In that delightful sketch of old-time manners and quaint humour, Sir Roger de Coverley, the editor of The Spectator gave a life-like representation of the old-fashioned service. Nor is the clerk forgotten. They tell us that “Sir Roger has likewise added five pounds a year to the clerk’s place; and that he may encourage the young fellows to make themselves perfect in the Church services, has promised, upon the death of the present incumbent, who is very old, to bestow it according to merit.” The details of the exquisite picture of a rural Sunday were probably taken from the church of Milston on the Wiltshire downs where Addison’s father was incumbent, and where the author was born in 1672. Doubtless the recollections of his early home enabled Joseph Addison to draw such an accurate picture of the ecclesiastical customs of his youth. The deference shown by the members of the congregation who did not presume to stir till Sir Roger had left the building was practised in much more recent times, and instances will be given of the observance of this custom within living memory.
Two other references to parish clerks I find in The Spectator which are worthy of quotation:
“Spectator, No. 372.
“In three or four taverns I have, at different times, taken notice of a precise set of people with grave countenances, short wigs, black cloaths, or dark camblet trimmed black, with mourning gloves and hat-bands, who went on certain days at each tavern successively, and keep a sort of moving club. Having often met with their faces, and observed a certain shrinking way in their dropping in one after another, I had the unique curiosity to inquire into their characters, being the rather moved to it by their agreeing in the singularity of their dress; and I find upon due examination they are a knot of parish clerks, who have taken a fancy to one another, and perhaps settle the bills of mortality over their half pints. I have so great a value and veneration for any who have but even an assenting Amen in the service of religion, that I am afraid but these persons should incur some scandal by this practice; and would therefore have them, without raillery, advise to send the florence and pullets home to their own homes, and not to pretend to live as well as the overseers of the poor.
“Spectator, No. 338.
“A great many of our church-musicians being related to the theatre, have in imitation of their epilogues introduced in their favourite voluntaries a sort of music quite foreign to the design of church services, to the great prejudice of well-disposed people. These fingering gentlemen should be informed that they ought to suit their airs to the place and business; and that the musician is obliged to keep to the text as much as the preacher. For want of this, I have found by experience a great deal of mischief; for when