The College Fellow who has Taken Orders by Anthony Trollope.

Anthony Trollope by
G. H. Watkins.
The College Fellow who has Taken Orders is the seventh essay in Anthony Trollope's Clergymen of the Church of England, first serialised in The Pall Mall Gazette under the titles "Clerical Sketches" between 20th November 1865 and 25th January 1866. In this Trollope turns his attention to the Oxbridge clergymen:
In speaking of a college fellow, a fellow of a college at Oxford or Cambridge is the fellow of whom we intend to speak. There may, probably, be other fellowships going in these prolific days, as there are other universities, and degrees given by other academical bodies; but we will claim, for the moment, to belong to the old school in such matters, and will recognise as college fellows only those who are presented to us as fellows by these two great sister universities.
He then writes on the privileges associated with the college fellow: "a certain income, a certain rank in his college, a residence within his college, and a place at the high table in hall; and among these privileges and possessions is the great privilege - of a title to orders". Of how the fellow uses his privileges is dependent upon the individual. From here Trollope talks of the 'taking orders'; on how a layman becomes a deacon or priest and how, for the college fellow, this process is infinitely simplified: "The fellow of a college goes before a bishop demanding to be ordained simply because he is a fellow, - and the bishop ordains him." However, Trollope suggests that it is not until much later the fellow becomes "a real clergyman", once, in fact, he has dropped his fellowship. He goes on,
It is true that the fellow becomes a clergyman at last; but who will maintain that any man has fitly used a profession to which he has never applied himself during those years of his life in which his energy was the strongest, and which he embraced without any view to using it at all?
Trollope then questions the suitability of a college fellow in the parish, and his ability to "cure ... the parochial souls". He uses the fictional example of the Reverend Joseph Brown:
The Reverend Joseph Brown stands senior on the list of the fellows of St. Lazarus, within the walls of which happy institution he has lived as fellow and bursar for the last thirty years. No man understands better than the Reverend Joseph Brown the proper temperature of port wine, or the amount of service which a college servant should render. But at the age of fifty-five he falls into unexpectedly tender relations with an amiable female, and on that account he undertakes the pastoral care of the souls of the parish of Eiderdown! What if Eiderdown got its doctors in the same way, or its butcher? What if the ladies of Eiderdown were bound to employ a milliner sent to them after some such fashion? But no man or woman can conceive the possibility of any workman presuming to attempt to earn his bread by his work after such a fashion as this, - excepting always the clergyman.
That, I'd say, was no doubt somewhat surprising to the 1860s Victorian, that a member of the clergy could be likened to any other professional man rather than someone who had been called by God. Trollope nonetheless pursues this direction, concluding the essay,
But his conscience is easy, because he knows that in fact he is no clergyman. he has simply undergone a certain ceremony in order that he may enjoy his fellowship, - and hereafter take a living should the amiable and tender relationship of matrimony fall in his way. 
It's an interesting essay, rather caustic, and seemingly designed to urge the Church of England to reform certain elements of its practice. I'm enjoying reading these essays from Clergymen of the Church of England, and I'm looking forward to finishing them (which is a long way off!) to get the overall picture. For now though, I can say Trollope certainly has my attention.

And that was my seventh essay for the Deal Me In Challenge. Next week: Getting up on Cold Mornings by James Henry Leigh Hunt.

Comments

  1. i've never heard of this collection... i must admit, though, it changes my mental image of T, knowing he's capable of thumping the tub just like any other essayist(i'm thinking of Hazlitt) or politician(MacDonald?...)...

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    1. Well, I do recommend it (so far). I'm thinking it'll all become a little clearer when I get the full picture, but for now, yes, I think he's after reform.

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  2. "but who will maintain that any man has fitly used a profession to which he has never applied himself during those years of his life in which his energy was the strongest, and which he embraced without any view to using it at all?"

    Mr. Trollope asks the good questions, doesn't he... :-)

    I believe this is the first year Trollope has graced the "Deal Me In Stage" - thank you for that.

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    1. He does :) And you're welcome - I'm glad to introduce Trollope to the challenge! I do love him, though last year's Palliser reading made it hard work. Glad to return to the good stuff :)

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