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:
Some of these entries pre-date his taking up a Parish, from his study for a degree at Oxford. At Oxford, Woodforde read "Hutchinson's Moral Philosophy", which must surely have shaped his thinking in a more liberal direction, as far as his religious views went.
Francis Hutcheson (1694-1746) was born in Ulster, and became Professor of Moral Philosophy at the University of Glasgow and an instigator of the Scottish Enlightenment. He was described by Adam Smith as ""he never to be forgotten Dr Hutcheson" - and he was Smith's professor at Glasgow University from 1737 to 1740. He was a deist whose thinking led him into trouble in Glasgow where there was an attempt to prosecute him for heresy in 1738. A student-published "Vindication of Dr Hutcheson", perhaps by Smith, explained that his alleged offence was to have taught that 'we have a notion of moral goodness prior in the order of knowledge to any notion of the will or law of God'.
We count God morally Good, on this account, that we justly conclude, he has essential Dispositions to communicate Happiness and Perfection to his creatures. we must have another notion of moral Goodness, prior to any Relation to Law, or Will.. Otherways, when we say God's Laws are Good, we make no valuable Encomium on them; and only say, God's Laws are conformable to his Laws or, his Will is conformable to his Will.. So, when we say God is morally good or excellent, we would only mean, he is conformable to himself; which would be no Praise unless he were previously known to be good. (Vindication 1738, p.7).
He mentions that he travelled by horse to Stow, where his friends travelled by Phaeton, by Buggy, or like him on horseback. What was a Phaeton?
Phaeton is the early 19th-century term for a sporty open carriage drawn by a single horse or a pair, typically with four extravagantly large wheels, very lightly sprung, with a minimal body, fast and dangerous. It usually had no sidepieces in front of the seats. The rather self-consciously classicizing name refers to the disastrous ride of mythical Phaëton, son of Helios, who nearly set the earth on fire while attempting to drive the chariot of the sun.
A "pocket pistol" would have been a small flintlock pistol, kept for safety, against the threat of highwaymen. These were effective at short range, and fitted in their pockets.
The earliest and most common type of pocket pistol, the 'Queen Anne', was available throughout most of the eighteenth century. Its main disadvantage was the exposed lock and trigger, which could easily catch in the lining of the pocket. Some were modified with a folding trigger that lay flush with the underside of the pistol until it was cocked; and a few even had spring bayonets fitted to them, as a further line of defence in the event of a misfire.
There's a lot of food in the diary entries, which makes this reader rather hungry. I'll pick just one item mentioned - "Hashed Goose". Here is a vintage recipe, dating perhaps to around the time that Woodforde was writing:
remains of cold roast goose
2 ounces of butter
1 pint of boiling water
1 dessertspoonful of flour
pepper and salt to taste
1 tablespoonful of port wine
2 tablespoonfuls of mushroom ketchup
Cut up the goose into pieces of the size required; the inferior joints, trimmings, etc., put into a stewpan to make the gravy; slice and fry the onions in the butter of a very pale brown; add these to the trimmings, and pour over about a pint of boiling water; stew these gently for 3/4 hour, then skim and strain the liquor. Thicken it with flour, and flavour with port wine and ketchup, in the above proportion; add a seasoning of pepper and salt, and put in the pieces of goose; let these get thoroughly hot through, but do not allow them to boil, and serve with sippets of toasted bread. Time: Altogether, rather more than 1 hour.
Job's daughters are mentioned in the Christening of a child - this is Job 42:14 - "The first daughter he named Jemimah, the second Keziah and the third Keren-Happuch." In the England, the name Kezia is now unusual, but in Victorian times, as late as 1890, the births of 137 children named Kezia were registered in England; in 1990, only 40 were - and it has also become a unisex name, used for boys as well. The etymology is uncertain - it may come from Hebrew for Cassia, from the name for the spice tree.
