+ ~ -
Please report pronunciation problems here. Select and sample other voices. Options Pause Play
Report an Error


WHEN the day came in which I was
declared the seventeenth wrangler in the list of
honours at Cambridge, I thought my fortune
was made. The place was, to confess the
truth, a little higher than I had expected, but
not perhaps higher than I deserved. My
friend Joneswho makes a rule of betting
twenty to one about everythinghad backed
me, even, to be senior; and if anything fatal
had suddenly happened to the sixteen others,
senior I should have been. I had been scholar
of my college for some time; I had written
(and printed at my own expense) the theological
prize essay of my year; and I had had
the honour of declaiming against Bishop
Burnet and Latitudinarianism in our chapel,
to a select congregation of four.

It had been determined, long ago, by my
friends, that I should go into the church:
not, on the one hand, because there was any
family benefice at my service; nor, on the
other, that I had a peculiar call for the
ministry; but for the simple reason that the
clerical profession seemed to offer the position
of a gentleman with a certain, however scanty,
livelihood. I was better fitted for itthere
is no doubt upon the matter whateverthan
the majority of those whom I met in the
senate-house a year after my leaving college,
at the voluntary theological examination.
Many of these had, unquestionably, put off their
conversion to the very latest moment, and
some of them seemed to think that there was
a little time left for that still. There were
three brothers in particular, I remember, for
whom there was one good living then being
kept warm, whose father had sent them to
try their luck at the Vol: feeling sure that
if two out of the three did not succeed in
pulling through it, the third would. This
actually came to pass, and the emoluments of
the living were preserved in the family.

"Sir," it was observed to one of us by
my revered tutor (who is of a cynical
disposition), "when I look upon these lists of
candidates for holy orders, yearly, I am the
more convinced of the truth and firmness
of that Church of England, which can stand
such repeated shocks from within."

I merely say this muchof which every
man who has eyes to see, and not merely to
wink at things with, is perfectly cognisant
in order to show that my unfortunate
experience and lack of professional success is not
owing to any peculiar unfitness of my own. I
had never been a fast man, and had as excellent
testimonials from my college as could be.
I had given much of my time to theology;
and, as I have said, distinguished myself
publicly in that branch of study. It was my
personal desire to become a clergyman; and,
if there are other qualifications that may be
with modesty put forward as proving my
competence for the ministry, I affirm that I
possessed them. When, therefore, I had
passed my examination, I looked around me
with confidence for a curacy.

My opinions, although decided, were
sufficiently moderate. I therefore eschewed the
offers of both the Guardian and Record
newspapers, and applied myself to the advertisements
in the Ecclesiastical Gazette. I was a
good deal struck, and not at all pleased, by
observing that there were just six times as
many curates wanting curacies as there were
curacies wanting curates; and, of these few,
there were several which spoke of "the sphere
of usefulness which they had the Christian
privilege of offering to labourers in the
vineyard," having no stipend attached to them

As a general rule, I already knew that the
more spiritual the wording of an advertisement,
the less remunerative are its terms.
Therefore, having but very little private
fortune, I regarded only the more business-like
statements. Amidst a crowd of powerful-
voice-and-good-delivery requirements; via-
media views (always view); indispensabilities;
Anglo-Catholic convictions; pure Protestant
persuasions, and the like, this simple notice
seemed to promise well:—

A Curacy, with title for the Trinity Ordination.
Apply personally to Rev. L. A., Credita Regis, Bucks.

Not even earnestness was made a point of,
nor the desirability of private means. It was
without the trace, in short, of any kind of
clerical snare. I took train by the Great
Western at once to the nearest station,
and drove thence to the Reverend Lacey
Alley's. The parish, I was informed, was
very small, and the village was like the little
Swiss villages that are sold at Interlachen;