers this morning at C. Cary, being 29 of May the Restoration of King Charles II from Popish Tyranny. . . . Jack brought home with him from Ansford Inn [where there had been 'great cock fighting'], after 10 o'clock this evening. . . . Dr. John Graunt, Mr. James Graunt, Joseph Wilmot, and Janes, all of Ditchet, which supped and stayed till 3 in ye morning, quite low life sort of people, much beneath Jack. I really wonder Jack keeps such mean company. . . .
MAY 18. . . . Mr. Howes and Wife and Mrs. Davy, Mr. Bodham and his Brother, and Mr. du Quesne all dined and spent the afternoon and part of the evening with us to-day. I gave them for dinner a dish of Maccarel, 3 young Chicken boiled and some Bacon, a neck of Pork rosted and a Gooseberry Pye hot. We laughed immoderately after dinner on Mrs. Howes's being sent to Coventry by us for an Hour. What with laughing and eating hot Gooseberry Pye brought on me the Hickupps with a violent pain in my stomach which lasted till I went to bed. At Cards Quadrille this evening -- lost 0. 2. 6.
MAY 2 1. . . . Sent a letter this evening by Cary to Dr. Oglander Warden of New Coll: with a bill of the expenses on the repairing of my Church -- in all 73. 10. 11 ½.
MAY 22. . . . My Boy Jack had another touch of the Ague about noon. I gave him a dram of gin at the beginning of the fit and pushed him headlong into one of my Ponds and ordered him to bed immediately and he was better after it and had nothing of the cold fit after, but was very hot. . .
MAY 27. . . . My Maid Nanny was taken very ill this evening with a dizziness in the Head and a desire to vomit, but could not. Her straining to vomit brought on the Hickups which continued very violent till after he got to bed. I gave her a dose of rhubarb going to bed. Ben was also very ill and in the same complaint about noon, but he vomited and was soon better. I gave Ben a good dose of Rhubarb also going to bed.
MAY 21. . . . Mr. Jeanes made us a short morning Visit. Of John Gooch for Turnips for his Cow almost all the Winter reed. of him 1. 1. 0. but I returned it to him again immediately. Very busy all the morning in cutting the Weeds in my Bason and cleaning the same, and likewise in launching the Ship Anna in the same.
MAY 28. . . . Mr. and Mrs. Jeanes with Miss Short dined and spent the Afternoon with us. We had for Dinner a nice boiled Leg of Lamb, a very nice small rosting Pigg, Apricot and Gooseberry Tarts Oranges and Nutts by way of desert. Soon after Coffee and Tea, They returned for Witchingham and took my Niece with them in their Carriage to spend a few Days with them.
MAY 29. . . . It seemed a little strange to be quite alone not being used to be so -- In the Evening rather dull. Willm. Bidewell (who has taken Collisons Estate that John Pegg had from Michaelmas next, and to which Estate is annexed a publick House where Bens Father at present lives but is going out at the above Time) called on me this morning and another man with him, to ask my consent for the above public House to be continued on, and one Page (lately a Farmer and lived in this Parish, last Year and broke here) to live in it, but I said that I would never consent to it by any Means. The above Phillip Page is an old Man, had a Bastard about 3 Years [ago] by Charlotte Dunnell.
MAY 6, MONDAY. . . . Sold to Mr. Girling, sixteen Hundred of Hay, he being greatly distressed for Food [for] his Sheep and Cattle, the Season continuing on so very cold and wet, that Nothing grows scarce yet. No Hay almost to be got for Love or Money. Mr. Girling is to give me 4s/6d per Hundred so that he owes me for the above Hay 3. 12. 0. Dinner to day, Leg of Mutton boiled & Capers &c. I was finely to day and made an excellent Dinner on the Mutton. Saw the first Swallow.
MAY 26, SUNDAY. We breakfasted, dined, &c. again at home. Mr. Cotman read Prayers & Preached this Afternoon at Weston Church for the last time as he leaves the Curacy this Day of Weston. He called on me (by my desire) this Afternoon and I paid him for his last half Year's Curacy, before Miss Woodforde the sum of 15. 0. 0. in full of every demand from me to him. He drank a Glass of Port Wine and soon left us. Young Mr. Dade (who is to succeed Mr. Cotman in the Curacy of Weston) called on me also this Afternoon, and informed me that he would enter upon the Curacy of Weston by my desire on Sunday next, and therefore will read Prayers and Preach at Weston Church on Sunday morning next -- to begin at a Qr. before Eleven. When Duty in the Afternoon at Qr.
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