June - The Diary of a Country Parson
JUNE 14. . . . Hearst, Bell and myself, being in Beer, went under Whitmore's window, and abused him very much, as being Dean, he came down, and sent us to our Proper Rooms, and then we Huzza'd him again and again. We are to wait on him to-morrow.
JUNE 15. We waited on Whitmore this morning and he read to us a Statute or two and says he shall not mention again provided the Senr. People do not. I am to read the three first Books of Hutchinson's Moral Philosophy, and I am to give a summary account of them when I am examined for my Degree.
JUNE 15. Went this morning early to Berkeley, where old Mrs. Prowse lives, about two miles beyond Froom, and about sixteen miles from hence: I carried over with me three Mourning Rings that my Father gave me last night; to deliver one to old Mrs. Prowse, one to her son the Major, and one to ye Major's wife, in Remembrance of my late Uncle, the Treasurer, which were left them by a Particular Desire of my late Uncle the Treasurer [his Great Uncle Robert Woodforde, 1675-1762, for many years a country parson in Cornwall and Somerset, and later Canon and Treasurer of Wells]. . . . N.B. Old Mrs. Prowse of Berkeley, and my late Uncle the Treasurer, were very Intimate, and corresponded, when my good Uncle was living. Major Prowse is son to old Mrs. Prowse.
JUNE 28. Went upon the grey horse this morning for Oxford by myself.
JUNE 1. I took my B.A. Degree this morning. . . . Reynels, myself, Lucas, Peckham and Webber treated (as is usual) the B.C.R. after dinner with Wine, and after Supper with Wine and Punch all the evening. We had 27 People in the B.C.R. this evening. . . . I sat up in the B.C.R. this evening till after twelve o'clock, and then went to bed, and at three in the morning, had my outward doors broken open, my glass door broke, and pulled out of bed, and brought into the B.C.R. where I was obliged to drink and smoak, but not without a good many words. Peckham broke my doors, being very drunk, although they were open, which I do not relish of Peckham much.
JUNE 2. Several of our Fellows went at four o'clock in the morning, for Stow, and all drunk; some in a Phaeton, some in a Buggy, and some on Horse back. I went as far as Weston on the Green with them upon my Grey, and then returned home, and was home by nine o'clock this morning, and breakfasted in my room.
JUNE. 4. Dined in Hall; and after dinner went with Cotton to Newton-Purcell, my Curacy, and which I am to serve to-morrow. Supp'd and spent the evening, at Cotton's Mother's, with Cotton and his Brother, and his Mother and his four Sisters. Cotton's Sisters are very agreeable Ladies. Laid at Cotton's Mother's at Newton-Purcell. Cotton's Mother's House and Furniture is rather bad; they are going out of the House soon.
JUNE 5. Breakfasted at Cotton's Mother's, with Cotton and his Brother and his four Sisters. At eleven o'clock went to my Church, and read Prayers and preached my first Sermon. Cotton's Family and about twenty more People were all that were at Church. Did Duty again at two o'clock; and then dined at Cotton's Mother's with Mrs. Cotton, and her four Daughters, and her youngest son; the eldest son was out preaching and reading prayers. Set out this afternoon for Oxford, and got home about eight o'clock. . . . Gave Cotton's maid being the only Servant 0. 1. 0.
JUNE 6. Had a Letter from Fitch, with a Promise from his Father of my taking the Curacy of his at Thurloxton near Taunton.
JUNE 25th. . . . Oglander Junr. and myself tryed this evening some of our Strong Beer in the B.C.R. and it is pretty good, but I am afraid it will never be better. It is some of Whitmore's brewing when he was Bursar. . . .
JUNE 29. . . . For a Pocket Pistol alias a dram bottle to carry in one's pocket, it being necessary on a Journey or so, at Nicholl's pd 0. 1. 0.
JUNE 27. . . . This very day I am thirty years of age. -- 'Lord make me truly thankful for thy great goodness as on this day shewed me by bringing me into this world, and for preserving me to this day from the many and great dangers which frail mortality is every day exposed to; grant me O Lord the continuance of thy divine goodness to me, that thy Holy Spirit may direct me in all my doings and that the remaining part of my days may be more spent to thy Honour and Glory than those already past.'. . .
