One of the great things about being on a self catering holiday for me is the chance to curl up in front a fire snacking on the type of foods I like to snack on (!!) and read. Although I wasn’t on a self catering holiday at the time, I recently read Kilvert’s Diary and thought I’d share some of it.
But first a brief biography – Robert Francis Kilvert was born in Wiltshire on 3rd December 1840. He was the second child of a rector and after an early private education he went to Wadham College, Oxford and then entered the Church. He married aged 39 and died a month after his wedding from peritonitis.
My overall impressions are that he liked a good gossip and could be quite judgemental about the people that he spent time with. And he hated tourists!
Sometimes the mundaness of the entries can be quite boring, but there are some real gems in there such as the one he relates about the curate of Cusop, who he names as Pope. He had been told the story by someone he had met in a local shop. Pope had one candidate, Miss Stokes a farmer’s daughter for confirmation and they went together by train.
“Pope went in a cutaway coat very short, with his dog, and took no gown. The train was very late. He came very late into church and sat down on a bench with the girl cheek by jowl. When it came to his turn to present his candidate he was told by the Rector (Henry Dew) or someone in authority to explain why he came so late. The Bishop of Hereford (Atlay) has a new fashion of confirming only two persons at a time, kneeling at the rails. The Bishop had marked two young people come in very late and when they came up to the rails he thought from Pope’s youthful appearance and from his having no gown that he was a young farmer candidate and brother of the girl. He spoke to them severely and told them to come on and kneel down for they were extremely late. Pope tried to explain that he was a clergyman and that the girl was his candidate but the Bishop was overbearing and imperious and either did not hear or did not attend, seeming to think he was dealing with a refractory ill-conditioned youth. ‘I know, I know’, he said. ‘Come at once, kneel down, kneel down’. Poor Pope resisted a long time and had a long battle with the Bishop, but at last unhappily he was overborne in the struggle, lost his head, gave way, knelt down and was confirmed there and then, and no one seems to have interfered to save him, though Mr Palmer of Eardisley and others were sitting close by and the whole Church was in a titter. It is a most unfortunate thing and will never be forgotten and it will be unhappily a joke against Pope all his life.”
You can just imagine the tittering can’t you. Attitudes have changed so much from what was acceptable in his day and there are tales of beatings to break spirits as well as what is now considered inappropriate behaviour with young girls. His entry for Wednesday, 5th August 1874 merely says
“A splendid romp with Polly Tavener”.
The previous entry was all about rats and how they
“most provokingly carried off into their hole the contents of two dishes of apricots which had been gathered …. and left on a shelf in the dining-room closet.”
There are several references to Wordsworth who he seems to have respected and of course here at Brinsop we are always really interested in anything that Wordsworth said or did locally.
But the topic he writes about that amused me the most was how much he hated tourists. Something Brinsop definitely don’t share with Kilvert! On 5th April 1870 he wrote
“If there is one thing more hateful than another it is being told what to admire and having objects pointed out to one with a stick. Of all noxious animals too the most noxious is a tourist. And of all tourists the most vulgar, ill-bred, offensive and loathsome is the British tourist.”
In July of the same year he bought a tourist ticket and went on holiday to Cornwall when he noted
“Coming back we met a noisy rabble of tourists, males and females, rushing down the rocks towards the Land’s End as if they meant to break their necks, and no great loss either. The rest of the insufferable snobs had of course been endeavouring to insult the ladies and Capt. Parker (who he was walking with), suggested that a kicking might tend to mind their manners”.
There is a Kilvert Society that holds talks and walks locally but if you just fancy walking in his footsteps, head over to Brinsop for a luxury self catering holiday and see for yourselves the places that he held dear.