The Parish Clerk (1907) eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 290 pages of information about The Parish Clerk (1907).

A fine character and graceful poet was Richard Furness[70], parish clerk of Dore, five miles from Shalfield, a secluded hamlet.  He was then styled “The Poet of the Peak,” of sonorous voice and clear of speech, the author of many poems, and factotum supreme of the village and neighbourhood.  Two volumes of his poems have been published.  He combined, like many of his order, the office of parish clerk with that of schoolmaster, his schoolroom being under the same roof as his house.  Thither crowds flocked.  He was an immense favourite.  The teacher of children, healer of all the lame and sick folk, the consoler and adviser of the troubled, he played an important part in the village life.  His accomplishments were numerous.  He could make a will, survey or convey an estate, reduce a dislocation, perform the functions of a parish clerk, lead a choir, and write an ode.  This remarkable man was born at Eyam in 1791, the village so famous for the story of its plague, in an old house long held by his family.  Over the door is carved: 

     R. 1615.  F

[Footnote 70:  Biographical Sketches of Remarkable People, by Spencer T. Hall.]

When a boy he was very fond of reading, and studied mathematics and poetry. Don Quixote was his favourite romance.  His father would not allow him to read at night, but the student could not be prevented from studying his beloved books.  In order to prevent the light in his bedroom from being seen in other parts of the house, he placed a candle in a large box, knelt by its side, and with the lid half closed few rays of the glimmering taper could reach the window or door.  When he grew to be a man he migrated to Dore, and there set up a school, and began that active life of which an admirable account is given by Dr. G. Calvert Holland in the introduction of The Poetical Works of Richard Furness, published in 1858.  In addition to other duties he sometimes discharged clerical functions.  The vicar of the parish of Dore, Mr. Parker, was somewhat old and infirm, and sometimes found it difficult to tramp over the high moors in winter to privately baptize a sick child.  So he often sent his clerk to perform the duty.  On dark and stormy nights Richard Furness used to tramp over moor and fell, through snow and rain to some lonely farm or moorland cottage in order to baptize some suffering infant.  On one occasion he omitted to ascertain before commencing the service whether the child was a boy or a girl.  Turning to the father in the midst of a prayer, when the question whether he ought to use his or her had to be decided, he inquired, “What sex?” The father, an ignorant labourer, did not understand the meaning of the question.  “Male or female?” asked the clerk.  Still the father did not comprehend.  At last the meaning of the query dawned upon his rustic intelligence, and he whispered, “It’s a mon childt.”

Thus does Richard Furness in his poems describe his many duties: 

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The Parish Clerk (1907) from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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