JUNE 24. I read Prayers this morning at Cary being Midsummer Day. After Prayers I made a little visit to Mrs. Melliar where I met Mr. Frank Woodforde and told him, before Mrs. Melliar, Miss Melliar and Miss Barton what great obligations I was under to him for his not offering me to hold his Livings for him instead of Mr. Dolton and Mr. Gatehouse. From such base actions and dishonest men O Lord, deliver me.
JUNE 5. [He had gone to Norwich the day before.] I breakfasted at the Kings Head -- and after being shaved I walked to Mr Francis's -- then to Priests to taste some Port Wine and there bespoke a Qr of a Pipe. Called at Beales in the Fish Markett and bought 3 Pairs of fine Soals -- 2 Crabbs -- and a Lobster -- Pd him for the above and for some Fish I had before of him 0. 8. 4. About 11 o'clock sent Will home with the Fish to have for Dinner as I have Company to dine with me to-day.
JUNE 13. . . . Mr. Custance's 3 little Boys with 2 'Nurse' Maids came here this Afternoon and stayed here till 8 at night. I gave the little Boys for their
Supper some Strawberries and milk with which they were highly delighted. They came here on foot but went back in the Coach. Mrs. Alldis the Housekeeper called here in the Afternoon and she drank Tea with the Nurse Maids and ours in Kitchen.
JUNE 16. . . . I walked to Forsters this morning between 11 and 12 and read Prayers and administered the H. Sacrament to Mrs. Forster who is something better to day -- Her Mother was with her and received the Sacrament also with her. After I came down Stairs from Mrs. Forster I saw Forster and Herring of Ringland -- Mr. Forster was very sorry for what he had said and if I would forgive him, he wd beg my Pardon -- which I did and he promised never to affiont me more -- so that all matters are made up. 1 To Mr. Cary for things from Norwich &c. pd. 0. 6. 8. Of Ditto -- for 7 Pints of Butter at 7d recd 0. 4. 1. To Goody Doughty for 3 Lemons pd 0. 0. 6. I privately baptised a Child of Billy Bidewells this morning at my House -- by name William. Mr. Custance sent us some beans and a Colliflower this Even'.
JUNE 25. . . . Very uncommon Lazy and hot Weather. The Sun very red at setting. To a poor old crazy Woman this morn' gave 0. 0. 6. Nancy and myself dined and spent part of the afternoon at Weston House with Mr. and Mrs. Custance -- Mr. Rawlins dined also with us -- whilst we were at Dinner Mrs. Custance was obliged to go from Table about 4 o'clock labour Pains coming on fast upon her. We went home soon after dinner on the Occasion -- as we came in the Coach. We had for Dinner some Beans and Bacon, a Chine of Mutton rosted, Giblett Pye, Hashed Goose, a Rabbit rosted and some young Peas, -- Tarts, Pudding and Jellies. We got home between 5 and 6 o'clock. After Supper we sent up to Mr. Custances to enquire after Mrs. Custance who was brought to bed of a fine girl about 7 o'clock and as well as could be expected.
JUNE 27. . . . After breakfast Nancy and self dressed ourselves and walked to Hungate Lodge to make the first visit to Mr. and Mrs. Micklewaite who were both at home and appear to be tolerable agreeable People -- He is very young. She is much older and appears rather high. We stayed about half an Hour with them and then returned.
JUNE 30. . . . I privately named a Child this morning of Dinah Bushell's by name Keziah One of Job's Daughters Names.
Mînniet, Chrêtchiens - Minuit, Chrétiens - O Holy Night - Eune Bordée d'Noué by Badlabecques Mînniet, Chrêtchiens, né v'là l'heuthe sainte tch'a sonné. Des pus hauts lieux Dgieu d'valit dans la chai, pouor asseûthe...
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