Tuesday, July 1, 2008

A clubbable gentleman-parson

This week, Boydell Press is due to publish, for the first time, the diaries of John Longe, a suffolk vicar, described as an affluent and clubbable gentleman-parson.

Historically, in Britain, priests have been among the most prolific of diarists. The Diary Junction, for example, carries more data pages on ‘priests’ than any other profession (with the exception of ‘writer’ which diarists are any way), the majority of them in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries. Religious diarists do often leave behind endless records of their duties and practices, but they also make interesting observations on the society and culture in which they function.

John Longe, the vicar of Coddenham, kept careful records of his activities, relationships and possessions in pocket-books and inventories. These are held by the Suffolk Records Society. Boydell Press, part of Boydell & Brewer Ltd, a US and UK publisher specialising in historical (and music) titles, is about to publish (3 July) a compilation of this material, edited by Michael Stone - The Diary of John Longe, Vicar of Coddenham, 1765-1834.

Longe is described as ‘an affluent and clubbable gentleman-parson of the Georgian age’ who ‘enjoyed the company of his peers, both as host and guest, and travelled throughout the region’. He ran a household with 10 servants and a farm. Besides preaching and leading worship, he also trained young curates, marshalled his parishioners under threat of Napoleon’s invasion, and served as a magistrate.

Boydell Press does a whole range of interesting diary titles. There’s Diary of John Young, Sunderland Chemist and Methodist Lay Preacher, covering the years 1841-1843, full of subjective passages about his faith, but also giving insight into his social, religious and business. The Bousfield Diaries give an inside view into middle-class family life in the late Victorian era, in particular showing the family’s dependence on their servants. And then there's The Diary of Thomas Giordani Wright, Newcastle Doctor, 1826-1829, which tells of a doctor’s arduous life in the collieries.

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